BEMIS CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS

Updated: Nov 3



In 1981, Omaha artists Jun Kaneko, Tony Hepburn, Lorne Falk, and Ree Schonlau saw the creative benefits of time, space, and support that their artist program, Alternative Worksite, gave to young artists. They knew that with more resources came more opportunity for artists to work and produce connections with museums, curators, collectors, and other artists.


They were able to acquire the Bemis Bag Warehouse in Omaha, Nebraska with the help of public and private partners. The old bag factory, a place where the first machine printed bags and food sacks were made, became the Bemis Foundation, a place where artists could research, experiment, and nurture their creative impulses. In 1995, the organization moved into its current headquarters, the McCord-Brady wholesale grocery warehouse, and became Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

Image courtesy of visitomaha.com

Bemis Center quickly became internationally known as a preeminent artist residency. This fueled the organization to continue in its founding mission and expand their resources and programs. A couple of the new programs include the Exhibition Program, which supports international artists that focus on site-specific, immersive, and socially engaged work. Another is the Public Programs at Bemis that ignites civic engagement through professional development for artists, education initiatives, and community collaborations.


In 2017, Bemis Center’s Curator-in-Residence Program was established as the first of its kind in Nebraska. This unique program provides curators the opportunity to participate in the Bemis Residency Program, serve as a professional resource to Bemis artists-in-residence and the Greater Omaha arts community, and organize exhibitions and public programs at Bemis Center.


More recently, in 2019, Bemis Center launched its Sound Art + Experimental Music Program, with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program includes a special track within the Residency Program for artists working in sound, composition, voice, and music of all genres. Among the first residents of the Sound Art + Experimental Music Program was Raven Chacon (2019) who, in 2022 became the first Native American to win a Pulitzer Prize. Chacons prized composition is titled, Voiceless Mass.


Image courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

Bemis Center for Contemporary Artist Offers Four Residency Programs


Artists in Residence:


  • The Bemis residency is a process-based experience–residents have the ability to research, experiment, and explore free from expectations. Bemis residents enjoy generous sized, private live/work studios and have 24-hour access to extensive installation and production spaces; the Okada Sculpture & Ceramics Facility, a 9,000 square foot industrial workshop used for large-scale sculpture fabrication; and a Sound Studio for rehearsing and recording.


  • U.S.-based artists-in-residence receive a $1,000 USD monthly stipend and an additional $750 USD travel stipend. Due to the limitations of B2 visas (touring/visiting), international artists-in-residence are eligible to receive reimbursement of qualified expenses, such as airfare, ground transportation, and meals.

Sound Art + Experimental Music:


  • The Bemis residency is a process-based experience–residents have the ability to research, experiment, and explore free from expectations. Bemis residents enjoy generous sized, private live/work studios and have 24-hour access to extensive installation and production spaces; the Okada Sculpture & Ceramics Facility, a 9,000 square foot industrial workshop used for large-scale sculpture fabrication; and a Sound Studio for rehearsing and recording.


  • Selected U.S.-based artists-in-residence receive a $2,000 USD monthly stipend, a $750 USD travel stipend, a $7,000 USD materials budget, and a $1,600 USD shipping budget to cover the transportation of items or equipment to and from the residency.


Image courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts


Curator in Residence:


  • The Curator-in-Residence receives a generous-sized, private live/work studio at Bemis and has 24-hour access to extensive installation and production spaces. Time is independent and self-driven and can be used for scholarly research, developing projects outside of Bemis, and establishing professional relationships with local and regional artists and arts professionals. During the residency, curators will work closely with Bemis’s exhibitions, marketing, and development teams to organize an exhibition and related public programs to occur after the residency period ends.


  • The selected Curator-in-Residence will receive $36,000, which includes a monthly residency stipend for 18 months, studio visit honorarium, a travel/research allowance, a curatorial honorarium, and a relocation allowance reimbursable up to $1,500.


Alumni in Residence:


  • The Bemis residency is a process-based experience–residents have the ability to research, experiment, and explore free from expectations. Bemis residents enjoy generous sized, private live/work studios and have 24-hour access to extensive installation and production spaces; the Okada Sculpture & Ceramics Facility, a 9,000 square foot industrial workshop used for large-scale sculpture fabrication; and a Sound Studio for rehearsing and recording.


  • Selected U.S.-based artists-in-residence receive a $250 USD weekly stipend, a $750 USD travel stipend, and an additional $2,500 USD unrestricted materials stipend. Due to the limitations of B2 visas (touring/visiting), international artists-in-residence are eligible to receive reimbursement of qualified expenses, such as airfare, ground transportation, and meals.


LENGTH OF RESIDENCY: Three Months in January and May.

CURRENT AIRs


Amenities:

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts has twelve live/work studios on two floors in which the artists-in-residence reside. Spaces range from 820–2,200 square feet. Each studio has its own kitchen and private bathroom and is equipped with basic items (linens, bedding, dishes, a basic set of tools, etc.) and furniture (bed, table, chairs, desk). Residents have access to a variety of additional furniture that can be placed in the studio. Studios are also equipped with a paint sink, plywood-backed sheetrocked walls, accessible windows, concrete floors, and 12’ ceilings. Both live/work studio floors have complimentary laundry facilities, utilities are paid for by Bemis, and each studio has wifi internet.





Carter, Joey. “About.” Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, https://www.bemiscenter.org/about#history. Accessed 21 June 2022.

“Residency.” Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, https://www.bemiscenter.org/residency. Accessed 21 June 2022.



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