Tag Archives: exhibit

Art Rage

February 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Editor’s note: Cassils is a gender non-conforming trans-masculine visual artist. Cassils uses plural gender-neutral pronouns (they, them, their) and asks that journalists do likewise when referring to them. This plurality reflects through language the position Cassils occupies as an artist. For more about gender non-conforming issues, go to: glad.org/reference/transgender 

Powerful art does not need to be explained, though for the uninitiated, sometimes it helps.

Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Cassils thrives on the power of art. The artist (who prefers to be referred to in plural, gender-neutral pronouns) launched their latest exhibit, Cassils: The Phantom Revenant—now on display at the Bemis Center— Feb. 2 with a thrilling live performance called Becoming An Image.

Cassils’ performance involved the transgender, body-building artist attacking a 2,000-pound block of clay using only their body, in complete darkness, with the occasional flash of a camera that illuminated both artist and object, burning the images into viewers retinas.

It was a blend of performance, photography, and sculpture. “I use all parts of my body—my fists, my knees, my elbows,” Cassils says. “I beat this clay to the best of my ability, blind, until I’m basically compromising my ability to hit it properly.”

At the performance, the only sounds were those of Cassils’ labored breathing, as the artist kicked, punched, and even jumped on the earthy clay, accompanied by the click of the camera as the photographer blindly tried to capture the “full-blown attack.”

Becoming An Image was originally conceived of and executed for ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, the oldest existing LGBT organization in the United States, which also happens to house one of the largest repositories of LGBT materials in the world.

“I was asked to make a piece in relationship to the missing gender-queer and trans representation in that archive, because like many archives in museums, it’s filled with the work of, in this case, dead, gay white guys. So rather than making an artwork that spoke to the one or two subjectivities that perhaps matched this description in the archives, I decided to make a piece about the troubling mechanisms of what makes it into the historical canon and what doesn’t.”

Cassils’ Powers That Be installation—on display through April 29—presents a six-channel video that is a simulation of violence, a staged fight that could be taking place between two, three, four, or five people. But in this fight, Cassils plays the role of both victim and perpetrator. “If you have two people doing stage combat, it looks really realistic, but if you take one person out, and the other person’s doing it well, it really looks as if they’re fighting a ghost, or a force.”

Cassils says “Any work is about responding to the socio-political circumstances that we’re living in …  Art doesn’t change things like laws do, but it generates discussion.”

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Calendar of Events: September/October 2013

September 3, 2013 by

ART & MUSEUM EXHIBITS

A Bug’s World
Through September 8 at Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St.
A larger-than-life interactive exhibit that allows children to experience what it is like to be a bug. Tu-F/10am-4pm; Sat/9am-5pm; Sun/1pm-5pm. $9 adults & kids, $8 seniors, free for members and children 2 & under. 402-342-6164 – ocm.org

A T. Rex Named Sue
Through September 8 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
Visit one of Chicago’s Field Museum’s traveling exhibitions, Sue, the largest, most complete, best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex in the world. M/10am-5pm; Tu/10am-8pm; W-Sat/10am-5pm; Sun/1-5pm. $9 adults, $7 seniors (62+), $6 ages 3-12, free for members and children 2 & under. 402-444-5071 – durhammuseum.org

Ron Parks at the Fred Simon Gallery
Through September 20 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St.
Sculptor Ron Parks showcases this craftsmanship in this exhibition of contemporary Nebraska visual artists. M-F/8am-5pm. Free admission. 402-595-2142 – nebraskaartscouncil.org

Baseball at Boys Town
Through September 30 at Boys Town, 14100 Crawford St.
Highlights the history of baseball from 1917 to today at Boys Town and features autographed baseballs and memorabilia from Hall of Fame players Babe Ruth, Ozzie Smith, and Hank Aaron. Daily/10am-4pm. Free admission. 402-498-1186 – boystown.org

The Lorax
Through November 3 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St.
A showcase of selected Dr. Seuss preliminary crayon drawings and final pen and ink line art for this iconic book from the collection of the LBJ Presidential Library & Museum. Tu-W/10am-4pm; Th/10am-8pm; F-Sat/10am-4pm; Sun/12-4pm. Free admission. 402-342-3300 – joslyn.org

Featured artists Daharsh, Ocken, and Vande Voort
September 3-29 at Artists’ Cooperative Gallery Ltd., 405 S. 11th St.
New works by glassblower Frank Daharsh, painter Virginia Ocken, and painter Dar Vande Voort. Tu-Th/11am-5pm; F-Sat/11am-10pm; Sun/12-6pm. Free admission. 402-342-9617 – artistsco-opgallery.com

Rockbrook Village® 42nd Annual Art Fair
September 7-8 at Rockbrook Village Shopping Center, 108th & W. Center Rd.
Omaha’s premier art fair since 1971. Over 160 national, regional and local artists will display and sell their one-of-a-kind works of art. 10am-5pm. Free admission. 402-390-0890 – rockbrookvillage.com

Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear
September 28 – January 5 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
Created by The California Science Center, Durham Museum presents the many sides of fear. Test yourself against four common fears. Observe how fear changes and learn simple ways to combat stress. Tu/10am-8pm; W-Sat/10am-5pm; Sun/1-5pm. $9 adults, $7 seniors (62+), $6 ages 3-12, free for members and children 2 & under. 402-444-5071 – durhammuseum.org

Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection
September 28 – January 5 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St.
A selection of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper from a historic gift pledged to the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2010 by Emily Fisher Landau. Her collection features some of the most influential artists of the 20th century, including Andy Warhol, Glenn Ligon, Sherrie Levine, Agnes Martin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, John Baldessari, Kiki Smith, and Ed Ruscha. Tu-W/10am-4pm; Th/10am-8pm; F-Sat/10am-4pm; Sun/12-4pm. Free admission. 402-342-3300 – joslyn.org

Featured artists Johnston, Methot-Swanson, Stizman
October 1-27 at Artists’ Cooperative Gallery Ltd., 405 S. 11th St.
New works by painters Judith Anthony Johnston and Katrina Methot-Swanson, and sculptor Tom Sitzman. Tu-Th/11am-5pm; F-Sat/11am-10pm; Sun/12-6pm. Free admission. 402-342-9617 – artistsco-opgallery.com

