January 22, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Holly Kranker has always made things. She learned about fabrics and textiles from her mom, and learned the art of constructing things out of nearly any material from her dad. When it came time to attend college, picking a major was an easy decision.

She traveled just across from her hometown of Frontenac, Kansas, to attend Pittsburg State University, earning a BFA in commercial art and also gaining a connection to Omaha.

“Jun (Kaneko) and Ree (Schonlau) had a residency called Mission Clay, where they were working with college students,” Kranker says.

Following college, Kranker began applying to design firms and ad agencies, but fate, it seems, took her in a different artistic direction. At the recommendation of Schonlau, she worked as a personal assistant for glass artist Therman Statom in his studio from 2008 to 2012.

She is now the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts’  residency program manager.

“Heather Johnson [the organization’s residency program manager in 2013] approached me to cover her maternity leave,” Kranker says. “I started working [at Bemis] that summer and handed it back to her after maternity leave.”

She wasn’t unemployed for long. A month later, Johnson left, and Kranker took the job full-time.

“We are an international residency program. We’re talking about how our programs function. The conversations are going on in Amsterdam, across Europe, about how we have similar stories. That’s inspiring to me.”

Working at Bemis also helps her be more creative, more artistic. She applied, and was accepted to, the recent Joslyn show Art Seen.

“They had an open call, so I submitted,” Kranker says. “They [committee members Karen and Bill Arning of Houston] came back and said we want to do a studio visit with you. I was totally floored.”

Participating in Art Seen allowed her to create a piece for Art in Odd Places, a sound and performance work that showed in Minneapolis in September 2015.

“I ran on the treadmill, which was hooked up to a musical computer program,” Kranker says. “I changed instruments every hour and it recorded and played in real time. I was on it 10 hours a day for four days.”

In the piece, she wavers between artist and athlete. Transitions, one might say, which is an appropriate description for her.

“It’s kind of funny how my time in Bemis has been a time of transition,” Kranker says. “Of getting to know an international community, which is pretty phenomenal.”

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