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Omaha Public Art


A brief history of major public art developments in Omaha...

► Omaha founded along the banks of the Missouri River by speculators from neighboring Council Bluffs.

► Joslyn Art Museum opens as the premier center for visual art; collection features work from antiquity to the present with an emphasis on 19th and 20th century European and American art.

► First Summer Arts Festival held; now an annual event in downtown Omaha.

► Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts founded by artists Jun Kaneko, Tony Hepburn, Lorne Falke and Ree Schonlau.

► El Museo Latino opens as the first Latino art and history museum/cultural center in the Midwest. It's one of only 11 Latino museums in the United States.

► Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, a division of the Nebraska State Historical Society, opens adjacent to Gerald R. Ford Birthsite; serves as a regional conservation center for the care of cultural materials.

► Hot Shops Art Center opens with three anchor Hot Shops, art studios, art galleries and exhibition spaces.

► First National Bank designates two parcels of green space - one at 14th & Capitol and another at 16th & Dodge - as the future site of two sculpture parks, Spirit of Nebraska's Wilderness and Pioneer Courage.

J. Doe Project launches, includes more than 100 sites throughout the city. Sculptures auctioned at the end of the summer; $98,000.00 donated to the Omaha Public Art Commission and designated for the "commissioning of new works."

► Omaha Public Art Commission issues a call for artists for two new sculptures to be funded with proceeds from the J. Doe Project. Two artists selected to create new works: Catherine Ferguson, Totem (located on 15th Street on the west side of the W. Dale Clark Library); and Leslie Iwai, Sounding Stones (first located in Turner Park, now resides in Elmwood Park). Sculptures installed and dedicated in 2004.

► Summer Arts Festival, with the assistance of artist Eddith Buis, launches Wind & Water exhibit in Gene Leahy Mall; eight sculptures from the exhibit purchased and donated to City of Omaha for permanent residence in Gene Leahy Mall.

► Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts launches Arts 4 Omaha program, an artist/community/industry collaboration to create high quality steel sculptures for placement at Qwest Center Omaha.

► Lewis & Clark Interpretive Trail dedicated; features icon sculptures embellished with original artwork by regional artists to attract visitors to interpretive sites in Omaha and Council Bluffs. Sponsored by City of Omaha, National Park Service and Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District with support from Back to the River Inc. and Big Muddy Workshop Inc.

► Sand in the City debuts; corporate teams work with professional sand sculptors from across the nation and local architects to build sand sculptures using more than 350 tons of sand.

► Loves Jazz & Arts Center opens; dedicated to the exhibition, collection, documentation, preservation, study and dissemination of the history and culture of African Americans in the arts.

► Peter Kiewit Foundation and Metro Area Transit initiate Bench Marks Project; goal is to beautify 100 of the utilitarian benches scattered along city bus routes. $10,000 donated to the Omaha Public Art Commission to establish the Preserve Omaha Public Art Fund.

► Omaha by Design, Omaha Public Art Commission partner to create inventory of city's public art offerings, brochure funded by Nebraska Arts Council.

► Preserve Omaha Public Art fund retains services of Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center to survey city's existing artworks and monuments, identify which pieces need treatment, estimate costs, develop treatment procedures and submit final report on condition of the collection.

► Lewis & Clark Interpretive Trail recognized by American Trails as the 2006 Trails and the Arts award winner for a project that incorporates outstanding public art, interpretive signs or other creative structures into trail-related improvements.

O! Public Art Project launched by Alegent Health in partnership with Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Omaha's O! campaign.

► Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge and Omaha Plaza open; plaza features a Fiber Wave sculpture and a River Critters environmental play area.

► KANEKO begins public programming; purpose is exploring the creative process - how a new idea is born into the arts, sciences and philosophy.

► Preserve Omaha Public Art provides funding for restoration of four sculptures in Gene Leahy Mall.

► Joslyn Art Museum's Peter Kiewit Foundation Sculpture Garden opens to the public.

Metro Omaha Bike Blast launches design-a-bike-rack project to create steel bike racks for citywide installation.

Fertile Ground mural dedicated. Third largest mural in the United States; commissioned by Peter Kiewit Foundation as a gift to City of Omaha.

► Omaha Public Art Commission hosts first public art tour featuring downtown artworks; art walk brochure funded in part by Preserve Omaha Public Art.

► Omaha by Design, Omaha Public Art Commission partner to create Public Art Omaha web site.

Take a Seat launches in Gene Leahy Mall to replace original wooden benches; works designed, built and donated by local members of the architecture and engineering communities. A collaboration of Omaha Downtown Improvement District, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha Public Art Commission and City of Omaha.

► First National Bank's Pioneer Courage Sculpture Park honored by the National Sculpture Society; serves as world's largest wildlife installation with 123 bronze and steel pieces. launches.

► Omaha by Design, Omaha Public Art Commission partner to create Public Art Omaha mobile app.