Residency: The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts is located in the Old Market district of Omaha, NE, and has been supporting artist-in-residence programs for more than three decades.  “The center offers artists private live/work studios, financial support, technical/administrative assistance, and opportunities for intellectual discourse about contemporary art through free public programs, such as panel discussions, lectures, and knowledge-sharing workshops,” says the website. “To date, nearly 900 artists have participated in the residency program.”

Three-month residencies take place between late May and mid-August, and are for artists pursuing a broad range of disciplines: painting, sculpture, writing, performance, puppetry, theater, drawing, printmaking, installation, architecture, fiber arts, and photography. The center has also just introduced a year-long program for a curator in residence. It’s also one of the few that offers a stipend: about $700 a month.

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The paragraphs below are copied from Vasari 21's review of the program / site.

“The studios are in a former packaging plant with enormous warehouse spaces and are really impressive,” says Krista Svalbonas, who was in residence in the summer of 2015. “They’re great for individuals making large-scale work. My studio was 1500 square feet, and the smallest was probably around 600 square feet. Some residents were able to find interns to help with larger projects, and a liaison with a local college offers use of technical equipment, like 3D printers and laser cutters.

“These are live/work spaces with a kitchen, a bedroom in one nook, and a bathroom,” she continues. Residents can pick out their furnishings—desks, chairs, stools, and so on—along with supplies left over from previous residencies. “There are lots of different found materials,” reports Svalbonas, who recalls seeing, among other oddments, a bin of old eyeglass lenses.

“You basically sustain yourself,” she says. “You do your own cooking and it’s up to the residents if they decide to eat together. We did that as often as we could, at least once a week, so that we could sit down and chat. I’m still in contact with two of the other artists, one of whom even recommended me to a gallery. It evolved into a small tight-knit group.”

The Old Town ambience is another plus. “There are cobblestone streets, a farmers’ market, and a great little French restaurant,” she adds. “I wasn’t expecting that level of sophistication. You don’t need a car—though one is on hand for residents’ use—because everything is in walking distance.”