Carver Bank: A North Omaha Town Hall

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

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

Mitchell Squire – The Young Gladiators, February 2014, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Bart Vargas.

As we evaluate the first year of Carver Bank programming, we are making efforts to increase its potential impact on the community. One new strategy is to coordinate our calendar of events with those of other organizations in the area in order to flesh out the idea of an arts district with a density of activity. In addition, we are carefully evaluating issues of quantity and quality in our programming, trying to assess how to strike a balance that will best support community development goals.

Recent Wins

Mitchell Squire Exhibition Opening & Workshops
As part of the modified direction for Carver Bank in 2014, we are very happy that we had the first coordinated program between one of our exhibitions: Mitchell Squire’s “We’re Gonna Have to Do More Than Talk,” and a youth arts workshop also led by Professor Squire. We feel that this denser network of activity is more indicative of the kinds of programming that the Bemis Center is capable to producing, and more likely to lead to good outcomes at Carver Bank where we will now be offering cultural opportunities that are not duplicated by any other organization in the region. These distinctive offerings will drive more attendance to Carver Bank, and will satisfy the (sometimes) conflicting demands both to provide better access to artistic voices from outside the community and create greater opportunities for community participation.

Learn more about the exhibition:
The Reader – “Walk The Walk” (Exhibition opening review)

Next up: Mary Mattingly's “Flock House Project Omaha” will engage visitors at our Old Market and North Omaha locations simultaneously in discussions about the future of the urban landscape while providing high-quality programs for teens for north, central, and south Omaha to participate in the Urban Design Lab, again at both of our locations.

Supporting Resident Artists' Development

Bart Vargas Keyboard Globe

Bart Vargas – Keyboard Globe, February 2014, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Bart Vargas

In the first year, our artist residents at Carver Bank were, by design, not offered full access to the Bemis Center's main campus in Old Market. Although well intentioned, in hindsight we think we can offer a better experience—both for Carver residents and our international residents at Old Market—by offering robust opportunities for exchange between the two locations. As part of our first tentative step in this direction, Carver Bank resident Bart Vargas presented his work at the Bemis Center's monthly Art Talk in Old Market this month alongside other artists from around the globe.

Bart Vargas The New Bronze

Bart Vargas – The New Bronze, February 2014, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Bart Vargas

Recognition Among Citywide Audiences
Carver Bank was featured in a story in “The Encounter,” an Omaha-based publication, about positive new developments in the North Omaha neighborhood.

Read more:
North Omaha: Its Pride, Its Loyalty, Its New Energy

Promotion of Residency Call
The Bemis Center is promoting residencies at Carver Bank with a new call for applications that gives Carver Bank applications equal dignity with Old Market applications. The hope is that Carver Bank will receive a strong applicant pool, including local, regional, and national artists who may be a good fit for Carver Bank's goal to strengthen the North Omaha creative community. Remaining sensitive to the needs of the potential applicants, an early deadline was established to help applicants apply using an online platform and assistance with portfolio preparation.

Read More:
Residency Opportunities

Chicago Artists Resource

The gallery exhibitions in the first year have been of strong quality, but have not been programmed with the kind of ancillary programming that can support broader community engagement. Pairing gallery content with related workshops, educational programming, and social practice opportunities will allow the Carver Bank programming to reach a broader audience. Simple actions like extending professional development activities and artist-led workshops can foster relationships with other creative people from the neighborhood. This can also help leverage future cultural arts programming in a public space. By allowing the space to remain flexible it provides a safer atmosphere for sharing perspectives through multicultural connections.