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Open Spaces. Open Minds.









     "Creativity begins with an idea seeing things differently.
Our purpose is exploring the creative process
how a new idea is born in the arts, sciences, and philosophy."



That statement may seem like a lot to achieve for KANEKO, but stepping inside and looking at the plans and the vision, one begins to believe that it can be done.

The large, open spaces of the KANEKO have plenty of room for it to grow into anything possible. You can imagine the lives that had been there before, and where the space will be in the future.

The buildings that the KANEKO calls home were formerly a dairy processing plant and a truck repair garage. In 1923 it was the Fairmont Creamery Company. Flash-forward to 2009 and many of the original elements of the buildings have remained in tact by architect Mark Mack. He took careful measures to blend the old and the new.

The visionaries behind KANEKO are artist Jun Kaneko and his wife Ree. The two of them were the founders of the Bemis Center for Arts. Ten years ago, Jun and Ree Kaneko purchased the vacant buildings on the corners of Jones Street between 11th and 12th.  They were looking for a place to store Juns large sculptures. As Jun looked closer at the buildings architecture he saw greater potential, and the concept for KANEKO took shape.

"Artists and scientists coming together illuminate how universal creativity is, and also how varied it is." 

-Hal France

Creativity is often hatched in unexpected ways. Soon after the vision, the fundraising began. Jun met conductor, Hal France while working together on Opera Omahas Madame Butterfly. France was fascinated by the concept of KANEKO, and joined the Creative Board of Advisors. In May of 2008, France joined officially as the Executive Director along with two part-timers. Today, they have an ever-increasing full-time staff.

France describes creativity as an ongoing and evolving journey.  It is interesting that this has been the approach to the development of KANEKO.  It has been built in stages. New ideas and programs are still being discovered. There is no set schedule and hard concept at KANEKO. Its all about the "sparking of ideas," says France. He says that life should be not about "floating above everything, but having real experiences."

But what is KANEKO? Is it a museum? A Gallery? Truly its an anomaly--- refusing to be defined. KANEKO would like to join artists and scientists together. The concept is very Renaissance. Think Divinci. According to France, "artists and scientists coming together illuminate how universal creativity is, and also how varied it is." There is no black and white. It is all shades of grey.  KANEKO is about seeing things differently. It is a gathering place where ideas can be exchanged. "Lines are blurring between all fields, why not embrace that?" adds France.

There is also the KANEKO-UNO Library. The library is a contemporary designed room with bold orange, purple, lime green and red furniture. The floors are a shiny, polished concrete. Above the couches hang three big screen monitors, with wireless keyboards and wireless headphones. Sliding ladders line the shelves. There are drafting tables and work stations where students, artists and locals who have a membership can be inspired by other artists work, and use it as a place to create on their own. It is a new age library, which is in essence a "think tank."

The Bow Truss is a large open space, with interwoven boat-like metal piping on the ceiling. There is a raw, wooden box office tucked in a corner. An opaque partition hangs from the ceiling, which makes the sculptures in the room appear to multiply. In the Bow Tress, there are 4 large heads that anchor the four corners of the room. They are part of the Jun Kanekos Mission Clay Project series. For this project, Jun and his group went to a sewer pipe factory in Pittsburg, Kansas to use their bee hive kilns. The group stayed in Kansas for two years creating four 9.5 Heads, four 13 Dangos (which is Japanese for rounded form), and twenty-four 9 Dangos.

These heads, which are temporarily housed at KANEKO, create the space for the lectures and events that are often held in this room. In 2009, the Kaneko had a wide mix of events. The Big Omaha Conference hosted over 500 people in the Bow Truss space.  The Fall Great Minds Lecture Series had three different nights with three different authors including: the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sheryl WuDunn, twice Pulitzer Prize-winning author Nicholas Kristof, and Pulitzer Prize winner Sonia Nazario. You can only imagine the effect of these four heads as you listen to the speakers.

What is in store for 2010 and beyond? The Big Omaha Conference is planning on returning to KANEKO in 2010. In the summer, they are thinking of an event that is full of more whimsy than some of the past events. There is a possibility of a Fall Program that would focus on creativity and how it relates to the human brain. As the buildings progress, there will be the addition of a sculpture garden.  Creativity isnt always obvious, so much of what it is happens under the surface, says France. There is a lot of creativity bubbling in KANEKO. You can feel it and sense it when you step inside. There are still blank walls that leave the mind to wonder what would happen if they did thisor did that with that section of the building. Your mind is unable to stop mentally calculating what you would do if it was your place to run. According to France, part of the magic of KANEKO is that the space and the mission will always be a work in progress.  That is the way that creativity works.


-end- metroMAGAZINE


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