Featured artists Akers, Fetter, Gaines
October 29 – November 24 at Artists’ Cooperative Gallery Ltd., 405 S. 11th St.
New works by mixed media artist Sean Akers, painter Joan Fetter, and weaver Agneta Gaines. Tu-Th/11am-5pm; F-Sat/11am-10pm; Sun/12-6pm. Free admission. 402-342-9617 – artistsco-opgallery.com

CONCERTS

End of the Summer Concert Series
Through September 27 at Midtown Crossing, 31st to 33rd, Farnam to Dodge sts.
A weekly concert series to end the summer, featuring Billy McGuigan and a joint concert with the Omaha Symphony and Opera Omaha. F/7:30pm. Free admission. 402-598-9676 – midtowncrossing.com

Hullabaloo Music & Camping Festival
September 5-8 at Sokol Park, 905 Allied Rd.
A celebration of music featuring live music from regional and national bands and DJs. Acts include the Aaron Freeman (former lead singer of Ween), Blackalicous, Monophonics, The Floozies, Kris Lager Band, Samantha Fish, DJEM, Lovedrunk, and much more! Food, drink and local vendors will be on hand. $20-80. 402-210-4747 – hullabaloomusicfestival.com

Scotty McCreery
September 13 at Stir Concert Cove, Harrah’s Casino, Council Bluffs, IA
Scott “Scotty” McCreery is an American country music singer from North Carolina and winner of the tenth season of American Idol. Doors open at 6pm; show at 8pm. $35 general admission. 712-329-6000 – harrahscouncilbluffs.com

Bret Michaels
September 20 at Stir Concert Cove, Harrah’s Casino, Council Bluffs, IA
Rock out the end of the summer with actor, director, screenwriter, producer, and reality television personality Bret Michaels, formerly of the band Poison. Doors open at 6pm; show at 8pm. $33 general admission. 712-329-6000 – harrahscouncilbluffs.com

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
October 10 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy gained national attention when “You & Me and the Bottle Makes Three (Tonight)” and “Go Daddy-O” were featured in the film Swingers. Their concerts feature big horns, wild jungle-jazz rhythms, zoot suits & dancing flapper girls. 7:30pm. 402-345-0202 – omahaperformingarts.org

Keith Urban – Light the Fuse Tour 2013
October 18 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
One of the industry’s most electrifying live performers, four-time Grammy Award winner and American Idol judge Keith Urban is bringing his “Light The Fuse Tour 2013” to Omaha. Special guests include: Little Big Town and Dustin Lynch. 7pm. $37-61.50. 402-341-1500 – centurylinkcenteromaha.com

Avenged Sevenfold with Deftones and Ghost B.C.
October 22 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
Avenged Sevenfold, a rock band known for their diverse rock sound and dramatic imagery in album covers and t-shirts, has toured all over the United Kingdom, as well as mainland Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. 8pm. $18.50-73. 402-341-1500 – centurylinkcenteromaha.com

World Blues: Taj Mahal and Vusi Mahlasela
October 25 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.
Grammy®-winning composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Taj Mahal with ‘The Voice’ of South Africa Vusi Mahlasela. One of the most prominent figures in late 20th century blues and roots music, his music draws inspiration from virtually every corner of the world. 8pm. 402-345-0202 – omahaperformingarts.org

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
October 29 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
Premier hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis previously showcased their talents at The Waiting Room and Sokol Auditorium, but are now taking their music to Omaha’s main stage, CenturyLink Center Omaha. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis recently made Billboard history as the only duo to send their first two singles to No. 1 on both the Hot 100 and Top 40 Radio charts with new single “Can’t Hold Us” and breakout hit “Thrift Shop.” “Same Love,” a song and video in support of marriage equality, galvanized young fans and voters, and is certified a Gold single. 7:30pm. $29.50-82. 402-341-1500 – centurylinkcenteromaha.com

FAMILY EVENTS

Young Frankenstein – Forever Young Family & Children’s Film Series
Through September 12 at Film Streams, 1340 Mike Fahey St.
With support from the Lincoln Financial Foundation, Film Streams presents Forever Young Family & Children’s Film Series – Summer 2013 with Mel Brooks’ infamous Young Frankenstein. See website for showtimes. $9 general, $7 seniors, students, teachers, military, bike-friendly, $4.50 members, $2.50 12 & under. 402-933-0259 – filmstreams.org

Dinosaurs Alive: The Lost Valley
Through October 13 at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St.
Animatronic dinosaurs intermingled with other animals transports the zoo back 65 million years to when these prehistoric beasts roamed the planet. Daily/9am-5pm. $4 with regular paid zoo admission. 402-733-8401 – omahazoo.com

Knuffle Bunny
September 6-22 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St.
Enjoy a hilarious musical version of the beloved Caldecott Honor book and get your family giggling. $18 general admission, free for members. F/7pm; Sat/2 & 5pm; Sun/2pm. 402-345-4849 – rosetheater.org

Forbidden Planet – Forever Young Family & Children’s Film Series
September 14-26 at Film Streams, 1340 Mike Fahey St.
With support from the Lincoln Financial Foundation, Film Streams presents Forever Young Family & Children’s Film Series – Summer 2013 with the Oscar-nominated Forbidden Planet. See website for showtimes. $9 general, $7 seniors, students, teachers, military, bike-friendly, $4.50 members, $2.50 12 & under. 402-933-0259 – filmstreams.org

Family Fiesta at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
September 22 at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, 3701 S. 10th St.
A fiesta for the whole family featuring soccer mascots, a live mariachi band, face painting, and more. 12-5pm. Free with regular paid zoo admission. 402-733-8401 – omahazoo.com

ARTsarben
September 28-29 at Aksarben Village, 67th and Center Sts.
Bring the whole family for fun, games, good food, live music, face painting, KidZone with bouncy houses, and most importantly the ART! Sat/10am-7pm; Sun/10am-4pm. Free admission. 402-345-5401 – artsarben.com

MathAlive!
September 28 – January 5 at Strategic Air & Space Museum, 28210 W. Park Hwy
Exhibit that brings to life the real math behind what kids love most—video games, sports, fashion, music, robotics, and more—and creates interactive and immersive experiences. Daily/10am-5pm. $12 adults, $11 seniors & active/retired military, $6 ages 4-12. 402-944-3100 – sasmuseum.com

