Carver Bank: A North Omaha Town Hall

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

Funding Received: 2013
Omaha, NE
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
December 15, 2013

Scky Rei and INFNTLP perform in front of animated screen, December 2013, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and  Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation

The Bemis Center’s program at Carver Bank is quickly being accepted as a valuable cultural hub for the city shown by the attendance and support of visitors. The Bemis Center’s efforts have focused primarily on energizing cultural and economic activity in North Omaha by offering more performance-based activities that celebrate poetry, acting, textile designs and music at Carver Bank. By staying committed to the organizational goal to support local talent, Carver Bank has attracted hundreds of guests who are now able to experience diverse programming as a result.

Recent Wins
Media Exposure
Local press coverage of Carver Bank programming and residents has added to the exposure for local artists. Artist-in-residence Dereck Higgins was recently featured in the Omaha World Herald for his dedication to vinyl records. He has also played in five shows across the city this month, further promoting his experiences as a Carver Bank resident. Video footage of a KPTM news interview highlighted the Fashion as Art event held this fall, showcasing the design skills of six local fashion and textile designers to more than 200 people. Continued exposure of the Wendel White exhibition took place on Nebraska’s NPR affiliate, which plays both online and through radio across the entire state. Finally, Carver Bank was featured in Omaha Magazine claiming the project as a cultural hub by merging local history with a dedication to art and social engagement.

Read more here:
Omaha World Herald
Omaha Magazine 

Celebrating Omaha’s Indie Music Scene
Omaha has a vibrant local music scene, and the Bemis Center is supporting local musicians at Carver Bank who are performing non-mainstream music. This fall featured two events focused on this music scene and in addition, hosting an open mic event which attracted poets and other vocal artists from the neighborhood. BOTH was an event showcasing sounds from music entrepreneurs Scky Rei, INFNTLP, and Conchance to approximately 80 visitors. The Art of Storytelling II promoted the celebration of hip-hop elements through the demonstration of spoken word, rapping, break dancing and turn tabling to an intimate audience of 50. The last event to showcase at Carver Bank this month is “Home for the Holidays,” which highlights vocal talent from a local music production group Icon One Music.

Open Mic II

Poets/Singers perform at Artiste Xpressions Open Mic event, December 2013, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and  Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation

Community Partnerships
The Empowerment Network, a community revitalization initiative, organized the third annual Christmas in the Village event this month.  As part of Christmas in the Village, the Empowerment Network invited local partners including businesses and organizations along 24th Street to celebrate with the community, with each partner hosting an activity surrounding the holiday. In the spirit of partnership, the Bemis Center worked with Girl Scouts to host arts and crafts activities and face painting at Carver Bank for more than 100 guests.

Christmas in the Village

Face painting, December 2013, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation

Christmas in the Village II

Girl Scouts make snowman cookies, December 2013, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and  Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation

Recent programming would be impossible without the involvement of the Carver Bank residents and the local artist community. Knowing this, it is imperative to have ongoing dialogue between artists and supporting organizations in order to activate the gallery space. Through constant communication, Carver Bank must maintain a level of scrutiny regarding public programming so that it dispels public views as simply being a town hall or venue space. Furthermore, it should not be viewed as an organization that is tackling the demands for cultural programming alone. It should capitalize on the existing traffic from neighboring events yet still pursue new audiences through unique programming. The Bemis Center needs to engage stakeholders about creating a program that serves the community and is also mission-driven. Going forward, we must build purposeful relationships with organizations that are focused on attracting local audiences and also challenge those audiences to recognize the artists and emerging talent from the area.