The Big Ten’s laying down the gauntlet as well as the welcome mat for Nebraska this autumn may get all the ink, but the 2011 fall season also hosts a number of fine arts events for the discriminating viewer after the game.

Beginning this month several key area art venues will offer a play list of openings of all kinds. Some are annual and much anticipated while others are a kickoff of a different kind. What follows is a preview of key centers, galleries and organizations that are contributing something out of the ordinary to the area arts vibe for the remainder of the year.

For the past 13 years the annual auction of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts has been the most anticipated arts event. No more than in 2005 when Director Mark Masuoka and former curator Jeremy Stern extended the auction preview into a multiple week show with a Buy-It-Now option. Since then current curator Hesse McGraw and staff have organized it annually into the most enjoyable opportunity to see a survey of local, regional and international contemporary art under one roof.

This year the auction exhibit opens Sept. 16 featuring over 250 artists and some 400 plus works. The auction itself is a two night affair, Oct.13 in the Underground and Oct. 15 in the first floor galleries. Auction profits will benefit mostly the Bemis residency program which recently increased from 24 to 36 annually due to the addition of five new live-in studios.

McGraw and Underground Curator Joel Damon have pumped up the “wow factor” for that venue, but all Masuoka would reveal is that “a few local artists will create site specific works to set the tone true to an Underground event. The artists are the stars of the auction and this is a great way to showcase their talent and work.”

Two very different galleries have something to celebrate this fall, the grand opening of each venue in a new location. Lincoln’s Modern Arts Midwest has officially opened another site, Modern Arts Midtown in that vicinity at 3615 Dodge St. A full service gallery, representing many significant regional artists, the Midtown addition will host an open house, Sept. 16 with a special emphasis on sculpture in its 4000 sq. ft. plus venue.

“We want to create a market of our own in Omaha, both challenging and diverse,” MAM owner Larry Roots said. “Our MFA’s are all moving away. I want to help them find a way to stay. We can exhibit up to three separate shows on the main floor and we have an additional 4000 feet of auxiliary space for more experimental, spontaneous work.”

The RNG Gallery, better know for its edgier, alternative exhibits, especially from area emerging artists, has closed its doors at 20th and Leavenworth along with its partner Dixie Quicks restaurant and will reopen mid-October in its new digs at 157 W. Broadway in Council Bluffs.

Though RNG’s first show featuring artists Christina Vogel and Steve Azevedo won’t open till later that month, owner Rob Gilmer promises a special grand opening with a 9 ft. tall sculptural installation that will show off the 2500 sq. ft. space with its tall ceilings and special door “rafters,” movable walls, brick façade and long glass enclosed northern exposure.

“I want to set a tone for the art to follow,” Gilmer said, “and be a part of that renaissance that Council Bluffs is experiencing. We’re bringing a damn good art space to an area that plays like Brooklyn to its big brother west. Our shows will open on the second Friday of the month rather than the first, and we’ll have Saturday artist talks in order to better promote the arts in the metropolitan community.”

Omaha is fortunate to have two non-profit organizations that mentor area arts students in after school programs, the active Kent Bellows Foundation and Art Center on behalf of high schoolers and the Union for Contemporary Art currently at development and fundraising stage to benefit primarily grade school students. KB students have just finished two urban murals in collaboration with UCA and UNO’s Neighborhood Center project and look forward to a ribbon-cutting ceremony in late September with Omaha’s mayor, Jim Suttle. They will also participate in two more murals in the downtown library in November.

Meanwhile, UCA will partner with the Birdhouse Collectible to host Home, a group exhibit of Nebraska artists that will transform the Bancroft Street Market into modern day living spaces. The show will open Dec. 2 and continue through the 11th.

Additional fall exhibitions can be found weekly in Reader’s 8-Day Picks, Mixed Media column and the calendar. But three area exhibits deserve notice for what they bring to the area arts scene from beyond its borders:

The Joslyn Art Museum will offer American Landscapes: Contemporary Photographs of the West, Sept. 17, which features 14 artists who vision a more urban and suburban setting in deference to the heroic vistas typical of an Ansel Adams. Chief curator Toby Jurovic will hold two gallery talks, Sept 22 and Oct. 27, and on Nov. 13, Joslyn will hold an artist panel with three of the photographers.

This fall Sheldon Art Museum will hold an exhibit with an interesting regional connection. Viet-Nam, Nebraska, which opens Sept. 23 featuring California artist Binh Danh whose multi media show will compare the experiences of early Nebraska settlers with the lives of Vietnamese who left their homes to settle into Lancaster County. Danh will lecture at the show’s opening at 5:30 p.m.

For the past decade no venue has made a more consistently significant contribution of interesting and edgy art from Europe and Latin America than Omaha’s nomadic Moving Gallery. This fall’s contribution which opens Oct. 6 in the Garden of the Zodiac Gallery space, featuring portrait photography from two German artists, Christian Rothmann and Gerhard Kassner should be no exception.

Kassner will include a series of “Faces and Hands” in black and white as well as later portraiture of his friends and family which will segue nicely with Rothmann’s portraits, “Mothers and Daughters” in his familiar, colorful palette.

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