location: Omaha, NE
type: renovation, adaptive reuse, historic preservation
role: designer, project manager
"Omaha is a segregated city that houses extreme disparities between class and opportunity. Omaha recently claimed 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."
This is the charge against Omaha that Theaster Gates began addressing through a series of "Town Halls", intimate gatherings with a variety of stakeholders, from which the Carver Bank project emerged. The response was to provide space and support to artists of color and local artists, a place to share their work, as well as making a small commercial injection in the form of a sandwich shop run by a successful local business, Big Mama's.
In a partnership between the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Rebuild Foundation, we negotiated a long term lease with the City of Omaha for a 2500 square foot historic bank building they owned. I served as the project designer, working with a team of local artists, contractors, and a jobs training program for people with barriers to employment to gut the building and rehab it. We employed the use of materials from the deconstruction process, from a gymnasium in Iowa, and from the treasure trove of Bemis Center's storage areas. The primary architectural gestures were centralizing the bathrooms so that the 3 primary functions of the Bank could access them despite somewhat disparate programs & schedules. Additionally, we inserted a large glass garage door to allow the exhibition space to spill out into a courtyard landscaped by students from UNL through FACT led by Jeff Day.
Carver Bank opened in April of 2013 and has been supported by the NEA, ArtPlace America, Harpo Foundation, Rauschenberg Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and the City of Omaha.