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Hagge's 'Power of the Cross' shines in NY exhibit

Hastings artist Dora Hagge has never been to the American Artists Professional League Grand National Exhibition in New York City.

But her work has. Thirteen times.

Her latest watercolor masterpiece chosen by judges, “The Power of the Cross,” was displayed at the exclusive Salmagundi Club on Fifth Avenue in the 91st Annual Grand National exhibit from Nov. 10-22.

It can still be viewed online at http://www.americanartistsprofessionalleague.org/

Open to artists in all 50 states, the exhibit features works chosen by a panel of nationally recognized judges.

It’s not that Hagge wouldn’t have liked to attend the exhibit.

She simply hasn’t been able to make it happen yet.

This year, it was inclement weather that kept the 77-year-old wife, mother of two, and grandmother of seven from attending with her husband of 57 years, Jerry.

“I want to go,” she said. “It’s high on my list of things to do. My husband I were talking about it this year thinking we would, but then they got that terrible cold spell that shut down Chicago (O’Hare) Airport (Nov. 11). And since I didn’t get an award this year, we decided we wouldn’t go. Not this year.”

An award-winning artist, Hagge attended her first watercolor painting workshop at age 30 after years of dabbling in the realm of arts and crafts. ‘Since converting to Christianity in 1989, she considers all her paintings to be divinely inspired, whether religious or secular.

Her works have increasingly focused on utilizing light as a focal point in the imagery, a reflection of her Christian worldview, she said.

Her entry in this year’s exhibition depicts an illuminated dove representing the Holy Spirit perched on a nail of the blood-stained cross of Jesus Christ. It is a painting she spent more than a decade to perfect, one that required the intervention of a local blood expert to bring to fruition.

Lorraine and Steve Atwater of Hastings have traveled to 30 countries doing missionary work and Christian theatre for more than two decades. It was Lorraine’s expertise in theatrical blood work that helped Hagge bring realism and closure to the image.

“It was kind of like the equivalent of God sending me someone from the movies,” Hagge said. “I was looking at cutout blood photos from “The Passion” movie (with Atwater) and she said, ‘This looks good to me!’ So that’s what I put in.”

The painting represents the power behind the crucifixion of Christ.

As described on her homepage www.dorahagge-artist.com, the blood flow to the right of the nail appears as a goblet and symbolizes communion, while a second stream to its left represents the spearhead that pierced Christ’s side after death.

The two streams of blood chosen to punctuate the scene “made a lot of difference in the painting because He (God) chose that for it,” she said. “This painting has evolved: So many things about it have changed over the years. He would bring me a new thing to do to in it and the decision was always, ‘Will I go with him and do it?’ And I always did.”

As the published author works on her first art book, she continues to stay busy teaching watercolor workshops at galleries across the country. A potential program to be offered in Branson, Missouri, is in the works.

A fellow maxima cum laude in the American Artists Professional League — the second highest honor bestowed by the league — her accolades include membership in the Knickerbocker Artists of New York organization, a designation she acknowledges by adding the letters KA to her signature.

Her rise to frequent contributor in Grand National exhibits still seems surreal to her, she said.

“You never take it for granted,” she said. “Let me put it this way, I never dreamed that big. It’s just like opening a gift and watching it unfold in front of you.”

Brooks's Bookshelf thankful for community support

The Borrell family dining room has become a busy place with boxes full of books, since the launching of Brooks’ Bookshelf in October.

Kim and Jeremy Borrell started Brooks’ Bookshelf on the one-year anniversary of receiving the diagnosis that their son, Brooks, has Trisomy 21; Down Syndrome.

That diagnosis came three days after he was born. Brooks then had open-heart surgery a week after he was born.

“Between the Down Syndrome and the open-heart surgery, he’s just a little kiddo who has been through a lot, and also we really wanted to celebrate him and also get out the word about Down Syndrome and also CHD, congenital heart defects in children, because that’s also very common,” Kim said. “There’s a lot we realized we could also teach people.”

The Borrells’ dining room is ground zero for compiling and organizing all the books donated to Brooks’s Bookshelf so far.

Brooks’s Bookshelf is a way to share the joy of reading and also spread awareness of Down Syndrome and other uniquenesses.

Bookshelves are located throughout the Hastings community.

Brooks’s Bookshelf accepts new and gently used books and also has an Amazon wish list on its website and Facebook page.

