The Villagers – Taylor, Nebraska - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Taylor, Nebraska

The Villagers

This Nebraska town wants to double its population with plywood cut-outs of townsfolk. 

What’s an Old West town with a dwindling population to do? The town of Taylor, Nebraska, figured if it can’t attract new residents, it could try literally making them. No, not that way. A local artist has cut out and painted some plywood to look like friendly townsfolk strategically placed around town. 

Known as the Villagers, the life-sized people cut-outs are painted in black and white and made to look like people who would have lived, worked, and played in the town between 1890 and 1920, when Taylor was at its peak.

Artist Marah Sandoz’s goal is to have as many cut-outs as there are real people in Taylor, and she is about halfway there because the depleted town has just 182 residents. The cut-outs were conceived by Sandoz and a local economic development team as a way to revitalize the town by getting those who pass through Taylor to stop and take a closer look at the timeless shadow population.

Since 2003, Sandoz has produced about six per year, in addition to, on average, 20 custom Villagers she also makes for people in her shop. The classic characters, some with faces resembling the people who own the property they are placed on, include children at play, lovers getting engaged, window shoppers, farmers, and a sheriff.

The project has already increased vehicle traffic in town, and probably slowed it down, since some drivers have hesitated to go when they see cut-outs who seem about to cross the street. Sandoz provides a map for visitors who want to try to see all of her creations.

Know Before You Go

There is a small information booth, which hands out maps - although you don't really need them, because the village is really small.