Robin Hood
October 11-27 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St.
The legendary tale bursts into fresh & fiery new life in this unique, fast-paced adaptation. Robin Hood stands up for justice as he cleverly evades the Sheriff of Nottingham. Be enchanted as a band of merry men (and women) bring familiar characters to life in surprising new ways. F/7pm; Sat/2 & 5pm; Sun/2pm. $18 general admission, free for members. 402-345-4849 – rosetheater.org

Spooktacular at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
October 18 at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, 3701 S. 10th St.
Bring your little ghouls and goblins to this safe and fun Halloween event. 5:30-8:30pm. $8 with regular paid zoo admission. 402-733-8401 – omahazoo.com

FUNDRAISERS & GALAS

Zoofari 2013
September 7 at Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St.
Fundraiser supporting the Omaha Zoo Foundation with a trunk show, dinner, live and silent auctions. 402-738-2073 – omahazoofoundation.org

Touch a Truck
September 7 at First Data, 6855 Pacific St.
Free family event with trucks, police cars, and firetrucks supporting Child Saving Institute. 11am. 402-504-3664 – childsaving.org

36th Annual Archbishop’s Dinner for Education
September 12 at Embassy Suites La Vista, 12520 Westport Pkwy.
Dinner recognizing teachers and administrators in the Archdiocese of Omaha schools. 402-827-3757 – archomaha.org

7th Annual Brew HaHa
September 12 at Stinson Park at Aksarben Village, 2285 S. 67th St.
Beer and food sampling event supporting Omaha Habitat for Humanity. 5pm. 402-884-4370 – habitatomaha.org

6th Annual Wine and Beer Event
September 12 at The Shops of Legacy, 168th & Center sts.
Support ALS in the Heartland by drinking, stolling, and shopping. 6pm. 402-592-2374 – alsintheheartland.org

Global Voices: Faith in Action
September 15 at Embassy Suites La Vista, 12520 Westport Pkwy.
Event recognizing faith-based community leaders and supporting Lutheran Family Services. 402-978-5646 – lfsneb.com

Cruisin’ for a Cure Omaha 2013
September 15 at Methodist Hospital Parking Lots, 8601 W. Dodge Rd.
Auto show and free prostate screenings with proceeds benefiting The Estabrook Cancer Center at Methodist Hospital. cruisinforacure.com

Big Red Tailgate
September 20 at Embassy Suites La Vista, 12520 Westport Pkwy.
Enjoy cocktails, a silent auction, and dinner with Completely KIDS. 5:30pm. 402-397-5809 completelykids.org or call 402-397-5809 – completelykids.org

Spotlight Gala
September 21 at Embassy Suites La Vista, 12520 Westport Pkwy.
Annual fundraiser for Voices for Children with cocktails, food, and more. 5:30pm. 402-597-3100 – voicesforchildren.com

Our Lady of Lourdes Annual Fall Festival
September 22 at Our Lady of Lourdes, 2110 S. 32nd Ave.
Fundraising festival with games, food, and more. 12pm. 402-341-5604 – ollomaha.com

Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes 2013
September 22 at Stinson Park at Aksarben Village, 2285 S. 67th St.
A fundraising walk supporting the American Diabetes Association. 402-571-1101 – diabetes.org

Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day 2013
September 26 at Anthony’s Steakhouse Ballroom & Patio, 7220 F St.
Fundraising event for Project Harmony with live Irish music and prizes. 402-595-1326 – projectharmony.com 

Omaha Signature Chefs Auction
September 26 at Embassy Suites La Vista, 12520 Westport Pkwy.
Signature dishes by 20 chefs, a raffle, and a live auction, supporting March of Dimes Nebraska. 5:30pm. 402-496-7111 – marchofdimes.com

Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts Event
September 26 at Hilton Omaha, 1001 Cass St.
Omaha Home for Boys gala featuring a motorcycle raffle and special guest Marlee Matlin. 5:30pm. 402-457-7000 – omahahomeforboys.org

Jewels of Autumn
September 28 at Alegent Creighton Health Lakeside Hospital, 16901 Lakeside Hills Ct.
Annual fundraiser with food, drinks, and auctions. 6pm. 402-717-8182 – alegentcreighton.com

Walk for the Animals 2013
September 29 at Nebraska Humane Society, 8929 Fort St.
Fundraising walk with pets. 8:30am. 402-444-7800 – nehumanesociety.org

Walk to End Alzheimer’s 2013
September 29 at Turner Park at Midtown Crossing, 3220 Farnam St.
Fundraising walk for Alzheimer’s Association. 12pm. 402-502-4301 – alz.org

43rd Annual Boy Scout Golf Invitational
September 30 at Shadow Ridge Country Club, 1501 S. 188th Plz.
Golf event for Boy Scouts of America, Mid-America Council. 11am. 402-514-3011 – mac-bsa.org

50th Anniversary Celebration
October 4 at Embassy Suites La Vista, 12520 Westport Pkwy.
Inaugural fundraising event supporting Legal Aid of Nebraska. 5:30pm. 402-348-1069 – legalaidofnebraska.com

Holy Name Harvest
October 4 at Holy Name School, 2901 Fontenelle Blvd.
Dinner, raffle, and silent and live auctions. 5:30pm. 402-451-6622 – holynameschoolomaha.org

Expressions of Hope Gala
October 4 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
Dinner, youth program, and silent and live auctions supporting Hope Center for Kids. 402-341-4673 – hopecenterforkids.com

Good Apple Awards
October 10 at Historic Livestock Exchange Building, 4920 S. 30th St.
Live music, cocktails, and Nebraska Appleseed community justice awards. 6pm. 402-438-8853 – neappleseed.com

HomeGrown
October 10 at Brix at Village Pointe, 225 N. 170th St.
Local wine and beer tasting supporting Nebraska Children’s Home Society. 4pm. 402-451-0787 – nchs.org

Hops & Grapes Fall Festival
October 11 at Field Club of Omaha, 3615 Woolworth Ave.
Partnership 4 Kids’ wine and beer tasting event. 7pm. 402-930-3002 – p4k.org

7th Annual Comfort Food Classic
October 13 at Ramada Omaha, 3321 S. 72nd St.
Chef competition supporting Ted E. Bear Hollow. 5pm. 402-502-2773 – tedebearhollow.org

117th Ak-Sar-Ben Coronation & Scholarship Ball
October 19 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation’s annual scholarship ball. 402-554-9600 – aksarben.org

Ladle of Love Festival
October 20 at Open Door Mission’s Garland Thompson Men’s Center, 2705 N. 20th St.
Soups and baked goods served by local chefs, supporting Open Door Mission. 1pm. 402-829-1508 – opendoormission.org

