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Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Announces the Creation of the Bemis Center Community Artist Fellowship

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
Announces the Creation of the
Bemis Center Community Artist Fellowship

Omaha, NE –
Artists in our community do a great deal to enhance our environments and enliven our public spaces. Yet they often don’t receive the recognition they deserve, fading into the background even as their art takes center stage. For this reason, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts is extremely pleased to announce the creation of a new prestigious grant geared toward recognizing the talent and nurturing the careers of our local artists. The Bemis Center Community Artist Fellowship will be awarded biannually to outstanding local artists. This year, Karen and Robert Duncan will sponsor the award. Catherine Ferguson and Leslie Iwai, who have both contributed to the community over the past year with prominently placed sculptures in public spaces, will be the first Bemis Center Community Artist Fellows. The Fellowships will run between three to four months, during which Ferguson and Iwai will be granted studio space as well as free access to all Bemis Center facilities and equipment, ranging from kilns and forklifts to woodshops and darkrooms. The Fellowship concludes with a special exhibition of each artist’s new body of work. The total grant package is valued at $4,000 for each artist and includes a $1,000 cash stipend.

Sculptor and installation artist Catherine Ferguson believes that the alchemy of art can lead to profound, personal transformation, and she uses her art to prompt reflections and change perceptions. In this respect, Ferguson has contributed valuably to Omaha’s public art spaces through numerous public commissions, and her work is featured in public and private collections in Nebraska and beyond, including the Sheldon Memorial Art Museum in Lincoln, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the Museum of Nebraska Art and the Landmarks building. Awarded an Omaha Public Art Commission in 2004, Ferguson created Totem for the Omaha Public Library’s Main Branch. For this outdoor sculpture, which is situated before the library’s entrance, Ferguson deftly wove animal symbols inherent in the imagery, myth and mysticism of the prehistoric North American mound builders. In commenting on the receipt of the Bemis Center Community Artist Fellowship, Ferguson says: “It’s a beautiful tribute, and I am appreciative and delighted to receive it. Because the Bemis Center is a research laboratory for visual artists who are serious about investigating new dimensions for their work, I am anticipating rewarding challenges by working in that stimulating milieu. I am expecting my time there to be an exciting and productive experience.”

Sculptor and photographer Leslie Iwai creates careful compositions characterized by situations where shape, color and material relationships combine to form gentle harmonic balances. The Director of the Hope Center for Kids in Omaha, Iwai coordinates art programs for urban youth, connecting youth with local artists and community members. Trained as an architect, her art often touches on public spaces, and she explores the formation of those spaces as an experiential event, with her work existing between architecture and sculpture. Iwai has participated in an environmental arts exhibition at Fontenelle Forest, and most recently received widespread media attention for her Omaha Public Art Commission of serene Sounding Stones in Turner Park. The pieces, a monumental series of concrete sculptures, involved the delicacy of concrete over a much larger span of time. Says Iwai of being chosen for the Bemis Center Community Artist Fellowship: “I am especially grateful to receive this fellowship, [and] I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the award. Being on site at the Bemis Center is a great opportunity to integrate with national and international resident artists… I see the fellowship as an interchange, increasing our community awareness of the wonderful resource of contemporary art that is the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and as a substantive demonstration of valuing the artistic talent in our community.”

Mark Masuoka, the Bemis Center’s Executive Director, notes: “This is an exciting development for us. The Bemis Center is Omaha’s Contemporary Arts Center, and we want to emphasize that by supporting our area’s artistic talent and creativity. Catherine and Leslie are emblematic of the artist excellence that exists in our community, and we are dedicated to helping that talent thrive. We look forward to continuing to reward our community’s outstanding artists with the Bemis Center Community Artist Fellowship.”

Bemis Center Community Artist Fellowship Exhibits

Leslie Iwai: June 10 – August 13, 2005
Catherine Ferguson: November 18, 2005 – February 17, 2006

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
724 South 12th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
12th and Leavenworth
Admission and Parking: FREE
Phone:: 402.341.7130
Fax:: 402.341.9791
E-mail: info@bemiscenter.org