Carver Bank: A North Omaha Town Hall

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

Funding Received: 2013
Omaha, NE
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
January 20, 2014

Icon One Music’s Home for the Holidays production I, December 2013, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Fati F.L. Photography & Art

Since opening in March 2013, Carver Bank has reached 89 Omaha-based artists and 4,500 visitors within 25 events. The Bemis Center also recently announced its second residency call at Carver Bank. In response to assessment of first-year performance, Bemis Center will increase monthly stipends at Carver Bank by 50% to create parity with our old market residency, shorten the residency cycle to 6 months, and increase the number of residents annually by 50%. Through the residency, the Bemis Center continues to support North Omaha's creative community by providing a critical boost to artists who have demonstrated a prior commitment to their professional careers. Promoting this opportunity will remain the focus over the spring in hopes of increasing the number of applicants who are exposed to Carver Bank.

Recent Wins

Ongoing Assessment and Adjustment
With the first year anniversary of Carver Bank fast approaching, the Bemis Center is engaging stakeholders to assess first year performance and make necessary adjustments to achieve programmatic goals at Carver Bank. Among the areas flagged for further attention: better communications with stakeholders, more ambitious artistic programs, a better articulated balance between local and national artistic contributions, better support for artist residents, more careful attention to increasing creative activity rather than moving preexisting activity to our new venue, and better coordination with economic development activity. Good assessment processes are healthy for the organization and offer the opportunity for improving outcomes at carver bank.

Momentum Building for Local Artists
To finish off the year, Carver Bank hosted “Home for the Holidays,” an intimate showcase of 10 R&B artists through a local music production company, Icon One Music. Although all of these singers have performed on larger stages in the Omaha area, most had not yet visited the facility.

The neighborhood is also becoming a destination with the recent addition of two galleries along the business district corridor. The Union for Contemporary Arts opened The Wanda D. Ewing Gallery to house their ongoing exhibitions. Another gallery focused on photography is expected to open soon in a neighboring building once vacant for more than 20 years.

Union for Contemporary Arts

Union for Contemporary Arts, November 2013, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of No More Empty Pots & Union for Contemporary Arts

With a clear vision and strategy focused on maximizing audience exposure, an institution can lend itself as a reliable resource for critical engagement and growth. Seeking proper balance between serving local artists and supporting intellectual growth through professional development and dialogue should be a main priority for placemaking organizations. Exposing local artists to multiple resources also helps them foster connections with local organizations. These relationships allow an organization to quickly realize its capacity for supporting neighborhood-based creative groups. Arts-based organizational leaders should be willing to have open dialogue with local artists about their needs to help build supportive programming and a sustainable creative network.