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Renaissance

ARTS & CULTURE • 20 years of applause

(page 7 of 7)

Great Plains Theatre Conference artistic director Kevin Lawler, a Blue Barn founder, has seen a more adventurous scene develop. “There are several new generations of artists making work in all genres and receiving support and interest from their peers and others,” he said.
 

“This heralds the beginning of a new, vibrant era for arts and culture here. That small group of philanthropic leaders who have been supporting the arts in Omaha for years have enabled enough fertilization for this new blossoming to begin.
 

“When we began the Blue Barn there were almost no theaters willing to take on new, challenging work as a regular part of their seasons. Now, there are a number of groups that follow this path.”Lawler notes there “is a new generation of artists staying in Omaha to make work because they feel there is enough energy in the community to support and respond to their work. I feel this trend reflected not only in theater, but all the arts. There are stages to the cultural life of a city. Omaha is in a blossoming stage. It is a rare and exciting time to be here.”
 

The linchpin behind this growth is private support. “Omaha has an exceptionally generous philanthropic community that understands the value of investing in its cultural institutions,” said Bemis director Mark Masuoka, adding that funders here appreciate the fact the arts “improve quality of life.”
 

He said the Bemis is close to reaching its $2.5 million capital building campaign goal “thanks to several generous gifts from local foundations and individuals.”
 

What losses there were sparked new opportunities. After years of struggle the Great Plains Black History Museum rebounded. When Ballet Omaha folded Omaha Performing Arts brought in top dance troupes and Ballet Nebraska soon formed. The Omaha Magic Theatre closed only to birth new ventures. The Indian Hills Theater was razed but Omaha movie houses multiplied. The Kent Bellows Studio and Center for Visual Arts arose after its namesake’s tragic death.
 

The recession impacted large and small organizations alike.

Todd Simon said, “Many not-for-profits have struggled and I think they’ll continue to struggle in these economic times, but I also think there is a dedicated group of supporters in our community who will step up to fill the gaps.” These lean times, he said, encouraged “many organizations to get smarter in how they use resources and how they collaborate with each other, where they leverage the talent and the resources they have. I think that trend will continue.”
 

Dick Holland said few cities can boast Omaha’s philanthropic might. He favors a public-private coalition to undergird and concentrate arts funding.
 

By any measure, it’s been an era of net growth for the creative community and leaders see more progress ahead thanks to a spirit of innovation and support.
 

“A strong legacy of investing in the arts here has been established and I believe it will continue to proliferate,” said Rachel Jacobson. “We’ll see new initiatives develop, especially arts in education and social-community development arts projects. There are a lot of high-energy, incredibly innovative people who have a huge heart for this city and will make a strong commitment.
 

“Just in the last month I’ve heard about wonderful projects in the works. I’m excited for the next 20 years.”
 

-end- metroMAGAZINE

 

 

 

 

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