Gomez Art Supply is more than a store to buy colored pencils or paint supplies. It is the heart of the Lincoln art community, bridging the gap between art students and the professional gallery scene.
Led by Peggy Gomez, University of Nebraska alum, her connections have helped Gomez Art Supply flourish into the successful business it is today. Gomez earned her bachelor’s degree at UNL before transferring to the University of Minnesota for her masters. After 10 years of teaching and working as a print tech at UNL, Gomez opened her first store in 2003.
Her motivation was fairly simple: opening this store was filling a need in the Lincoln art community. Four years after opening the store, Gomez felt there was still more work to be done.
Lincoln has always had galleries, but none that function on non-commission and provide opportunities to emerging artists as well as professionals.
Joey Lynch and Jake Gillespie, former students of Gomez who rented out studios from her first storefront at 1080 O St., were inspired to transform their studio space into a gallery.
After organizing, prepping the space, and promoting the gallery, their first show was a beaming success.
“We had a line like out the door, down the alley, and around the corner of people trying to get in because there just wasn’t anything like it,” Gomez said. “It kind of exploded onto the art scene… and then from that we decided just to keep a gallery going.”
Almost 20 years later, Tugboat Gallery remains one of a kind. Entirely volunteer run, Tugboat is currently located above Gomez Art Supply on 120 N 14th St.
Neither the gallery nor Gomez Art Supply would be established as pillars of the Lincoln art community without the support of the university.
A longstanding relationship with UNL since the 80s helped Gomez realize that having a storefront close to campus was important.
“That connection is really really important because you can always count selling those items,” Gomez said.
While being able to provide art and architecture students with easy access to supplies is crucial, building a business with a strong reputation is arguably a higher priority.
“You have to work for that business to get the students to leave campus and come here,” Gomez said.
Gomez supports current UNL students by providing materials that most art supply stores don’t normally carry.
“We carry Rockite, which is a hardware store item. We have stuff specifically for certain classes, particularly architecture,” Gomez said.
Given all the success Gomez has achieved through her store and gallery, the next logical step for any business owner would be expansion. Due to personal reasons and Gomez’s special connection to the Lincoln community, this was not in the cards.
“I was asked if I wanted to open a location in Omaha, but my sister had just died and it was all just too much,” Gomez said. “And you know I’ve never thought of leaving Lincoln because I have all these connections that I would not have if I moved someplace else.”
The Lincoln art scene is unique in many ways. Often described as more sincere than others, the galleries, artists, and university all work in conjunction to make art more accessible and celebrated within the local community.
Gomez is a key component of this sincerity. From providing students with easy access to supplies, supporting emerging and established artists in her gallery, and serving as an experienced and well-connected mentor for others, the Lincoln art community wouldn’t be the same without Gomez.