The Amazon list includes books about kindness, compassion, inclusion, special needs and diversity. There are books in Spanish, too.

Monetary donations will be used for building more bookshelves or buying books.

Each bookshelf includes books of all interests with specific books focused on kindness, compassion and understanding individuals with unique differences. Books range from picture books up to early readers.

“I think we’re turning into a society that is maybe reading less,” Kim said. “I just thought it would be a fun thing to put together.”

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

A Brooks’s Bookshelf is pictured Monday at Central Community College-Hastings.

The idea for a bookshelf came from Brooks’ older sister, Briella, because she has always loved books and has a bookshelf full of books.

“When a child gets to pick out another book or find a book they haven’t read, they’re so excited and they’re so full of life,” Kim said. “As a parent, it’s really rewarding to see that excitement from a book because books teach us so many things.”

Book drop-off locations include Avani Day Spa at 601 W. Second St.; the Central Nebraska Children’s Museum at 1115 W. Second St. in the lower level of Allen’s Superstore; Family Medical Center at 1021 W. 14th St., First Presbyterian Church at 621 N. Lincoln Ave., and Molly Kluver Photography at 238 N. Lincoln Ave.

Bookshelves are at Family Medical Center, i Am me Boutique at 838 W. Second St., Molly Kluver Photography and the newest location at the Central Community College-Hastings student union.

The United Harvest mobile food pantry organized by First Presbyterian and First United Methodist churches also has a bookshelf.

Kim attended a recent United Harvest event where Brooks’s Bookshelf coordinated a book giveaway with a separate coat drive.

“Just seeing the kiddos’ faces light up when they realize ‘We’re not just here for coats or some food, but I can get a book?’ That makes them so much happier,” she said.

Jeremy and his father, Dan, built bookshelves for some locations. Other locations already had shelves they wanted to use.

The CCC bookshelf was put up Monday afternoon.

The Borrells established Brooks’s Bookshelf a few weeks before Big Idea Hastings on Nov. 5, where Kim pitched the idea in front of a panel of judges and a crowd of about 200 people.

Brooks’s Bookshelf didn’t win the competition but it gained a lot of traction.

“We got tons of exposure that night,” she said.

Jerry Wallace, president at the CCC-Hastings campus, was a judge at Big Idea Hastings.

He approached Borrell and asked her to speak at a CCC faculty meeting in December.

He asked for a bookshelf on campus.

“It’s not a place where children are at all the time, but it’s a place where parents are,” Kim said. “A lot of students at CCC might be parents or they might have nieces or nephews who would like a book. The kids might be visiting for lunch. It’s not as direct as some of our other bookshelves, but it’s definitely a need.”

Parents told her they have a lot of books to donate.

“I realized there’s a lot of books out there and that’s something people are willing to give, is books, and we’ve really seen that after Big Idea Hastings,” Kim said. “People just love giving books, they love helping kids learn. It’s turning into more than I could ever imagine.”

She didn’t anticipate Brooks’ Bookshelf would include public speaking.

“I realized that’s a great way to share our message and to share about our son and teach people,” she said.

She anticipates eventually taking Brooks into local schools for story times.

Kim is thankful for the support Brooks’s Bookshelf has received from the Hastings community. That support has turned out to be an unintended benefit of the nonprofit.

“It’s been cool to see how the community is supporting the bookshelf, because I thought it was just us supporting the community,” she said. “So it’s this full circle of everybody supporting. It’s been really cool.”

Trump visits troops in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — President Donald Trump paid a surprise Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan, where he announced the U.S. and Taliban have been engaged in ongoing peace talks and said he believes the Taliban want a cease-fire.

In his first trip to the site of America’s longest war, Trump arrived at Bagram Air Field shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time Thursday and spent 3½ hours on the ground, serving turkey, thanking the troops and sitting down with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani before leaving just after midnight.

As per tradition, reporters were under strict instructions to keep the trip a secret to ensure the president’s safety in the country. About 12,000 U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan.

Traveling with Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and a small clutch of aides, including his acting chief of staff, press secretary and national security adviser, Trump appeared in good spirits as he was escorted around the base by heavily armed soldiers, as the smell of burning fuel and garbage wafted through the chilly air. Unlike last year’s post-Christmas visit to Iraq, first lady Melania Trump did not make the trip.

Trump’s first stop was a dining hall, where he plated turkey and sat down for a meal. But he said he only tasted the mashed potatoes before he was pulled away for photos.

