Tag Archives: Kent Bellows Mentoring Program

Clay in the Classroom

August 19, 2019 by

Walk into the center of artist Rich Chung’s studio, and suddenly you’re a giant in the middle of a stadium. Hundreds of miniature ceramic faces, handcrafted and in multicolored hues, look out from every side of the room (including a Yoda or two sitting near a 3D printer).

Chung has been an artist his entire life. From drawings and mud-sculptures crafted at his childhood home back in San Francisco to the years he spent studying studio art at University of California, Berkeley, he always knew he’d find a career somewhere in the art industry. When he landed a job with Jun Kaneko nearly two decades ago, Chung made the move to Omaha, where he has stayed ever since. The one job he never thought he’d have? Teaching.

Mr. Rich (as his students refer to him) now works with nonprofit art programs in the Omaha area, including the Joslyn’s Kent Bellows Mentoring Program (KBMP) and WhyArts.

Through KBMP, high school students apply to work with professional artists who mentor the students as they build a portfolio of work. Chung serves as the mentor for the Clay Media Program.

WhyArts provides art classes, workshops, and programs to underserved populations throughout the metro, which includes students of all ages and various backgrounds. Chung plans and prepares a lesson for each of his classes, making sure the activity can cater to every skill level. Regardless of the lesson plan, Chung’s main goal is to keep students actively engaged.

“You’re not just teaching them how to draw a circle, you’re also trying to teach them certain life skills and attitudes,” he explains. “It’s not just how do you get the paint to come out shiny, even though that’s definitely a part of it. It’s more about how do you handle yourself when the paint doesn’t come out shiny and you’ve tried 10 times?”

For Chung, this means taking an individualized approach. Whether he’s working with preschool students or senior citizens, he aims to connect with each student and figure out how much direction they need.

Aside from clay, Chung also works with—and teaches—painting, 3D printing, drawing exercises, printmaking, crafts, and computer software (such as Stop Motion and GarageBand). Teaching gives Chung the opportunity to learn and create alongside his students.

“I see different people every week or every day, and it’s a different challenge and different age group, and I really like that. It keeps me on my toes and is always interesting,” he says. “I realize now I’ll probably never be able to hold a job that’s 9-to-5 again.”

When Chung leaves the classroom, he transports students’ clay works back to his studio, where he fires them in his kiln and prepares them for glazing. Often, this entails long hours and many nights spent working late into the evening. For Chung, it’s always worth it. Whether he’s uploading work into the 3D printer, or inviting students over to finish a project, Chung is always looking for more ways to help his students.

“We want them to have a desire to learn,” Chung says. “That’s the main goal. It’s not what they learn, it’s that attitude of ‘I want to learn more and I want more knowledge.’”

Chung also plans to host an open-studio event in the fall, where community members can tour his workspace and view his art.

For more information on the Kent Bellows Mentoring Program, visit Joslyn.org. For more information on WhyArts, visit whyartsinc.org.

This article was printed in the September 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Richard Chung standing in is his studio

Richard Chung in his studio.

Kids, Cats, and Country Music—It’s a Playful Weekend

April 26, 2018 by

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Pick of the (next) Week—Monday, April 30: Keep the weekend going by attending the May/June Magazine Launch Party for Omaha/Encounter magazines at the Joslyn Art Museum from 5-7 p.m. next Monday evening. This free event includes admission to Ed Ruscha’s exhibition Word/Play: Prints, Photographs, and Paintings (normally $10) and brief performances by Edem Soul Music and Miwi La Lupa, both featured in the magazines. Pick up free copies of the latest issues and grab some tasty hot dog and sausage samples provided by featured restaurants. Please RSVP here so we can make sure we have enough to go around!

Thursday, April 26:  Why not start and end your weekend at Joslyn Art Museum? The Kent Bellows Mentoring Program is having a free showcase tonight at the museum’s Witherspoon Concert Hall. The KBMP Teen Salon features original music, fashion, and animations by local teens. This is a great opportunity for them to connect with a live audience, so help them enjoy this experience by checking out this free, open-to-the-public event. Get more information on the program here.

Friday, April 27: If you’d like to have a great time while supporting a great cause, the CockTAILS & Cats fundraiser for Felius cat café should be a part of your weekend plans. There will be drinks, snacks, music, and giveaways, all to help raise money for their opening. Felius’ aim is to bring people and cats together through interaction and adoption, hopefully drastically reducing euthanasia rates for the animals here in Omaha. Find out more about the organization and get your tickets for this event here.

Friday, April 27 to Sunday, April 29: Ready for an adventure? PretzCon Pieces of Eight! is a tabletop game convention happening at Ralston Arena this weekend. Whether you’re into D&D or Apples to Apples, there’s bound to be a level of play for you. With vendors, tournaments, and a prize raffle, there’s plenty to get amped up about at this convention. To learn more and decide on your campaign strategy, get in on the action here.

Saturday, April 28: Think country music can’t have a punk attitude? Think again. Lavender Country was the first-known gay-themed album in country music history. While it proved too much for the music world of the 1970s to handle, Lavender Country has had a resurgence of interest since its self-titled album was reissued in 2014. Don’t miss Patrick Haggerty singing his songs of life this Saturday at Brothers Lounge. Learn more here.