Scholarship Luncheon
October 22 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
Phoenix Academy luncheon with guest speaker, former First Lady Laura Bush. 11:30am. 402-390-0556 – phoenixacademyomaha.org

6th Annual Monster Bash for Brain Cancer
October 24 at Georgetown Club, 2440 S. 141st Cir.
Live music, kids activities, food, and more, supporting Leap-for-a-Cure. 6:30pm. 402-333-9370 – leapforacure.org

Fall Luncheon 2013
October 24 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
Women’s Fund of Omaha event with keynote speaker Betsy Myers. 11:30am. 402-827-9280 – omahawomensfund.org

Centennial Gala
October 24 at Mutual of Omaha Dome, 3300 Dodge St.
MOSAIC event featuring keynote speaker Timothy P. Shriver, Ph.D. 6pm. 402-896-9988 – mosaicinfo.org

RECREATION

Septemberfest
Through September 2 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
Featuring live bands, Spider-Man, princesses, balloon artists, magicians, Omaha Roller Girls vs. North Dakota’s Roller Derby Team, BBQ & Ribeye Steak Cookoff, Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament, and more. F/5pm-12am; Sat/12-4pm; Sun-M/12pm-12am. $4 adults, free for children 5 & under. 402-341-1500 – septemberfestomaha.com

Florence Mill Farmers Market
Through September 29 at Florence Mill, 9102 N. 30th St.
A local farmers market featuring fresh, local produce, artisans and live music every Sunday afternoon. Sun/10am-3pm. Free admission. 402-551-1233 – historicflorence.org

River City Star Friday Evening Public Dinner Cruise
Through October 4 at River City Star Riverboat, 151 Freedom Park Rd.
Spend an evening on the Missouri River while enjoying live entertainment on this 1.5 hour, two entree dinner cruise. F/6:30-8pm. $42 adults, $38 seniors (65+), $21 children 12 & under. 402-342-7827 – rivercitystar.com

Omaha Restaurant Week
September 13-22 at participating Omaha restaurants
Grab your forks and knives and arrive with an empty stomach for Omaha Restaurant Week, a 10-day promotion celebrating the unique, exciting culinary scene in the Omaha metro. During this festival of food, participating restaurants offer an exclusive specials menu featuring multi-course dinners at a fixed price of either $20, $30, or $40 per person. 402-850-6776 – omaharestaurantweek.com

Street of Dreams
September 14-29 at Deer Creek, 120th and Deer Creek Dr.
Tour upscale, custom dream homes while gathering cutting edge design ideas from a variety of Omaha’s Best Custom Builders. W-Sun/12-8pm. $10 adults. 402-727-1054 – streetofdreams.org

Midtown Car Show
September 15 at Midtown Crossing, 31st-33rd and Dodge-Farnam sts.
Check out some of the area’s most fabulous rides: vintage cars and trucks, project cars, hot rods, and more. 10am-2pm. Free admission. 402-351-5964 – midtowncrossing.com

Oktoberfest
September 20-21 at German-American Society Inc., 3717 S. 120th St.
Omaha’s oldest and largest Oktoberfest celebration. Enjoy great authentic foods, including schnitzel, German potato salad, sauerkraut, German tortes, a few hogs and dozens of chickens, plus authentic music for dancing. F/5pm-12am; Sat/12pm-12am. $3 Saturday admission, $4 Sunday admission. 402-333-6615 – germanamericansociety.org

2013 Loess Hills Wine Festival
September 21 at River’s Edge Park, Council Bluffs, IA.
A celebration of the Grape Harvest with a fun day of entertainment. Admission includes live music by Pink Kadillac, a souvenir wine glass, five tickets that may be used for wine tastings, grape stomp, hayride, and more. 3-10pm. $10-50. weigga.org

22nd Annual Fort Omaha Intertribal Powwow
September 22 at Metropolitan Community College, 5730 N. 30th St.
A traditional intertribal powwow featuring Native American music, dancing, crafts, and food. A family friendly event that explores the culture and traditions of Native Americans. 1-7pm. Free admission. 402-457-2253 – mccneb.edu

Lauritzen Gardens Antique & Garden Show
September 26-29 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St.
This year, the Antique & Garden Show is celebrating its 10th anniversary. To commemorate, Harrison Howard, a California artist, was commissioned to provide several one-of-a-kind pieces of art for the show. His piece, Spring, is an exclusive for Lauritzen Gardens. Lecturers this year are Carolyne Roehm, Kathryn Ireland, Eddie Ross, and Danielle Rollins. F-Sat/10am; Sun/11am. $15 general admission, $75 luncheon lectures, $125 preview party. 402-346-4002 – lauritzengardens.org

Ak-Sar-Ben’s River City Rodeo & Stock Show
September 26-29 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
A celebration of the region’s western heritage, featuring the Justin Boots Championships Rodeo, the Ak-Sar-Ben 4-H Stock Show, and the Douglas County Fair. Tu-F/10am-7pm; Sat/9am-7pm; Sun/9am-4pm. Free admission, except rodeo and other selected events. 402-554-9600 – rivercityrodeo.com

Just for Her Expo
October 11-13 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
Shop boutiques, test products and services, and more at this special event just for women in Omaha. F/5-10pm; Sat/10am-6pm; Sun/11am-4pm. justforherexpoomaha.com

25th Annual Fall Home and Garden Expo
October 25-27 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.
The largest showcase in Nebraska and Iowa with over 100,000 sq. ft. of the latest products and services for the home – inside and out. F/5-9pm; Sat/10am-7pm; Sun/12-5pm. 402-346-8003 – showofficeonline.com

RUNS

Up & Over the River Walk & Run
September 1 at Miller’s Landing, 151 Freedom Park Rd.
An 8K run and walk that leads participants along the riverfront paths and over the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge to Iowa and back. 8:30am. $30 runners, $25 walkers. 402-346-4800 – septemberfestomaha.com

HITS 38th Annual Omaha Marathon
September 22 at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, 1200 Mike Fahey St.
Listen to live music as you run by the TD Ameritrade Stadium, the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, and through the Old Market. 7am. $80 marathon, $65 half-marathon, $45 10K. 402-546-1800 – omahamarathon.com

