Carver Bank: A North Omaha Town Hall

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

Funding Received: 2013
Omaha, NE
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
March 25, 2014

Shannon Marie, February 2014, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation

The Bemis Center continues to assess the best ways to achieve community development goals at Carver Bank, recognizing that the Bemis Center’s primary area of competency is in the cultural realm. The Bemis Center is engaged in more deliberate discussions with community stakeholders—particularly those with the skills and networks that could round out the community development goals at Carver Bank—about how to leverage resources and increase impact in North Omaha.

Within the cultural arena, the Bemis Center is continuing to develop and roll out a new programming model that will integrate our various offerings in order to make better use of available resources. One of the key goals with this change is to ensure that offerings at Carver Bank are not duplicative of other opportunities already available in North Omaha, and instead represent a distinct contribution to the North Omaha creative landscape.

Recent Wins
Residency Program Becomes More Visible
The second call for Carver Bank Artists-in-Residence has motivated a 58% increase in applicants since its initial launch in March 2013. Through the marketing of the residency program and its advancements, the Bemis Center hopes that moving forward the Carver Bank residency can reach more artists allowing for more artist exposure. Current residents are in their final weeks of term and an effort to develop an effective alumni program is at the forefront of artist engagement.

Cheers From Me To You
Current Carver Bank resident Shannon Marie hosted an intimate performance with friends and fans last month. This event served as the first community-wide collaboration between the Bemis Center and neighboring organizations to program activities that attract mutual audiences in this business corridor.

Shannon Marie & Friends

Shannon Marie & Friends, February 2014, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Theaster Gates/Rebuild Foundation

Up Next: Dereck Higgins’s Flyover Country Album Release

Dereck Higgins - Flyover Country

Dereck Higgins – Flyover Country, February 2014, Omaha, Nebraska; photo courtesy of Dereck Higgins

Carver Bank resident Dereck Higgins will present music from his latest vinyl release of music written for and inspired by the film Flyover Country. In addition to the performance, filmmakers Jim Fields and Shaun Vetick will talk about the use of the music in their production. Tim Guthrie will also join the panel to share about the artwork used for the album covers. To close out the event, Greg Hand, a native Omahan and folk singer will perform music from his latest works. The structure of this event leans closer to the aesthetic that the Bemis Center would like to portray in public programming and events.

Going forward, the Bemis Center needs to think about using available resources to structure opportunities for resident artists that would not exist otherwise. The cultural offerings in the first year, to a greater extent than desirable, represented the movement of existing creative activities from older venues to the new Carver Bank venue. The goal for our second year of operation is to think about how we can expand the cultural quotient of the neighborhood. What is the right balance between creating stronger local voices and integrating North Omaha into broader cultural directions by bringing outside artists in? What would it look like for the Bemis Center to provide North Omaha creatives not only space for performance, art making, etc., but also access to other kinds of intellectual, human, and community capital not otherwise available? How do these enhanced cultural opportunities help to support a sustained growth in North Omaha’s cultural and economic resources?