And the Winners Are! Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Announces Qwest Center Omaha Sculptors
Posted on 03/09/2005
They came from as far away as California and as close to home as Omaha. In the end, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts received exactly forty submissions for its Art 4 Omaha Project 1, with artists from Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, South Carolina, California and Nebraska all vying for the coveted plum commission to create a steel sculpture for the exterior of Qwest Center Omaha. The range of artistic styles was impressively diverse, but the panel of jurors could only choose six sculptures. This panel included: Brenda Dooley, President of First National Buildings; Larry Ferguson , Chairman of the Mayor’s Commission on Public Arts; J. Brooks Joyner, Director of the Joslyn Art Museum; George Neubert, former Directors of the San Antonio Museum of Art, TX, and the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Lincoln; Wanda Ewing, Assistant Professor of Art at University of Nebraska, Omaha and notable Omaha artist. The jurors viewed maquettes, small-scale versions of the works proposed, and conferred with one another about their difficult choices.
Juror Larry Ferguson observed: “The quality level of all the submissions was extremely high. They were all very diverse, striking and powerful – and very polished and professional. The proposals were simply first-rate and should provide a great spark of interest on the part of the community.” Wanda Ewing added: “The submissions were so well done, we could visualize them in the space so easily. Diversity-wise, they were all so different, but none of them detracted from the architecture of the Qwest Center. We were very sensitive to that.” Submissions varied from the whimsical (large-scale suit jackets with cufflinks and deflated basketballs) to works that evoked Nebraska’s wide plains (metallic crop rows and galloping horses). But after deliberating for close to an hour and a half, six submissions emerged above the rest, and the jurors selected the following sculptors: Catherine Ferguson (NE), David Helm (NE), Matt Lowe (NE), Jackie Sterba (NE), R. Justin Stewart (MO) and Michael Todd (CA). The jury also chose Kevin Kowskie (NE) and Lawrence Sosso (NE) as alternate selections.
The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts spearheaded Art 4 Omaha Project 1 last fall as an Artist-in-Industry collaboration with Valmont Industries, Inc. for the permanent placement of steel sculptures around the exterior of the Qwest Center Omaha. Sites for the six sculptures include Qwest Center Omaha’s south arena entrance, the northwest walkway and the Ak-Sar-Ben Terrace, which overlooks the Missouri River. As one of the world’s leading providers of manufactured steel products, Valmont Industries sells steel structures to businesses, governments and for civic projects worldwide. Accordingly, Valmont Industries will act as the lead sponsor of Project 1, providing materials, workspace, technical assistance, access to machinery and fabrication assistance to the selected artists. Additionally, each of the six sculptors will receive a $5,000 honorarium for their participation in the project. As part of their commitment to developing public art in Omaha, Omaha Steaks along with the Hilton Omaha have also pledged their support. The artists are slated to begin working on their sculptures at Valmont Industries in Valley, NE in May, with fabrication of the sculptures contingent upon the approval of the MECA (Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority) Board. An unveiling ceremony, which will celebrate the installation of the new works, is slated for this fall at Qwest Center Omaha. Mark Masuoka, the Executive Director for the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, comments: “We could not be more pleased with the results. We received some amazing submissions, and the jurors had a tough challenge. But they chose works that beautifully compliment the architecture of Qwest Center Omaha. Moreover, these works will be world-class. They’re going to stand against any sculptures you’ll see in other major U.S. cities. It’s exciting that such impressive works will become an indelible part of Omaha’s urban landscape.”
The Bemis Center will showcase the winning six proposals as well as the two alternates in its Graham Slam Gallery 1 through March 31. The public is invited to visit the Bemis Center and view the sculptures that will be created for Qwest Center Omaha and enliven our urban environment.