Theaster Gates, Carver Bank, March 29, 2013 Opening, Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Chris Machian. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation.

Theaster Gates, Carver Bank, March 29, 2013 Opening, Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Chris Machian. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation.

Update

Opened in March 2013, Carver Bank joins other place-based initiatives launched by Gates and Rebuild Foundation in Chicago and St. Louis. The 2,600-square-foot Carver Bank facility was fully renovated and now offers exhibition and performance space, artist studios, Big Mama’s Sandwich Shop, as well as 3,000-square-feet of transformed exterior landscape. Managed and programmed by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Carver Bank now hosts regular exhibitions, events and workshops driven by artists and community partners.

Big Mama’s Sandwich Shop, Carver Bank, March 29, 2013 Opening, Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Chris Machian. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation.

Big Mama’s Sandwich Shop, Carver Bank, March 29, 2013 Opening, Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Chris Machian. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation.

The Carver Bank project continues to cultivate partnerships with North Omaha-based artists as well as arts, education and service-based institutions based in the Near North Side community. Through these partnerships, and through its own role as a leading cultural institution in Omaha, the Bemis Center aims to draw a racially and economically diverse audience to cultural events in North Omaha to:
- tour the Carver Bank gallery and exhibitions
- develop and attend events, performances, classes, and discussions in the gallery and exterior space
- develop and participate in service learning opportunities and arts-based workshops
- critically engage with issues of race, class and place specific to Omaha

Recent Wins

- Launch of Carver Bank Workshops
Each summer, fall and spring, Carver Bank offers free workshops to youth and adults. This summer’s youth workshops include a writing workshop for teens lead by Artist-in-Residence Portia Love, a woodworking workshop for middle school-aged youth lead by Omaha artist Rich Mansfield, and a Girl Scouts troop lead by a different local artist each week.

Youth Woodworking Workshop with Girls, Inc. participants at Carver Bank, June 6, 2013,
Omaha, Nebraska. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation.

- Exhibition Opening of LaMont Hamilton’s Omaha Portraits
Omaha Portraits is a portrait series of North Omaha, specifically the black community of Omaha by photographer LaMont Hamilton. Hamilton is a Chicago-based photographer and recent Bemis Center resident — these 37 portraits were produced during his residency. The portraits are displayed in the Carver Bank and will be in storefront windows surrounding the intersection of 24th and Lake Streets. According to Hamilton, “The intention of this work is to show the richness and diversity of black Omaha. By displaying the images in North Omaha — making the community the ‘art,’ and displaying the ‘art’ to the community — I hope to reflect a community filled with history and pride. North Omaha is Omaha. This is Omaha. These are Omaha Portraits.” The show will run through August 24.

LaMont Hamilton’s Omaha Portraits at Carver Bank, June 9, 2013,
Omaha, Nebraska. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation.

- Carver Bank’s Juneteenth Youth Arts Celebration
Juneteeth attracted 160 patrons to an open house that featured the opening of LaMont Hamilton’s Omaha Portraits, a performance showcases curated by Carver AIR Shannon Marie, and free food from Big Mama’s Sandwich Shop. Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas in 1865. Listen here>

Juneteenth Youth Arts Celebration at Carver Bank, June 9, 2013,
Omaha, Nebraska. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation.

Insight/Reflection

Long-term sustainability and scalability remain crucial. Throughout this process, Bemis Center has focused on its mission—to support artists of exceptional talent—and areas of expertise—managing artists-in-residence and exhibition programs. Through seeking community partnerships and relationships with artists, we have successfully focused on what we do best and built relationships with service-oriented and neighborhood-based institutions to broaden our capacity. We believe Carver Bank may serve a dynamic function that over time will open the city to unforeseen cultural experiences and help dissolve existing social boundaries.