SPORTS

Visit Omaha 2013 Women’s Norceca Championship
September 16-21 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q St.
Watch 10 teams from the North America, Central America and Caribbean region compete in this 6-day event. See the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, a 2-time Olympic silver medalist, defend their title as the current NORCECA Women’s Continental Champion. 402-934-6291 – ralstonarena.com

THEATRE

Other Desert Cities
Through September 15 at SNAP! Productions, 3225 California St.
This Pulitzer Prize-nominated play explores the relationships of a family with differing political views and a tragic family secret that is threatened to be exposed. 402-341-2757 – snapproductions.com

Sirens
Through September 15 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.
This play follows the story of Sam, a one-hit-wonder songwriter, whose marriage with his wife of 25 years is stifled by his obsession with finding the next big hit. When he encounters a siren from Greek mythology out at sea, she helps him realize Rose was always the love of his life. Th-Sat/7:30pm; Sun/2pm. $35 adults, $21 students. 402-553-0800 – omahaplayhouse.com

Bollywood and Beyond
Through October 3 at Film Streams, 1340 Mike Fahey St.
A comprehensive overview of India’s prolific filmmaking traditions that presents 10 classics from a given era of Bollywood—Mumbai-made, Hindi-language films. See website for showtimes and admission. 402-933-0259 – filmstreams.org

Les Misérables
September 20 – October 27 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.
The world’s longest running and most loved musical. Set in 19th Century France, Les Mis is the epic tale of Jean Valjean as he breaks his parole and is pursued by Inspector Javert while caring for the young orphaned Cosette. W-Sat/7:30pm; Sun/2pm. 402-553-0800 – omahaplayhouse.com

The Book of Mormon
October 12-20 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.
The critically acclaimed and Tony® Award-winning religious satire musical, The Book of Mormon, is coming to Omaha for a nine-day run. The New York Times calls it “the best musical of this century,” and Entertainment Weekly proclaims it as “the funniest musical of all time.” Tu-W/7:30pm; F-Sat/8pm; Sun/1:30pm & 7pm. $50-140. 402-345-0606 – omahaperformingarts.com

Freud’s Last Session
October 18 – November 17 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.
An astute and witty conversation between scholar C.S. Lewis and Dr. Sigmund Freud shortly before Freud’s death, covering normally taboo topics, such as God, religion, sex and war. Th-Sat/7:30pm; Sun/2pm. 402-553-0800 – omahaplayhouse.com

Sarah Joslyn

August 30, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Joslyn Art Museum

Sarah and George Joslyn came to Omaha for the same reasons people do today—job opportunities. Originally from Vermont, they arrived here in 1880. George earned $18 per week as manager of the Western Newspaper Union (WNU); as a new century dawned, he was president of a burgeoning conglomerate. The couple moved comfortably among Omaha’s wealthy and powerful elite and made plans for their dream home, which would become the crown jewel of Omaha’s Gold Coast neighborhood.

The Joslyns’ fabled life ended long ago, and no descendants live in Omaha. Still, their positive influence in our community can be felt by thousands of Omahans: by the artists who found inspiration at Joslyn Art Museum, the children who found homes through the Child Saving Institute, the students who reached their goals at UNO, the fellow church members at First Unitarian, and the strays who found some tender loving care at the Nebraska Humane Society; women and children in dire circumstances, soldiers away from home, and people old and alone—in fact, all of us have inherited the legacy of the Joslyns’ success, ideals, and vision.

“The Joslyns were a power couple,” says Daniel Kiper. “Both had intellect, drive, and ability, and they shared common goals.” Kiper probably knows the Joslyns as well as anyone can who’s never met them. After serving as a docent and board member for the Friends of Joslyn Castle, the Joslyns’ majestic home, he researched and wrote The Joslyns of Lynhurst. “I visited Joslyn Art Museum often as a child,” he says. “I felt I owed a debt to Sarah, who allowed me to see beyond the world I lived in.”

Sarah Joslyn

Portrait of Sarah Joslyn, 1941, oil on canvas, by Leopold Seyffert

Omaha proved to be the right place for the Joslyns, and they’d arrived just when the nascent city was ripe for opportunities. Ambitious, canny, and charming, George expanded and diversified WNU’s niche in newspapers and added properties, investments, and other ventures to his hand. Julie Reilly, executive director of Joslyn Castle Trust, describes George as “the Ted Turner of his day.” In 1893, he purchased a five-and-a-half-acre farm at 39th and Davenport streets. Landscaping began at once, but it would be 10 years before the house was finished. And when it was, the public gave it the name it has been known by ever since: Joslyn Castle.

“The Castle,” house and grounds, was lavished with luxury and reflected the Joslyns’ tastes: trees and shrubs, (many exotic, watered by underground pipes), a swimming pond, a conservatory for their orchid collection, stables for thoroughbred horses, a carriage house, and other outbuildings. The 34-room house, designed by John McDonald in Scottish Baronial Style, cost $250,000 to build, plus $50,000 in furnishings. The house had its own conservatory, music room, gym, bowling alley, even a lavatory for their Saint Bernards’ muddy feet. Sarah’s favorite room was the morning room, with personal photographs on light blue walls and a unique flower-display window.

Kiper says they certainly enjoyed themselves, indulging their interests in art and music, animals, travel, and entertaining. But they took the idea of noblesse oblige seriously: They gave to the community in both money and deed. Kiper cites numerous examples in his book, including their support of the Old People’s Home. Learning that the founder was near death and despaired of reaching her goal of new quarters, the Joslyns visited her with a property deed and $10,000. Once the new home was in operation, Sarah could be found sweeping the floors.

Writer Suzanne Smith Arney with granddaughters Chloe and Kaitlin Smith at Joslyn Art Museum.

Writer Suzanne Smith Arney with granddaughters Chloe and Kaitlin Smith at Joslyn Art Museum.

In Joslyn Art Museum: A Building History, former director Graham Beal includes a history of the Joslyns. “They were an extraordinary couple…who contributed so much to the early social, artistic, and intellectual life of Omaha. In my mind…[I picture Sarah as] a highly intelligent, unpretentious yet sensitive woman.” Beal describes Sarah’s charitable involvement in projects such as opening her home for fundraisers, serving on boards and commissions, and a variety of efforts during World War I. Always there was that combination of public roles and personal response; she did what needed to be done.

