Omaha’s Old Market is home to buildings that are more than a century old. The fact that people have saved them and refurbished them is impressive. To turn one into a space to showcase contemporary art just seems fitting. The Bemis Center for Contemporary Art has called the old Bemis Bag Company building home for 35 years.
Built in 1887, the Bemis was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Four years earlier, a team of Omaha artists turned the building into the contemporary art center for the Metro area.
The Bemis Center works with a variety of artists throughout the year, changing exhibits in the three large gallery spaces. The Bemis works with artists in residence during the exhibits.
During our visit, we were fortunate enough to catch an interesting piece by Derrick Adams. “Crossroad: A Social Sculpture” combines musical chairs with an interactive game board. The artist actually broadcasts a radio show a few hours a day a couple days a week. He combines it with the display. As people walk along the figure 8 design, once the music stops, they are asked questions regarding a variety of topics, including queries about Omaha. People who want to watch the activities can grab a seat on the large dice.
The artists will be at Bemis until May 14th. The second half of the year should bring fresh faces and fresh pieces. As a side note, there is no admission fee for visiting the Bemis.
The art center celebrates its 35th anniversary with “Beginnings.” It features art work by generations of Omaha artists. As you enter the Time + Space gallery, a large canvas photo highlights the recreation room of the Bemis Bag Company in 1916. The photo work by Louis Bostwick is courtesy of The Durham Museum.
“Beginnings” features art work embracing earth as a medium. It harkens to the early days of Bemis and when it was an artist-in-industry location. Exhibits feature works of clay and ceramic. Artist Tim DeVoe created “Sill,” which combines wood, hardboard, paneling and cement to create a piece resembling brick from a building.
The Bemis anniversary celebration will be split. “Beginnings” runs until May 14th. Beginning in June, “Futures” will look at science fiction and futurist views. We will need to return and check out that exhibit.
One piece we found very interesting involved an artist’s dedication to her father. As he neared death, the father told her that he wished he hadn’t passed up all the vacation opportunities to work more. As a tribute, Angela Drakeford used a pair of denim pants she wore to Hawaii and used the soiled denim for an art project to honor her father, who always wanted to visit the islands.
“Plate Collaboration” was a joint effort by Brook Levan and Michael Sarich.
A mixed media piece by Justin Stewart and a work by Patrick Siler caught my eye. I liked how they seemed to balance each other in the gallery.
The Bemis Center for Contemporary Art is a pretty cool place to visit. I prefer contemporary works over the classics (though I have a deep respect for the artists and their works). I find I relate more to the contemporary aspect.
We will return to check out the new exhibits when they’re ready. We highly recommend visiting the Bemis.
For more information, please visit www.bemiscenter.org.