Theaster Gates +
Rebuild Foundation +
Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts +
Big Mama’s Sandwich Shop
2416 Lake Street / Omaha, NE 68111
Join the Bemis Center and its partners for weekly summer workshops at Carver Bank. Read More
Poetry from Portia Vivienne Love and Friends
Saturday, May 25, 2013 | 3:00pm | Read More
A Night of sound exploration with Curt Oren and Dereck Higgins
Friday, June 07 | 7 - 9pm | Read More
Sunday, June 9 | 2 - 5 pm | Read More
Young Professionals Wednesday: Meet, Eat & Enjoy | Featuring JaSoulo
Wednesday, June 19 | 5:30 - 7 pm | Read More
Stroll Down Memory Lane | Native Omaha Days
Friday, August 2 | 4 - 8 pm | Read More
Opened in March 2013, Carver Bank joins other place-based initiatives launched by Theaster Gates and Rebuild Foundation in Chicago and St. Louis. The 2,600-square-foot Carver Bank facility has been fully renovated and now offers exhibition and performance space, artist studios, Big Mama’s Sandwich Shop, as well as 3,000-square-feet of transformed exterior landscape.
The renovation of the Carver Bank building marked the second phase of Gates’s Town Hall project. Carver Bank, at 2416 Lake St., is the site of the first African American-owned bank in Omaha. The project’s goal is for the site to become a space of public participation and cultural adventure, and serve as a hub for the creative and public life of its neighborhood and community. By inviting diverse individuals to work together, Gates proposes to create an urban anomaly that highlights existing gems of knowledge within North Omaha. Managed and programmed by the Bemis Center, Carver Bank hosts regular exhibitions, events and workshops driven by artists and community partners.
Theaster Gates is a Chicago-based artist, cultural planner, and performer known for work that directly engages issues of race, class and place with an uncommon generosity and sense of inclusion. With projects spanning performance, urban interventions, micro-development, social experiments and installation, Gates is adept at “driving the wedge” into potentially divisive subjects with a welcoming throw of grace. Gates has said that his work begins with his “right to reenvision place ... not just as an art project, but as a way of living.” To develop this renewed sense of place he initiates myriad “conversations with institutions about race” and seeks out spaces of “urban ecstasy.”
Omaha is a segregated city that houses extreme disparities between class and opportunity. Omaha claims the greatest number of millionaires per capita, yet is also home to the highest percentage of black children living in poverty of any city in the country. These demographic conditions are starkly present in North Omaha, the poorest and most concentrated African-American community in the city.
Despite these conditions, North Omaha is also in the middle of an extraordinary resurgence of cultural and economic activity led by local organizations including Love’s Jazz and Arts Center, Omaha Economic Development Corporation, Great Plains Black History Museum, Malcolm X Foundation, the Union for Contemporary Art, Seventy Five North Revitalization Corp. and others. The Bemis Center and Gates are excited for Carver Bank to join and support ongoing cultural rebirth in North Omaha.
Theaster Gates’ Town Hall project began an effort to develop a new cultural space that aspired to form unforeseen models and possibilities for our city. The Town Hall project includes multiple parts. Town Hall began in late 2010 with a series of dialogues and dinners with artists, stakeholders and potential partners, and this listening process continued throughout 2011. Gates and the Bemis Center hosted a series of free public events in North Omaha, ranging from informal dinners to public forums that asked the questions:
• What are the needs of the black creative community in Omaha?
• How can new public spaces in North Omaha be creatively cultivated?
• Can Gates and the Bemis Center help?
Carver Bank held an open call for North Omaha-minded artists to participate in year-long residencies, that include monthly stipends, studio space and mentorship by Gates, Rebuild Foundation and Bemis Center staff. The 2013-14 Carver Bank Artists-in-Residences are Dereck Higgins, Portia Vivienne Love, Shannon Marie and Bart Vargas. Read more about the Carver Bank AIR
The Town Hall and Carver Bank projects are curated by Hesse McGraw, Bemis Center chief curator.
About the Artist
Theaster Gates is an artist and catalyst among artists, activists and audiences. Gates earned a BS in Urban Planning and Sculpture from Iowa State University, a MA in Fine Arts and Religious Studies from the University of Cape Town and a MS in Urban Planning, Public Sculpture, and Religious Studies from Iowa State. He is the inaugural Director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago and is a recent Loeb Fellow in the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.
In 2009, Gates initiated the Dorchester Projects, which encompasses a cluster of formerly abandoned buildings on Chicago’s South Side. Gates renovated sites of neglect into a vibrant cultural locus that include a Listening House, Library House, Soul Food Pavilion and Black Cinema House.
Gates’ current and recent solo exhibitions include My Labor is My Protest at White Cube in London; Listening Room at the Seattle Art Museum; An Epitaph for Civil Rights at The Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Temple Exercises at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Current and recent group exhibitions include 12 Ballads for Huguenot House in dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany and Cosmology of Yard at the 2010 Whitney Biennial. Gates participated in Hopey Changey Things at the Bemis Center in 2010. Gates is represented by Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago and White Cube in London.
