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According to Right Brain

O!maha Visionary

Sculptor is Huge Influence in Facilitating a Creative Omaha
The Big O! Dude by Les Bruning
Published on November 8, 2010 : 5 comments

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I had the amazing pleasure of talking with Leslie Bruning on the phone recently. I am amazed at the number of ‘hats’ he wears as an artist.

The Sculptor

If you don’t know Les Bruning, you have met his work. He has over 30 commissioned pieces. His first commission is a sculpture in front of the City County Building in Lincoln, Nebraska. Here is a small taste of where you will find his sculptures:

    Artist Breaking Through by Les BruningArtist Breaking Through by Les Bruning
  • O! Dude is located in the Chamber of Commerce courtyard in the Old Market. The tennis shoes the sculpture is wearing? They are a size 48!
  • Bronze work at Joslyn Art Museum. He created the metal signage and space dividers.
  • Market North Sculpture Park, 13th & Izard
  • Pacesetter Corp., 96th & I street
  • Lincoln, Nebraskas Public Sculpture Project “Bicycles” on 44th & Q street
  • Millard West High School, Omaha Nebraska. The “hour glass” looking sculpture right out front.

There is also a show of his new work at the Sunderland Gallery. Hurry! the show ends November 19.

The Professor

Les has 37 years as a dedicated professor at Bellevue University in the College of Arts and Sciences (he has taught for a total of 40 years). Growing up, art classes weren’t available at the rural schools Les attended. He took wood/metal shop classes instead. Combine that with tinkering in both of his grandfather’s workshops on their farms, and Les had a valuable knowledge of various materials and how to manipulate them. When he headed off to college, he rounded out his education in art and sculpture. Today students have the reverse experience. They arrive at Bellevue University with an art background, but no knowledge of materials, processes, and tools.

Les studied at Graz Center in Austria. From there he completed a BA in Art from Nebraska Wesleyan University and a MFA in Sculpture from Syracuse University in Syracuse New York.

The Founder

I really dig the Hot Shops! That is why I am so tickled I got to speak with Les! He is one of the Founders and a General Partner. I am going to the annual “Winter Open House” on December 4 & 5. Go see all that is molten: Bruning Sculpture, Iron Forge, and Crystal Forge. The glass blowing at Crystal Forge is always a crowd favorite. I really enjoy going through the 3 galleries and over 50 artists studios, which serve about 70 artists. There is such a unique variety of  mediums that these artists work in. Les’ foundry at the Hot Shops isn’t just where he creates, it is also a resource for other artists needing the capabilities that the foundry can offer.

Les is a HUGE influence in facilitating a creative Omaha. For example, he is: 

  • President and one of the founders of the Omaha Creative Institute
  • Part of the Big “O!” project
  • Member of the J Doe Project committee

(You can find a comprehensive list of Honors and commissions at

The Visionary

Les is really interested in large scale work like “O! Dude”. He has a passion to connect his work with the location and the community. Look for metaphors in his work. One is the image of a fish —the Pallid Sturgeon that lives in the Missouri River. It is on the endangered species list. Humans have greatly affected the Sturgeons environment. It’s extinction is a warning sign to us of what we are doing to ourselves. “Like the canary in the coal mine”, said Bruning. If you see a figure swimming in one of his pieces, Les is referrring to the idea that “man has to be in immediate balance with nature. Go with the flow, then you can stay afloat…the swimmer is in harmony with nature.”

AnnDbugzAnn Troe (@AnnieDoodlebugz) is graphic designer and illustrator.


AnnDbugz says:

November 9, 2010 : 13 years 32 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Don’t miss the Hot Shops Winter Open House on December 4th & 5th.

Jo M. Lynch (not verified) says:

November 9, 2010 : 13 years 32 weeks ago

Jo M. Lynch's picture

Well written Article Ann, and for sure an interesting one. I love that there is a place for artists of ALL types to get together, ply their trades and other people are able to come by and see them at work. We had a similar setup in Maryland at an old Mill. It’s called Historic Savage Mill. I used to go there to shop a bit… it was very interesting and lots of fun to wander through.

Les’s work is amazing, very creative and eye catching. Thanks so much for sharing him and his awesome creations.

Love your articles… all have been very interesting


AnnDbugz says:

November 9, 2010 : 13 years 32 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Thanks Jo! You are the best!

katbron (not verified) says:

November 10, 2010 : 13 years 32 weeks ago

katbron's picture

Great article Ann!

Shirley (not verified) says:

November 11, 2010 : 13 years 32 weeks ago

Shirley's picture

I love Hot Shops Thanks for the article and the heads up on the open house!!