“I never got the turkey,” he told the troops. “A gorgeous piece of turkey.”

During his visit, Trump said the U.S. and Taliban have been engaged in peace talks and insisted the Taliban want to make a deal after heavy U.S. fire in recent months.

“We’re meeting with them,” he said. “And we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire. And they don’t want to do a cease-fire, but now they do want to do a cease-fire, I believe ... and we’ll see what happens.”

The trip came after Trump abruptly broke off peace talks with the Taliban in September, canceling a secret meeting with Taliban and Afghan leaders at the Camp David presidential retreat after a particularly deadly spate of violence, capped by a bombing in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.

That ended a nearly yearlong effort by the U.S. to reach a political settlement with the Taliban, the group that protected al-Qaida extremists in Afghanistan, prompting U.S. military action after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. U.S. and international forces have been on the ground ever since.

It was not immediately clear how long or substantive the U.S. reengagement with the Taliban has been.

Trump ran his 2016 campaign promising to end the nation’s “endless wars” and has been pushing to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and in the Middle East despite protests from top U.S. officials, Trump’s Republican allies in Washington and many U.S. allies abroad. For months now, he has described American forces as “policemen” and argued that other countries’ wars should be theirs to wage.

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and more than 2,400 American service members have been killed since the war began 18 years ago.

Alex Brandon/AP  

President Donald Trump, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (second from the right) and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley (right), speaks to members of the military during a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit Thursday at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Just last week, Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to oversee the transfer of the remains of two Army officers killed when their helicopter crashed as they provided security for troops on the ground in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban still controls or holds sway over about half of the country, staging near daily attacks targeting Afghan forces and government officials.

The U.S. and Taliban had been close to an agreement in September that might have enabled a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Trump said he was proceeding with a plan to reduce U.S. troop levels to about 8,600, telling reporters we’re “bringing down the number of troops substantially.”

Still, he said, the U.S. will stay in the country “until we have a deal or we have total victory.”

Trump also met briefly with Ghani, the Afghan president. Ghani thanked the Americans who have made the “ultimate sacrifice” in Afghanistan and assured the president that Afghan security forces are increasingly leading the fight.

“In the next three months, it’s going to be all Afghanistan!” Ghani said.

Ghani also praised Trump for the October mission that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Afghan leader also seemed to suggest, as Trump himself has, that the al-Baghdadi mission was even more significant than the 2011 mission targeting al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden. The bin Laden mission was ordered by then-President Barack Obama.

“President Trump, people talk a lot about bin Laden. But what you did to eliminate al-Baghdadi ...” said Ghani, in remarks before U.S. troops ahead of Trump’s departure.

The White House took pains to keep the trip a secret after Trump’s cover was blown last year when Air Force One was spotted en route to Iraq by an amateur British flight watcher.

Cellphones and other transmitting devices were confiscated for the duration of the trip from everyone traveling aboard Air Force One. And Thanksgiving-themed tweets were teed up to publish ahead of time from Trump’s account to prevent suspicions arising about the president’s silence.

A small group of reporters was told to meet Wednesday night on the top floor of a parking garage and was transported in black vans to Andrews Air Force Base. Meanwhile, the president was secretly flying back from Florida, where reporters had been told he’d be spending Thanksgiving at his Mar-a-Lago club.

The plane he’d flown to Florida — the modified 747 painted in the iconic white and blue of Air Force One — remained parked on the tarmac at West Palm Beach Airport to avoid revealing the president’s movement.

About 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, the president boarded a nearly identical plane concealed in a hangar at Andrews Air Force Base, taking off and landing under the cover of darkness, with cabin lights dimmed and window shutters drawn.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said plans for the visit had been in the works for weeks.

“It’s a dangerous area and he wants to support the troops,” Grisham told reporters before Trump landed. “He and Mrs. Trump recognize that there’s a lot of people who are away from their families during the holidays, and we thought it’d be a nice surprise.”

Shortly after midnight, Trump and his entourage departed from Afghanistan.

Alex Brandon/AP  

President Donald Trump holds up a tray of food during a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to the troops Thursday at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

The president told the troops he was honored to spend part of his holiday with them.

“There is nowhere I’d rather celebrate this Thanksgiving than right here with the toughest, strongest, best and bravest warriors on the face of the earth,” Trump said.