Tag Archives: curator

Kim Darling

December 27, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha-based artist Kim Darling (also known as Kim Reid Kuhn) is relishing a moment of “when one door closes, another opens.”

Darling, a prominent Benson First Friday contributor known for curating provocative exhibitions and performances at Sweatshop Gallery—and arguably one of the reasons why Benson’s aura is what it is today—is now applying her passion for community arts advocacy in new ways.

“Sweatshop Gallery was always a launching point for larger social ideas,” she says.

Since the gallery’s closing in October 2015, Darling has accepted four artist residencies at four different Omaha schools. She has collaborated on two projects, Swale and Wetland, with former Bemis Center artist Mary Mattingly. Those “socially engaged projects” were both featured in The New York Times, Art Forum, and ART 21.

Darling is many things to many people: community activist, curator, mother, teacher, advocate, tastemaker, and artist. It is within their nexus that she has found new momentum—namely, public and socially engaged projects that define and build community through art with artists.

Recent iterations include exhibitions and subsequent public programming at both The Union for Contemporary Art and the Michael Phipps Gallery at the Omaha Public Library. Darling presented her paintings and photographs in a gallery setting that later set the backdrop for public conversations around topics of police brutality, definitions of “public-ness,” and how race, gender, and socio-economic realities frame perceptions of place.

Yet despite a very public persona, her zeal for her own private painting practice is on fire.

Darling’s iconography is distinct. With a distilled color pallet of coal black, turquoise, dirty white, and cotton candy pink, her canvases are peppered with oddly familiar shapes and punk references.

Her aptly named “Rat’s Nest Studio” is nearly at capacity with in-progress paintings and sketches of future projects—each influencing the other. It is in her studio where the visible traces of a focused artist are on display. In the duality of social engagement and private studio making, inspiration is constant. For Darling, “these different perspectives feed me, helping keep my marks and ideas raw.”

There is no mistaking Darling’s passion. Navigating a newly trodden path of community building through arts advocacy can be complicated, but for Darling, “there is a simple power in art making and storytelling.” This is where her art and life meet—an intersection of public discourse and art with an emphasis on communal and social concerns.

With Darling’s ongoing efforts, this new chapter will continue to be a revolving door for opportunity, inspiration, and evolution.

Visit kimdarling.net for more information.

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The “Funbuster”

January 16, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

No food in the gallery. Turn down the heat. Don’t touch that.”

Co-workers at the Durham Museum call curator Carrie Meyer “The Funbuster.”  She’s something of a spoil sport. But for a good reason.

She and her staff are responsible for more than 40,000 objects at the museum. Each year, 1,000 more items are donated to the permanent collection. All have ties to Omaha history. All require special care.

The nickname is all in fun. And, for the most part, so is her job as curator of exhibits and collections. She cheerfully describes herself as a “professional nerd.” What might be tedium for others is a passion of hers.

Traveling exhibits are paired with local exhibits— those researched, written, and produced by Durham staff—with the same theme. An example is the exhibit of 44 costumes worn by actress Katharine Hepburn that opens February 7.

Meyer paired that traveling exhibit from Kent State University with a local exhibit of garments and drawings created by costume designer Georgiann Regan for the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Museum visitors often suggest exhibit ideas. “I can’t tell you how many people said, ‘Why don’t you have dinosaurs,’“ Meyer said.

So she did. The four-month exhibit—A T. Rex Named Sue from Chicago’s Field Museum—contributed to a record year at the Durham with 204,787 visitors in 2013.

A native of Tennessee, Meyer was motivated by television’s CSI to become a biology major. She switched majors to earn a degree in art history in 2005 from Rhodes College in Memphis. After watching the movie The Mummy, she discovered the world of museum history and thought “Could I do that?” Meyer moved to Waco, Texas, to pursue a Master of Arts in Museum Studies at Baylor University, while working two jobs.

