Branded as the nation’s Fourth of July City, Seward, NE, offers a unique suburban feel in a quaint small town. As numerous businesses line the brick roads of the historic downtown district, one unassuming spot welcomes visitors down the “red path” to explore their senses, feed their curiosity, and appreciate everything Nebraska has to offer.
Dating back to 1886, the building’s history originates from a local financial institution formerly known as Cattle Bank. After a 60-year run, the bank switched gears and renovated into a law firm until two local artists stumbled upon the building. In 2013, Jeanne and Verle Wiemer transformed the space into what is known today as Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room.
The couple sought a place where local artists could display their art in a smaller community setting. Inspired by the idea of following one’s path, the concept was created for people to gather and appreciate local artists, wines, beers, and events. This way, the local artisan scene wouldn’t be limited to larger cities like Omaha and Lincoln, offering more opportunities for those in more central or southeastern Nebraska.
Searching for a way to reinvest in their community, Seward natives Alison and Chase Koch took over ownership in 2018. From expanding its artist portfolio to launching an extensive tasting room, the Kochs continue to grow Red Path and showcase all that Nebraska offers in an environment that treats one’s tastebuds, sparks creativity, and brings the community together.
When people think of art galleries, bright, open spaces neatly decorated with large art structures may come to mind. Often a quiet ambiance, galleries house many treasures ranging from paintings to sculptures to photographs—opening the mind to roam each room and discover new stories.
At first glance, the gallery may look like any other mom-and-pop shop with small trinkets posted in its window. Lined with deep, red trim, the gallery leads members of the public inside to explore their curiosity. From the original mosaic tile flooring to the marble lining the walls, the gallery combines past architectural elements with the present inside an inconspicuous, laid-back environment. In place of checking in at a reception desk, visitors will find a quaint guest book perched atop a console by the entryway, decorated with local business cards, travel guides, and newspapers. A few more steps inside will welcome visitors to the bar, packed with everything from local craft beers to wine racks to vintage soda pops.
Rather than a space with soaring ceilings and an open-concept layout, Red Path invites guests inside what feels like a childhood home, from its close-quartered feeling between walls to ceramics and jewelry on wooden dressers. Red studio lights graze the ceiling tile, illuminating the wall art and lighting the way further down the path. Instead of generous space between items on display, many artwork pieces pose next to each other—similar to a Pinterest board—welcoming the mind to a visual discovery journey.
In the heart of Red Path, the original bank vault greets visitors with a cozy sitting space, carrying the “red” theme inside with its furniture and abstract flooring. “People can sit and unwind but still feel involved in the space,” said Alison Koch. “It’s a huge piece of history that’s the main focus of the gallery.” Ample seating spread throughout the building allows guests to gather and entertain conversations that enrich the experience and encourage time to slow down.
For those interested in exploring a different avenue of art, Red Path offers various art classes and tasting events for the community. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the gallery continues to bring awareness to Nebraska’s art scene, often surprising people along the way. From Alcohol Ink classes to bourbon and wine tastings, Red Path has become a designated spot for people to explore Nebraska art, indulge in local beverages, and gather for community events.
Art galleries comprise an eclectic mix of people from all walks of life. Whether inspired by art, thirsty for a beverage, or ready to explore a creative outlet, Red Path invites people on an unexpected journey to experience art in a different environment. What does Koch say to those interested in walking the Red Path? “Maybe they’ll find their own path when they come here or find artwork they never thought they’d love.”
For more stories like this, visit Scene.