Wanda Gottschalk, chief development officer of Child Saving Institute, describes her image of Sarah as “a very, very bright woman who was frustrated by lack of opportunities for women.” In addition to donating $25,000 for a new building, Sarah served on CSI’s board, rocked babies as a member of the Nursery Committee, and invited the children to picnics on her home’s park-like grounds.

“It may have been one of those occasions where she met Violet,” Gottschalk says. In 1897, five-year-old Violet came to live with the Joslyns;  she would become their cherished daughter and the princess of Joslyn Castle. In 1913, seven months after the horrific Easter Sunday tornado devastated Joslyn Castle, Violet was married in the renovated, flower-filled rooms.

After George’s death in 1916, Sarah’s focus became a memorial that would honor her husband, represent his values, and provide a permanent home for the arts. She held fast to his idea that, as their wealth had derived from Omaha, it should, in some form, be returned to the city for the benefit of its citizens. Jack Becker, Joslyn Art Museum’s executive director and CEO, notes, “Sarah Joslyn built the museum as a memorial to her husband and gift to the people of Omaha. She was very clear from the beginning that her wish was for the museum to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, for as long as possible. Sarah lived to see the museum’s first decade, during which time an admission fee was never charged. The policy of free admission continued for another 25 years after her death in 1940, and we are proud to return to it this year.” Free general admission was reinstated in May 2013.

On opening day, Nov. 29, 1931, Sarah gave us not only the Joslyn Art Museum but its future in saying: “If there is any good in it, let it go on and on.”

Play Me, I’m Yours

August 23, 2013 by
Photography by Omaha Creative Institute

Rogue pianos.

Those are not two words one typically finds sharing space together. It’s Susan Thomas’ fault, really.

As executive director of Omaha Creative Institute, Thomas is thrilled that local businesses and creatives around town are jumping on the bandwagon (pun fully intended) of Play Me, I’m Yours. The public art exhibit consists of 10 pianos decorated and placed around the metro. The Omaha take on the international project encourages locals to play anything from Chopsticks to Beethoven’s 5th between now and Sun., Sep. 8, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Except.

There are more than 10 instruments now.

“There are three rogue pianos that I know of,” Thomas says. “People heard about the project and told me, ‘we want one in our area too!’” Already faced with the logistical challenge of finding 10 pianos, artists willing to decorate them, and locations to stage them, Thomas welcomed interested parties to find and decorate their own pianos to sort of piggy back on Play Me, I’m Yours.

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So if playing on an “authorized” piano at 2 a.m. in a public space isn’t rebellious enough for you, feel free to seek out one of the following:

  • The Sweatshop Gallery in Benson. This piano is the brainchild of Sweatshop Gallery founder Kim Reid Kuhn and artist Stephen Walsh.
  • Modern Arts Midtown at Midtown Crossing. Owner Larry Roots has selected a piano that will be painted in stages while it’s out in the spotlight.
  • Bruning Sculture at Hot Shops. Les Bruning has made a miniature grand piano out of metal. He’s put an electronic keyboard inside it, and it’s portable. “If someone’s having an event, he’s more than happy to take it there,” Thomas says.

“The great thing about this,” she adds, “is that it’s so multidisciplinary. People will say, oh, isn’t it about the art, isn’t it about the music, isn’t it about the people. Well, actually, it’s about all of that.”

For a complete list of the 10 locations planned by Omaha Creative Institute, visit streetpianos.com/omaha2013.

Nebraska State Fair

July 22, 2013 by

It’s time to head to Grand Island for the food, fun, and thrill of Nebraska’s annual must-attend event: the Nebraska State Fair.

This year’s fair, from August 23 to September 2, is luring visitors with a new midway provider. Wade Shows will offer rides that are sure to be a huge draw for little ones and thrill seekers alike.

Families will find kiddie rides in the Lil’ Pardners area, family rides, thrill rides, and a new slate of the spectacular rides fairgoers expect at a state fair. An all-new Gold Access Program will give participants the VIP experience by allowing them to jump to the front of the lines.

The partnership with Wade Shows began last year with the new Sky Tram that provided 30,000 fairgoers with a high-flying look over the fairgrounds.

Also new for 2013 is a jaw-dropping BMX stunt show. The Mega Jump Action Sports Experience will feature the largest jump in the industry, giving riders plenty of airtime to attempt the most dangerous tricks at perilous heights. At the end of the show, families can hobnob with the professional athletes.

Top-notch musical artists will perform, including free concerts by Kellie Pickler on August 23, Mel Tillis on August 28, TobyMac on August 29, and the Eli Young Band on August 30. Paid performers scheduled are country superstar Trace Adkins on August 25, Chicago on August 31, and Lynyrd Skynyrd on September 1.

Of course, the fair will be filled with any kind of Nebraska farm and ranch animal that moos, neighs, clucks, or whinnies. Come see the livestock exhibits or take in a competition show. If that isn’t enough, discover Butterfly Adventures, a petting zoo, camel and pony rides, racing pigs, acrobatic sea lions, and stock dog trials, featuring handler and dog teams that guide unruly cattle or cagey sheep around a fast-paced course.

Come on an empty stomach because no one can leave the fair without eating something on a stick. In fact, there’s an app for that. Before arriving at the fair, download the Nebraska State Fair Mobile App to locate your favorite fair food, download daily entertainment schedules, find friends and family, and even track down where the car is parked. This must-have app is available free in the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.

Find directions, complete schedules, and more at statefair.org.

The Mancusos

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

On a Monday afternoon in early March, Mike Mancuso steps out of the home office at CenturyLink Center Omaha and walks into the Great Hall of the arena. An exhibitor getting ready for the upcoming Triumph of Agriculture Expo sees Mike, one of the show’s managers, and immediately comes over to ask for help. Apparently, the space he has been given for his farm equipment display isn’t big enough. Could Mike come over and take a look? Mike puts an armful of papers and a can of pop on the floor, then disappears for a few minutes. When he returns, he picks up his papers and pop and continues to his original destination. Problem solved.

This is the life Mike and his two older brothers, Bob, Jr., and Joe, have willingly chosen. It is the life their father, Bob Mancuso, Sr., carved out for himself and the family he cherishes back in 1964, when his three sons were babies. The Mancuso family is the force behind Mid-America Expositions, Inc., producer of trade shows, expos, fairs, and festivals in the metro. For nearly 50 years, Mid-America has kept products rolling and people strolling through Omaha’s numerous indoor and outdoor venues with events like the Farm and Ag Expo, Omaha Home & Garden Expo, Taste of Omaha, and the Omaha Products Show for Business and Industry—events that have become long-standing traditions, drawing families from all over the Midwest.

