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Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts’ Initiates Community-Driven Public Art Project in Council Bluffs

A major new piece of public art is being planned for the city of Council Bluffs.


The design process, called Building Bridges, will be a collaborative effort that includes neighborhood schools, community leaders, and local businesses. Community involvement is a key component of the project, ensuring the final product reflects the nature of the Council Bluffs area, strengthening the social fabric of the entire community.

The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, alongside lead artists Therman Statom and Debbie Masuoka, are spearheading the initiative with grant support from the Iowa West Foundation. The newly associated Kanesville-Tinley neighborhood has been chosen as the future site of the large-scale work.

Combining art, education, and civic engagement, Building Bridges will be a community-driven process from start to finish. Earlier in January, Masuoka and Statom began leading a series of brainstorming sessions with art students from the Kanesville Alternative Learning Center, a neighborhood school. These six sessions, along with future community outreach efforts this spring and summer, will inform the final product.

“Ownership creates relevance,” Statom said. “The process of discovery is inherent to art-making – it can inspire and empower people.”
Debbie Masuoka, whose Rabbit Head sculptures already grace Council Bluffs’ Haymarket, is excited to be involved with another project in the Iowa community. “I believe that the creative process helps people grow, but in the end it’s not about what you teach the kids,” she said. “It's about what they teach you."

Building Bridges is designed to serve as a catalyst for urban renewal, but also a vehicle to enrich the artists’ creative process. This process of mutually beneficial, two-way engagement is central to the approach of the Bemis Center’s Community Arts program. Completion of the site-specific sculpture is tentatively scheduled for late summer 2012.

THERMAN STATOM studied at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, received a BFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design and completed an MFA in sculpture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. He exhibits widely in solo and group shows around the country, as well as internationally. His works can be found in many major museum collections, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (Paris), the Toledo Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art (Atlanta) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. Statom has been honored with two NEA Fellowships and a Ford Foundation award. Statom's exhibition Nascita was presented at the Bemis Center in 2008 and more recently, his exhibition Stories of the New World was presented at The Orlando Museum of Art. His newest exhibition, "Six Voyages" will open March 30, 2012 at the Glassmuseet in Ebeltoft, Denmark. Statom lives and works in Omaha.

DEBORAH MASUOKA is well known for her large-scale rabbit heads — dynamic and powerfully reductive sculptures that are conceptually complex and visually compelling. She has been a visiting artist at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana as well as at the legendary Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, Israel. Her work is in numerous private and public art collections, including the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Arizona State University. In 2005 the Art in State Buildings program in Iowa purchased three of her cast bronze rabbit head sculptures for the Stafford Arboretum in Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens. The Iowa West Foundation commissioned Masuoka to create a series of three large-scale bronze sculptures for its public art program. She earned a BFA from Wayne State University and an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

ABOUT THE BEMIS CENTER COMMUNITY ARTS PROGRAM The Community Arts program ignites civic engagement by developing significant projects that directly involve the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area. Through collaboration with artists, organizations, schools and businesses, the Bemis Center seeks to raise public awareness of art and empower the local community to think differently about a wide range of contemporary issues. Past projects have included public sculpture and murals, curricula development, urban interventions, artist professional development and a highly active in-house tour program.

ABOUT THE BEMIS CENTER FOR CONTEMPORAY ARTS The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts was founded in 1981 by artists, for artists. As an artist centered organization, the Bemis Center’s sole mission has been to support contemporary artists of exceptional talent. In this spirit, the Bemis Center provides artists with the gift of time, space and support. In addition to our international artist-in-residence program, the Bemis Center curates exhibitions and develops community arts projects. These programs directly fund and support the artistic process, catalyzing artists’ work to engage and challenge the public.




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