Where the Arts Come Together

November 11, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s been a big year for Creighton University’s Fine and Performing Arts Department. Its spring production of Cabaret received 13 Theatre Arts Guild nominations and took away a whopping five, including Outstanding Musical. The Midlands Mentoring Partnership named ceramics professor Amy Nelson Mentor of the Year for her commitment to helping teens through the Joslyn Art Museum’s Kent Bellows Mentoring Program and her exhortation for Creighton students to engage their community in similar ways.

The year has, in short, been phenomenal for the department, which is unique among Jesuit universities for offering a full complement of fine and performing arts programs, including photography, printing, dance, and music.

But 2015 is a big year for another, more important reason: it marks half a century of the department’s commitment to bringing all these disciplines together, and it plans to celebrate with public events that demonstrate its combined strengths.

“The department started with a lot of guts and determination,” notes John Thein, who began teaching drawing and printmaking at Creighton in 1975 and retired this past spring. “We started in a building downtown and, over the years, the department has really grown. The chairpersons are due a tremendous amount of respect.”

One of those chairpersons is professor of music Frederick Hanna, who has held the position for the past decade. “We put a task force together two years ago to discuss how to celebrate the anniversary. All of us became involved. We wanted to do a collaboration between studio and performing arts. It’s unusual and rare to bring in the complete department.”

This collaboration is taking the form of the fittingly and simply titled “A Creighton Exhibition,” which in addition to Nelson and Thein includes work by three other fine arts faculty members: photographer the Rev. Michael Flecky, painter Bob Bosco, and sculptor Littleton Alston. It also features a symphony that Hanna composed to commemorate the anniversary.

“My inspiration was each faculty member,” explains the music professor. “The piece opens with thematic material that reoccurs throughout and weaves five major sections together, which are depictions of the five studio artists in the department. They were my inspiration. I know these artists and created melodic material for each. The 50th anniversary is a big deal.”

Bridget Keegan, dean of Creighton’s College of Arts and Sciences, agrees. “It’s definitely exciting,” she remarks. “The exhibition’s a showcase.”

For her, the 50th anniversary celebration also underscores the university’s mission regarding fine and performing arts. “One thing to note is that, historically, Jesuit spirituality emphasizes the importance of imagination. If you go back to the 17th and 18th centuries, Jesuits were putting on plays and operas. They really cultivate imagination through the arts. They educate through creativity.”

She notes that Creighton’s Fine and Performing Arts Department more than achieves this goal. “We are so proud of our department,” she emphasizes. “We started the year on a roll. It’s very inspiring. We’re so fortunate to have these programs where students can cultivate their creative passions.”

“A Creighton Exhibition” runs Nov. 2 through Dec. 5. An artists’ reception takes place on Friday, November 13, with a performance by the student orchestra conducted by Hanna. The event is free and open to the public, although the Fine and Performing Arts Department encourages people to bring boxed or canned food for donation to the Siena Francis House.

Visit creighton.edu to learn more.


Walker Greene

October 30, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It has been said that every woman dreams of being dressed in Paris. Now Walker Greene is studying to become one of the dressers.

The 18-year-old, a recent Creighton Prep graduate and son of George and Christine Greene, is studying at the Paris College of Art. Greene augmented his studies the last three years of high school at The Kent Bellows Studio, which earlier this year was acquired by the Joslyn Art Museum and is now known as the Kent Bellows Mentoring Program.

The programs encourage students to explore, observe, think, and create. Three semesters per year, professional artist mentors are matched with about 50 high school students who are provided an opportunity to find personal inspiration, gain technical skills, and build an art portfolio.

“The Kent Bellows Studio brought so many great opportunities to me,” Greene says. “and I learned under some of the city’s most noted artists.” Dan Richters, the award-winning Omaha Fashion Week veteran, was perhaps the strongest influence on the young designer. “He taught me how to use unconventional materials,” Greene says, “and I now base a lot of work off of that idea.”

The designer wasted no time in making his mark in Paris. He quickly landed an internship with the New York fashion house of Carolina Herrera and assisted her team’s efforts at September’s Paris Fashion Week. Interning along the Champs-Élysées is a far cry from his days in a similar gig at the Sweatshop Gallery in Benson.

The artist is also interested in painting and points to Andy Warhol (note the similarly coiffed shock of shockingly blond hair) as one of his major influences.

With four years of French under his belt from his days at Prep, Greene is fully prepared to navigate the City of Light, but bidding adieu to Omaha was not as easy as he imagined. “I’m a triplet,” he says, “so leaving my family is pretty hard. This will be the longest we’ve ever been apart. I’m also going to miss hanging out at Caffeine Dreams,” the coffeehouse that is something of a Mecca for the city’s creative class. “I met so many of my best friends, so many of the people who are most important to me and most influential in my work at Caffeine Dreams and at the Kent
Bellows studio.”

While Greene’s career goals center around the catwalk, he doesn’t rule out exploring creative endeavors that could spiral into any number of directions.

“In the arts,” he adds, “feedback—both positive and negative—can be immediate. It’s kind of a weird mix of emotions. It’s both terrifying and exciting. But it’s all so very intoxicating. Absolutely intoxicating.”