Despite a diverse slate of productions, Mid-America adheres to a simple driving philosophy: “We bring business and people together,” states Bob, Jr. “The Ag Expo helps farm businesses, the Taste of Omaha helps restaurants…Our aim is to make businesses successful.”

From left: Bob, Jr., Bob, Sr., Mike, Dona, and Joe Mancuso.

From left: Bob, Jr., Bob, Sr., Mike, Dona, and Joe Mancuso.

It’s no coincidence that the ascent of Omaha on the national stage parallels the transformation of Bob, Sr., from an athlete and teacher to a business-savvy entrepreneur whose deep devotion, keen vision, and strong faith in the city he loves changed the way marketing is done around here.

“Our family is rooted in Omaha,” says Bob, Sr., proudly. “My father and mother were both born and raised here. The Mancusos seldom got out of Omaha to go to school.” Except for him.

A standout wrestler at Omaha Central, Bob, Sr., scored a full ride to Kansas State and majored in phys. ed. and biological science. His teaching and coaching career began in 1956 at the old Bellevue High School. Coach Mancuso’s impact was immediate and startling. He molded a group of teenagers from a small, Class B school into state wrestling champions his very first year—Bellevue’s first championship ever, in any sport. The wins kept piling up.

Bellevue also produced the love of his life. A pretty young waitress who worked in her parents’ café across the street from the high school caught Bob, Sr.’s eye early on. In 1958, Dona Marie Hansen and Robert Mancuso were united in marriage.

Meanwhile, the coach’s impressive record at Bellevue caught the attention of a lot of eyes in Lincoln. In 1961, Bob, Sr., became head wrestling coach at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where his squads did well but were dwarfed by the large shadow cast by the football program.

“I was making $4,000 a year. My family didn’t need much to live on. But I kept thinking about my future and wondering, ‘Am I going to sit on a stool the rest of my life?’”

The answer came from Bob, Sr.’s older brother, the late Charles Mancuso, who at the time ran Omaha’s Civic Auditorium, Rosenblatt Stadium, and the Orpheum Theater. “Charlie told me I should quit the coaching business. He wanted more activities at the Civic, and he wanted me to help him.”

 “We bring business and people together…Our aim is to make businesses successful.” – Bob Mancuso, Jr.

After talking it over with his wife, Bob, Sr., joined with former AkSarBen General Manager Jake Isaacson and talent agency head Don Romeo to form Mid-America Expositions. The Mancuso magic struck again. “Our first event was Queen For A Day, with host Jack Bailey,” Bob, Sr., remembers as if it were yesterday. “The show broadcast live from Omaha for a week. Women stood in line around the auditorium to get in.”

Over 50,000 women swarmed the Civic during that week in late September of 1964, not only to see one of early TV’s iconic shows with its classic “applause meter” that determined the winner, but to also visit the Food Festival and Housewives Fair that accompanied it. Omaha had never seen a production on this scale before. “[Changing careers] was a good move for me,” says the elder Mancuso, who will turn 80 in September. “The future was wide open for aggressive people in the events market.”

Today, Mid-America Expositions produces between 12 and 15 shows a year, many at the CenturyLink Center Omaha, and they are a family affair. Each son joined their father one by one after pursuing their own corporate careers. Mike came aboard in 1988, followed by Bob, Jr., in 2005, and Joe in 2007. The love and respect each son carries for their father is evident in everything they say and do. They get emotional when trying to put into words what his legacy means to them.

“Dad has been a great example to me,” says Joe. “I have pretty much modeled everything I’ve ever wanted to do off of him—the way he has handled his life and lived his life.”

All three sons are fine athletes like their father and have been instrumental in adding the Outland Trophy Award Dinner, the Health, Wellness, and Fitness Expo, and the Corporate Cycling Challenge to the roster of events.

Next on the agenda: the 16th Annual Taste of Omaha May 31-June 2 at the riverfront, followed by the Nebraska Balloon & Wine Festival August 9-10.

As for the future, “We want to continue making our events stronger and greater,” says Mike. “We want to keep them good for the city of Omaha and the people of Omaha.”

History Comes to Life

October 20, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Durham Museum underwent a $1.2 million renovation this past year. But most of the improvements are not visible to visitors, according to Executive Director Christi Janssen. Behind-the-scenes work, such as security cameras and new heating and air conditioning, were main concerns. The renovations were another step forward in improving the visitor experience, the museum’s priority.

The visitor experience also has been enhanced by close relationships with national partners providing exhibits that would otherwise not be seen in Omaha: The Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum; Chicago’s Field Museum; and the Library of Congress and National Archives in Washington, D.C.

“A lot of our physical enhancements have been because of our partners’ needs for their exhibits,” says Janssen. “National museums have standards and requirements for their exhibition partners. They want a staff that understands what it takes to mount a successful show.” Exhibit costs can range from $50,000 to $500,000. “Security is a major part of the cost,” she says. “For the Abraham Lincoln exhibit, we had 24/7 security.”

The partnerships that Omaha’s regional history museum has forged have led to a new era of exceptional traveling exhibits.

Partners on Display

In 2004, the Velde Hall of American History was completed, providing environmentally controlled space for traveling exhibits, which further encouraged national partners to send exhibits to the Omaha museum.

In January 2011, the Library of Congress sent to Omaha With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition. “The Library of Congress said it was the best installation in the five-city tour,” Janssen says.

The Durham works with other partners, too. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry sent Mindbender Mansion this year, among the museum’s best-attended exhibits. More than 70,000 people visited. Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power, an upcoming exhibit (that includes Lady Gaga’s meat dress) will be on loan from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Feb. 9-May 5, 2013.

Traveling exhibits from partners are sometimes matched with a compatible exhibit put together by Durham Museum curators. Examples are current exhibits now on display: The American Soldier reflects soldiering from the Civil War to the War in Iraq. Its companion exhibit, Worn with Pride: Americans in Uniform, gives a local angle to the same topic.

You may be surprised to learn that the museum’s largest artifact on display is right before you as you enter the parking lot. It’s the Art Deco-style building the museum sits in. The building was constructed in 1931 by Union Pacific as a station for railroad passengers who traveled in elegance.

