As a new year emerges from the old, so do a renowned art gallery and a historic South Omaha building. Artists and afficianados, community activists and preservationists, business owners and curious neighbors are all watching the goings-on at Gallery 72’s new location, 1806 Vinton Street. Perhaps even Janus (the ancient Roman gatekeeper who is remembered by the word “January,”), the god of beginnings and transitions, is curious. It’s an exciting moment, a time to look, as Janus does, both back and forward. And it’s a time to celebrate.
Mary Zicafoose: Tapestries, Prints, and Carpets is the exhibition marking the Grand Opening of this new space. “The launch of the new Gallery 72 is a bold and exciting ‘YES’ for the arts in Omaha,” says Zicafoose, an internationally known artist. “I am very, very pleased to have my work selected for the inaugural show.”
For Gallery 72, a longtime art landmark in Midtown Omaha, the move underscores its transition from fabled owners, the late Bob and Roberta Rogers, to their son, John. The gallery first opened in 1972 at an address on 72nd Street. When it moved to 27th and Leavenworth, the gallery retained its name and became a hub for contemporary art. Everyone was welcome.
“Bob and Roberta” became a watchword for a warm welcome, and newbies could count on a user-friendly introduction to art. In fact, Bob and Roberta have been credited with educating Omaha about contemporary art, and in 1990, were honored with the Partner in the Arts, Governor’s Arts Award. Bob’s passion continued after Roberta’s death in 1999, and in 2007, Bob was honored with the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Board’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His response to the audience’s cheers and standing ovation was, “Keep it going. Keep this high energy moving forward.”
Bob died this past December at age 94. Now, it’s John who intends to keep the energy going. Since retiring from teaching physics, he has taken on full-time management of the gallery. If physics is the study of movement, energy, space, and time, then his background is a perfect fit. “I’ve always been interested in the commonality between the sciences and culture,” he says. In his classroom, he hung John Himmelfarb prints, Barbara Morgan photographs, and fine quality posters of Calder and Miro.
Gallery 72 moves to a neighborhood that is seeing fresh interest and investment. The single-story building, which dates to 1922, is an integral component of the Vinton Street Commercial Historic District. Photographer Larry Ferguson, who has a history of service on Omaha art boards, bids a warm welcome from his studio in the next block, saying, “Gallery 72 is an amazing addition to the district.” Visitors will notice the red brick building, with its twin at 1808, framed by taller buildings on either side. This draws attention to the crenellated parapet roof and the facade’s decorative brickwork with stone accents. Wide southeast-facing windows entice us inside.
The L-shaped gallery is open and inviting. With more than 1,750 sq. ft., the showroom allows uncluttered display of two- and three-dimensional work. Careful planning directed a total renovation and resulted in efficient support space for office, specialized galleries, and storage. Gallery 72 exhibits and sells work by recognized regional and national artists in a range of media. Rogers also offers consultation and installation and hopes to develop a secondary art market. “I enjoy the art atmosphere and working with artists and clients,” he says.
Gallery 72 begins this new year with new life. Rogers looks forward to “revitalizing Gallery 72 and its importance to the arts of Omaha and Nebraska.” He has some innovations in mind but plans to retain its most-valuable traditions, such as the gallery’s name and well-earned reputation, and fosterage of a welcoming art environment (including potluck suppers and chocolate chip cookies). Upcoming solo exhibitions feature Deborah Masuoka, Carol Summers, and John Himmelfarb. A highlight of the spring schedule is An Evening of Art (May 11), the annual fundraiser for Friends of Art, a volunteer support group for UNO’s Department of Art and Art History.
1806 Vinton Street