Bob Culver and Dr. Debra Reilly's Home GalleryApr 28, 2022 05:09PM ● By Kim Carpenter
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Passersby know where art lovers reside when even the residents’ mailbox and front door are creative works to admire.
Married couple Dr. Debra Reilly and artist Bob Culver’s District 66 midcentury ranch highlights the couple’s shared love of both the performing and visual arts, as well as entertaining.
Purchased in 2007, the listed home had one feature that immediately sold the pair. “We took a peek through the windows and saw there was a stage in the living room," Reilly shared. “We could have concerts—quartets and operas. When we saw that stage, we knew.”
First, Reilly and Culver had to make the 1959-built house their own. Remodeling and redecorating ensued.
“The kitchen was awful,” Reilly confided. “It was a long, narrow galley kitchen.” To address the paucity of room, the couple converted the screened-in porch that ran parallel to the kitchen into a generous gourmet cooking space that Reilly now describes as a “glorious kitchen for entertaining where everyone can gather.”
In a creative approach to cabinetry, the couple took a 1950s breakfront and painted it a deep green, then added a custom butcher-block top. Colorful fish sculptures, including one by Omaha artist Iggy Sumnik, dot the room for good luck. “Fish never sleep, so they protect the home,” Reilly explained.
A ceramic plate purchased in Italy during the couple’s honeymoon hangs above the stove, serving as a focal point. The memento provided the blueprint for the home’s color scheme, with an aubergine hue serving as the inspiration for the living room.
It’s the home’s original art, however, that truly rivets the eye. Culver and Reilly have been long-time supporters of the arts and have volunteered on boards for the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Opera Omaha. Their devotion is obvious with dozens of works on display, such as paintings (including numerous works by Culver himself), sculptures, textiles, and even digital pieces, like an NFT (non-fungible token) by son-in-law Bryan Brinkman, an artist and animator whose work has been featured in Times Square in New York City. “It’s eclectic,” Reilly said of their collection, “but we like it. We’re eclectic people.”
Two artful rabbits dominate the foyer—a mammoth rabbit head by Deborah Masuoka; and a smaller sweet, sleepy blue rabbit stretching its paws by Rebekah Bogard. In between is a large-scale portrait of Reilly seated in her scrubs, created by Culver. The painting highlights his wife’s passions, including her decades-long career as a plastic surgeon and wound specialist who travels to developing nations to help women injured by burns, domestic violence, or breast cancer.
The couple’s art collection—the majority of which they purchased in the past 15 years—is exhibited throughout the spacious home. A work by Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez dominates the dining room, with walls painted a deep cinnamon. An ornate chandelier, liberated from an estate sale, casts a warm glow throughout the room. The dining space also features a self portrait of Culver, which portrays him as a Gary Cooper-esque cowboy from the classic Western film High Noon.
A cozy sitting area opposite the dining room features works by late Omaha artist Wanda Ewing, as well as a sculpture by Jun Kaneko. The built-in bookcase is crammed with titles. “Ninety percent are art library books,” Culver declared. Flanking the room is a lighted display case chock full of antique toys, many of them hand-painted German Elastolin Old West cowboys from before World War II. Culver joked that his grandchildren can look but not touch.
The lively purple living room is brimming with contemporary art and colorful masks. A pink Larry Sosso mobile, suspended from the ceiling, echoes the colors of the large-scale Betty Woodman ceramic vase installed on one of the walls. A lovely tribute to Omaha’s zoo hangs over the sofa. Titled “Ride or Die,” the work by Robert Pruitt showcases a magnificent tiger wearing a gold necklace, inspired by Mia, a three-legged zoo denizen. Closeby hangs a bright yellow star by Stewart Hitch, one of the couple’s more recent purchases.
A grand piano, topped by a sculpture by Omaha artist Renee Ledesma, occupies the living room’s stage. Here, the couple put on concerts for friends, including a performance last year by an opera soprano to celebrate Reilly’s birthday. A pop art portrait of Beethoven hangs above the piano—a nod, she said, to her status as a “self-proclaimed Beethoven fanatic.”
A sculpture by Red Grooms has special meaning. Culver worked for the famed pop artist in the 1970s, and Grooms affectionately referred to Culver as “the Nebraska kid.” He created the sculpture for Culver’s 23rd birthday and used the nickname as the work’s title. A poster from Grooms’ 1972 show at the Guggenheim Museum, which Culver helped put together, hangs in the alcove.
Friends and family love visiting the couple to see their art.
“They say it’s like the Louvre, only homier,” Reilly chuckled.
Culver agreed with a smile. “My dad,” he added, “always calls it ‘the museum.’”
This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.