Rebuild Foundation provides architectural and design support, as well as development support for Carver Bank in Omaha and for projects in Saint Louis and Chicago. Rebuild Foundation is a not-for-profit, creative engine focusing on cultural and economic redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-resourced communities. In each city, Rebuild’s projects enlist a team of artists, architects, developers, educators and community activists, who work together to integrate the arts and alternative entrepreneurship into a community-driven process of placemaking and neighborhood transformation.
Big Mama's Sandwich Shop
Patricia “Big Mama” Barron is the founder and owner of Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering, a full-service restaurant and caterer specializing in soul food and traditional American cuisine. Big Mama’s Kitchen opened December 2007 at 45th and Bedford Streets in North Omaha, Nebraska. It has received international attention as a destination restaurant and has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (Food Network), 101 Tastiest Places to Chow Down (Travel Channel), and Ludo Bites America (Sundance Channel).
The Town Hall process and Carver Bank are supported by Annette and Paul Smith and The Sherwood Foundation. This project is supported by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s Artistic Innovation and Collaboration Program, which supports fearless and innovative collaborations in the spirit of Robert Rauschenberg. Additional support is provided by the City of Omaha, a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant, The Joyce Foundation, The Harpo Foundation, Carol Gendler | Marathon Realty, Education Power | Bob Webber, Rybin Plumbing & Heating, Min | Day + FACT, Impact One Community Connection, North Omaha Historical Grant, Brand Metal Works, Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering, Chef Patricia “Big Mama” Barron, Davis Erection Company + Crane Rental and Rigging, Sandy Matthews, Mike Sinclair, Reasonable Rate Contractors, Surreal Media Lab and Lyman-Richey Corporation.
The Bemis Center and Theaster Gates would like to acknowledge the extensive efforts of the Bemis Center and Rebuild Foundation’s board of directors, staff, interns and community partners in realizing this project. The organization would particularly like to thank the City of Omaha Planning Department, Sean R. Ward, Charlie Vinz, Steven Schmiedeskamp, Cameron Conlon, Wesley Dancy, Drew Pauly, Nathaniel Young, Laura Carlson, Kristy Durkin, Rob Phillips, Manne Cook, Jannette Taylor and Impact One Impact One Community Connection, Gabrielle and Sharif Liwaru and Malcolm X Foundation, Tim Clark, Janet Ashley and Love’s Jazz and Arts Center, Michael Maroney, Annette Artherton and Omaha Economic Development Corporation, Jim Beatty and Great Plains Black History Museum, Othello Meadows and Seventy Five North Revitalization Corp., Richard Sciortino and Brinshore Development, Brigitte McQueen and the Union for Contemporary Art, Lee Kallstrom and Omaha North High Magnet School, Jack Phillips and the New Tree School, Leo Louis, Gerard Pefung, Pamela Berry, Deb Bunting, Antwain Foster and Dara Epison for their ongoing efforts and support.
Exhibitions Presenting Sponsor | Omaha Steaks
Sponsors | Amber M. Allen, Justin V. Allen Design + Development, Brand Metal Works, Clark Creative Group, Davis Erection, Echo Tech, Education Power | Robert Webber ,Larry Gawel Photography, Chris Headley / OmahaComputerHelp.com, Min | Day, Nebraska Arts Council, Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Quail Distributing, Roots & Wings, Rybin Plumbing & Heating, Sherwin Williams, Upstream Brewing Company, Visions Custom Framing, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Warren Distribution
A Space to Explore, History, Race | Erin Grace | Omaha World Herald | 02.18.13
Try a Little Tenderness | Life + Times - Jay Z | 12.15.12
The Artist Next Door | 2012 Innovator of the Year | Wall Street Journal | 10.25.12
Students tackle historic project in North Omaha | KMTV 3 Omaha | 10.13.12
Designs for Life | | Frieze Issue 149 | September 2012
“Carver Bank” project finds potential in North Omaha “gems” | KVNO News | 08.23.12
South Side artist’s latest project: Saving long - abandoned bank | The Chicago Tribune | 08.05.12
Theaster Gates: Radical Reform with Everyday Tools | Afterall | Summer 2012
North 24 Revivalists: A synergy in North Omaha harkens a new arts-culture district for the city | The Reader | 07.12.12
Art Show as Unruly Organism: Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany | The New York Times | 05.14.12
The Accidental DIY Developer | The Atlantic Cities | 3.26.12
Theaster Gates: Anthropologist, urbanist, activist - the 21st-century artist | Art Review | 1-2.2012
Theaster Gates In the Studio | Art in America | 12.2011
Creative Rebuild, Theaster Gates in Hyde Park, St. Louis | Art 21 Blog | 8.1.2011
Dorchester Projects, Chicago Film Archives team for movie nights | Chicago Tribune | 7.9.2011
In Grand Crossing, a House Becomes a Home for Art | New York Times | 4.7.2011
House Plans | Chicago Weekly | 3.9.2011
Lessons from the Superfly Machine | Archinect | 10.2010
High Spirits | New City Art | 3.30.2010
An Artist and a Citizen | Art 21 Blog | 10.30.2009