Nerman Benefactor Leaves Contemporary Art Legacy

Jerry Nerman envisioned a museum at JCCC for all to enjoy.

Jerry Nerman and architect Kuy Sung Woo(from left to right) Bruce Hartman, executive director of the Nerman Museum, Lewis and Jerry Nerman and architects David Reid and Kyu Sung Woo from Gould and Evans Architects

To Jerry Nerman, for whom the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art was named, art wasn’t meant to be bought and locked away. On Feb. 28, 2017, Jerry Nerman passed away at the age of 97 after a bout of pneumonia. 

He and his wife, Margaret, began collecting contemporary art as a hobby. As his trucking company succeeded, their hobby expanded, and they secured pieces from renowned artists such as Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

They forged a 27-year friendship with Bruce Hartman, then the director of the Gallery of Art at Johnson County Community College. When the Nermans decided they wanted to establish a contemporary art museum, they approached Hartman with the idea that such a place should be at JCCC.

In 2003, they donated the lead gift of $1.5 million for the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. The facility, designed by prominent architect Kyu Sung Woo, opened in 2007.

Later this year, the museum will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its grand opening, and a gala will honor the Nermans as honorary chairs.

Hartman, now executive director of the Nerman Museum, said he’ll miss Jerry Nerman’s love for life.

“Jerry was one of those rare ‘larger than life’ people who leave an enormous void when they depart,” Hartman said.

“I will always cherish his great humor, goodwill and generous nature. His passion for art was an inspiration to all. I feel so blessed to have known him over many decades, most importantly, as a friend,” he said.

The Nermans and Hartman shared a similar philosophy that art should be accessible to all.

“When we’re dead and gone, more patrons will be needed,” Jerry Nerman told “The Best Times” magazine in 2007. “So we try to get young people involved. After all, pretty soon they’re senior citizens, too.”

In that same article, Margaret Nerman explained why JCCC, the Nerman Museum and many other arts organizations across Kansas City have benefitted from their generosity.

“We wanted to give back to our city, because it’s been so good to us,” she said. “We also wanted to leave a legacy for our grandchildren, and for theirs.”

Funeral service will be 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 3, at Kehilath Israel Synagogue, 10501 Conser, Overland Park, KS 66212 with burial at Mt. Carmel Cemetery. 

The family requests donations in Jerry’s name be made to the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art or the Kansas City Art Institute. Donors can make Nerman Museum donations online