In 2007, Meyer became curatorial associate at the Ak-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Clewiston, Florida, run by the Seminole Tribe She joined the Durham in 2008.

Meyer is pursuing a Master of Arts in History at UNO with an emphasis on Omaha history. In 2014, she was appointed to the Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission.

Along the way, Meyer learned that collecting local history can entail some long hours and odd side trips. Durham staff was at TD Ameritrade Park in 2011 to collect programs commemorating the opening day of the ball field. “We keep an eye on the things happening today that people will want to know tomorrow,” Meyer said.

Some day that program will become historical. And when it is, “The Funbuster” will ensure nobody mishandles a piece of Omaha history.

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Sondra Gerber

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Sondra Gerber

Sondra Gerber, owner and self-described curator of Blue Pomegranate Gallery at 66th and Maple streets, opened the shop in July 2001. She and former business partner Anne Nye attended their first Benson Business Association meeting shortly thereafter. Their first and last.

“We came in with so many ideas,” Gerber says, laughing at herself. “We’re gonna change Benson! I left that meeting crying.” Virtually every suggestion she made was shut down. A business confidante patted her on the shoulder, chuckled, and offered these words of wisdom: “You’re just going to have to wait until some of these people die.”Habitat Tree copy

So Gerber shelved her dreams of Benson as an artistic hotspot and concentrated on evolving Blue Pomegranate and her metalworking skills. The gallery now represents several artists—mostly local but some national—and she and Nye still display their own work, though Nye is no longer a partner. The two work in metal and glass respectively, sometimes collaborating on pieces that combine the two elements. “It has to have the Blue Pomegranate look,” Gerber says of any art piece displayed in her gallery. A glance around the shop tells visitors what that look is: brushed aluminum, textured glass, bright colors, and simple design.

Among Gerber’s innovations in her own art over the past 12 years are increasingly detailed brushwork to allow for more complex play of light on aluminum, and transparent powder coating and dyes for color variety beyond the airy metal’s typical silver. Since hiring Stephanie Heller, formerly of Heller Art Images, to man the gallery itself, Gerber is turning her focus to another innovative challenge—her large-scale aluminum sculptures.

“Her material is so elemental,” Heller says. “There’s no room for bad composition. She has to keep it visually interesting and exciting and still accessible. It’s a flat piece of metal, and she has to conceive of all that light and shape and shadow and dimension. How’s she going to bend it, cut it, display it—I just can’t wait to see her larger-scale pieces and what she’s going to do with them.”birch woods copy

Heller and Gerber have known each other for 20 years, and Heller says she can tell that Gerber hit a pivotal point in the last couple years. “To me, that’s the optimal time to buy an artist’s art,” Heller says. “Those experimental pieces are bursts of inspiration that only happen once.”

Gerber has produced sculptures for backyard poolscapes, installations for donor art at hospitals and nonprofits, and commissions for corporate décor. That’s in addition to showing in about 50 to 60 galleries nationally, producing a line of unique Christmas ornaments each year, and maintaining a garden worthy of the Munroe-Meyer Institute Guild Garden Walk.

Gerber laughs at the observation that she likes to stay busy. In addition to her own annual garden show on Memorial Day, she’s a pioneer of First Fridays, hosting a festive late night once a month for the gallery since 2008. That’s three years before the rest of the neighborhood came together for Benson First Fridays, an idea that the business association wasn’t interested in when Gerber first mentioned it as a fledgling shop owner.IMG_9068 copy

Since last spring, most businesses in Benson are open later for the crowds coming to see what’s new on the neighborhood’s creative front. Bars have special happy hours, movies are projected on outdoor walls, and pop-up galleries showcase businesses that may not have their own storefronts yet. “You don’t really know what you’re going to get each month,” Gerber says.

With a photography studio next door, a woodturner in the basement, and creatives popping up all over the neighborhood, Gerber is finally seeing a response to the question she asked in the early days of Blue Pomegranate: “Dundee’s really cute. Why aren’t people doing this in Benson?”