Form & Function: European and American Decorative Arts

Form & Function: European & American Decorative Arts is an exhibit dedicated to showcasing fine decorative arts such as glassworks, ceramics, enamel pieces, and furniture that serve as both functional household object and beautiful, inspiring art. Form & Function specifically showcases the collection of former Kearney residents Philip and Mildred Strain, who donated their significant collection of decorative art objects to the G.W. Frank Museum.

Over the course of a lifetime, Philip and Mildred Strain amassed one of the most substantial private collections of European and American decorative arts in the Great Plains. Graduates of Kearney State College, the Strains appeared to be a quiet and unassuming couple to most who knew them. Philip was a clerk at the Kearney Post Office; Mildred worked as a school teacher and part-time seamstress.

But they had a passion for collecting. Born out of Philip’s love of art and history, the Strains filled their home with pieces of Meissen porcelain, Tiffany glass, and Louis XV-style furniture. Wary of attracting too much attention, they often received deliveries in the middle of the night. Few visitors were allowed inside. Those who did visit found a house that was as much a museum as it was a private home.

Despite this secrecy, the Strains recognized the significance of their collection and hoped that it would one day be housed at their alma mater, now the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Form and Function features their collection’s finest pieces on public display for the first time.