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Walking into the museum’s Suzanne and Walter Scott Great Hall for the first time is an awesome experience. Interior walls are limestone with polished black Belgian marble and terrazzo floors. The ceiling is gold, silver, and aluminum leaf. Brass lighting fixtures hanging from the 65-foot-tall ceiling each weighs one ton. It takes 45 minutes to replace a light bulb.

Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood said he designed the building “to depict the strength and masculinity of the railroad.” Because Omaha is Union Pacific’s headquarters, an all-out effort was made to construct a special building.

As airplanes, interstate highways, and Amtrak provided new ways to travel, passenger trains dwindled. In 1971, the final UP passenger train left the station. UP donated the building near downtown to the city. The building became the Western Heritage Museum in 1975. The regional museum is now called the Durham Museum after philanthropists Chuck and Margre Durham, who led a $25 million renovation effort to create the museum seen today.

Membership at the Durham has more than doubled since 2004. About 40 to 45 percent of visitors are from out of town, leaving behind money at local shops, restaurants, and hotels.

Education at the Museum

Households with children predominate the list of visitors coming through the museum doors, a major change since 2004. The Durham has set out to make the museum a place of education as well as fun for children. Museum staff follow state education standards, work with local Nebraska and Iowa school districts, and distribute curriculum guides as a resource for teachers.

An example is the curriculum ‘Hail to the Chief.’ Students are asked to identify a U.S. president, his years in office, and a major event tied to him.

The Velde Gallery of American History is a destination for many class field trips. Children also can sign up for summer camp and for summer workshops that offer educational games and tours.

These upcoming exhibits throw a spotlight on topics of educational interest:

  • Girl Scouts: 100 Years of Courage, Confidence and Character—Nov. 3, 2012 – June 9, 2013
  • We Want the Vote: Women’s Suffrage on the Great Plains—Feb. 23 – May 26, 2013
  • A T. Rex Named Sue—May 25 – Sept. 8, 2013
  • Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear—Sept. 28, 2013 – Jan. 5, 2014

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Saving Omaha’s Pictorial History

Two years ago, Durham Museum staff began the long process of digitizing more than 700,000 historical photos from the 1860s to the 1990s and making them searchable online.

Yes, you read that number correctly. More than 700,000 photos that document Omaha’s history from frontier days to modern days are in one archive. Some of the negatives and prints are more than a century old and were in danger of being lost to history as they deteriorated.

The Durham turned to interns for help. Each spends about 20 to 30 hours a week to archive and document the collection. The interns also get hands-on experience by building exhibits around the photo archives. Photos are organized in 17 different collections. So far, 50,000 of the photographs in the archives have been posted online, where they can be viewed or purchased for a minimal amount at durhammuseum.org.

“Ak-Sar-Ben is the most recent collection of photos and artifacts,” says Janssen. “We want to be the repository for all things Ak-Sar-Ben.”

Some people using the photographs are compiling family or local histories. Others are writing books or producing documentaries.

“There are not many communities that have this kind of historical documentation,” says Janssen.

Michael Jones McKean’s Rainbow

August 20, 2012 by
Photography by minorwhitestudios

Try to catch a rainbow.

Michael Jones McKean pursued this alluring and evanescent image for 10 years before “unveiling” The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. An arc of iridescent light shimmered above the Bemis and admiring patrons, over the purr of tires on brick, above surprised Old Market visitors, above the sounds of music and laughter and evening birds. “The spirit of the rainbow is egalitarian,” McKean told me. “It can’t be owned; it can’t even be fixed. It’s very mischievous.”

Rainbows are made of sunlight and water drops. As light enters a water drop, its cargo of collective color refracts into a prism of brilliant individual hues. These are reflected and re-refracted, emerging as seven bands of color, from outermost red through orange and yellow, cool green, blue and indigo, to sweet violet. But there’s the first sign of mischief—rainbows shine in a continuum of color, not bands. One color mists into the next, and more or fewer colors may be seen depending on one’s vantage point, vision, and atmospheric conditions.

Bemis curator Hesse McGraw (left) with McKean.

Bemis curator Hesse McGraw (left) with McKean.

Rainbows are a universally recognized image. They appear in art, mythology and literature, religion, and science throughout time and around the world; they’re eye-catching marketing tools; they’re seen as magic by the child in each of us.

For McKean, the intrigue was in trying to understand such a complicated object. In a poetic sense, how does a rainbow, a timeless and iconic image, define our concept of beauty, of the sublime? That process of discovery began by studying rainbows produced by car washes, paint sprayers, and irrigation equipment. Step by incremental step, from these prosaic beginnings, McKean continued his autodidactic ambition. He devised experiments and tested equipment, read, listened, and persevered. He never doubted that he could catch, if not keep, this ephemeral quarry.

Hesse McGraw, Chief Curator at the Bemis, knew McKean’s work and of his rainbow trials. In 2008, newly hired by the Bemis, he contacted the artist to commission a project. When McKean described his ideas, McGraw wondered, “Is it possible to do this?” The following day, McKean faxed “the blue sketch” and three words: “Anything is possible.”

The water apparatus atop the Bemis in action.

The water apparatus atop the Bemis in action.

From this nebulous beginning, it was quickly clear that creating a rainbow would be enormously complex. A team was assembled that included, in addition to Bemis staff members, electricians, plumbers, structural engineers, experts in myriad aspects of water—harvesting, containment, dispersion, purification, etc., an atmospheric scientist, film documentarist, and computer wizards.

Recirculating rainwater is stored in six 10,500-gallon tanks; one of them near the Bemis entrance. Seen inside, a pump delivers water to nozzles on the roof at the rate of 2,000 gallons per minute. This visibility of the project’s working components celebrates the efforts and collaboration of its many diverse contributors. The Rainbow’s gallery component also includes a display of objects that represent what McKean calls “a small poem on the nature of space and time”: a bristlecone pine (Bristlecones may be the earth’s oldest living organism; this one is watered by the same rainwater that makes up the rainbow.), a meteorite from Argentina’s famed Campo del Cielo, a Micronesian conch shell, and a 19th century handmade quilt.

The project’s subtitle, Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms, expresses McKean’s sense of the rainbow as a bridge. Its arc connects the viewer to a meteorite hurled to earth 5,000 years ago; connects workers and thinkers from disparate fields; connects the forms, the buildings, people, plants, and activities of an urban landscape under its variegated canopy. It connects idea to reality…if rainbows are really real. Try to catch one.