Tag Archives: Kim Reid Kuhn

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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Kim Reid Kuhn

May 3, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Artist, teacher, promoter, curator, mom. Kim Reid Kuhn wears many hats.

Between painting in her studio, teaching art lessons, running the Sweatshop Gallery in Benson, showing her work, and raising three children, Kuhn has become a master of time management.

And she always finds time to put her children first.

“I love my work,” Kuhn says. “I love what I do. I love advocating for artists. I like promoting people. I like booking shows. I like doing all of that, but my family comes first above everything else. I make sure that family is the first priority.”

Until two years ago Kuhn “unschooled” her daughter Zoe, 18, and sons, Ian, 13, and Ollie, 10. Kuhn believes in “life learning” vs. “institutional programming.” This approach provides more flexibility and allows children to develop a passion for “learning as a lifestyle,” she explains.

Kuhn went to work after she separated from her ex-husband and the kids went to school. Zoe graduated from Duchesne Academy and is now a freshman at the University of San Francisco. Ian and Ollie attend Montessori schools in Omaha. However, that hasn’t affected her ability to spend time instilling in them a sense of curiosity about the world, Kuhn says. “We try to really experience and enjoy life together.

“Kids need to be excited—not afraid—to explore the world,” she passionately exclaims. That’s not to say they should be left to completely fend for themselves. “My kids are very, very supported. We continually have dialogues and there are boundaries.”

Kuhn doesn’t see her role as the ‘authoritarian.’ “My job as a parent is to make a safe place for my children to be who they are and help them explore and encourage that,” Kuhn says.  “We have a really fluid and easygoing home. Especially as a single parent, you have to be flexible and juggle things, like having to do this interview at the tattoo shop,” she says with a smile while her oldest son, Ian, waits to get his ears pieced.

Having an artist mother is definitely a unique experience, Ian says. “We can do art a lot more. We can just go downstairs and make something. It’s pretty special because we get to experience a lot of stuff other people don’t.”

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“We don’t really buy toys,” Kuhn says. “We buy art objects or things for making. All of that’s been really important in their development.” Kuhn started buying her children sketchpads to use as “artistic journals” when they were young, and all three still use them. “Zoe has gone through book after book after book,” Kuhn says. “It’s so cool to look back. It’s like a visual diary.

“Whether these guys choose to go into the arts or not, I think growing up creative and having a lot of life experience is invaluable,” Kuhn says. “I think it’ll give them a different perspective on life and we really need to value that part of children. Creativity needs to be completely encouraged.”

Kuhn’s daughter seems to be following in her mother’s footsteps. Over Christmas break, she had a pop-up art show at Sweatshop Gallery that was well attended, Kuhn says. “The Omaha arts community is so supportive.”

Ian and Ollie like to create as well. Ian says his hobby is “just making stuff.” He recently combined two of his favorite pastimes when he deconstructed a skateboard and turned it into a chair at Bench, a collaborative workspace in Benson. “I like putting parts together.”

Younger brother Ollie says his latest masterpiece is a collection of clay animals filled with clay organs ready for dissection. He also likes to build with Legos, but he’d rather make his own designs than follow the instructions. “I like making it up myself more. I like being creative”.

Kuhn describes her process as an artist as “very intuitive” and driven by her interests. “I’m really adaptable, which is good for my work,” Kuhn explains. “But it’s also a great lesson for parenting. You just never know what’s going to come up.

“Being a parent has been the most difficult, most challenging thing,” Kuhn says. “But I mean, I would not be who I am without it.” It’s shaped her character more than anything else in her life, she says.

“What I’m working on now is balancing my own personal needs and not overdoing it with work,” Kuhn says. “For years I would go to the studio at 9 o’clock at night after I put the kids to bed and work until 2 a.m. and then get up at 7 a.m. Now I’ve learned to be really careful and protective of my time,” she explains. “Which is hard to do as an artist because you want to do everything and live your life to the fullest.

“There have to be things that fall away.” Kuhn says her priorities are clearer than ever. “Kids first, then work, and now I’m really trying to take care of myself and make sure I don’t burn out.”

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.