Omaha artist Josh Powell has spent the past month wrangling close to 100 artists together for what promises to be one of the city’s more memorable shows of 2011. Powell, with help from fellow Omaha artists Joel Damon (recently named curator of the Bemis Underground) and Kevin Rooney, pulled together a group of largely unknown artists for Science Fair, which opens this Friday in a storage warehouse turned art gallery. Powell said he and Damon, who curated last year’s Destroy Rebuild Repeat in two buildings in Council Bluffs, continued to look for alternative exhibition spaces. They also decided, before Damon had to drop out of the project to concentrate on the Bemis Underground, they wanted to include more artists. “We thought 30 seemed like a good number,” Powell says. “We wanted to do something big.” Their original idea of “big” soon became dwarfed by the number of artists interested in participating in Science Fair. Powell tapped Rooney to help him find young, underrepresented artists in the city, and Powell continued to work on recruiting artists who had shown before but who weren’t the big names in the community. “We wanted this show to be about the people we don’t hear about all the time,” Powell says. Rooney brought 30 artists to the exhibition, many who aren’t showing elsewhere. “Until now, you would have never seen these artists in a ‘gallery’ setting,” he says. “You would only see them on local bands’ album covers, on walls of buildings, in bathrooms or Christmas presents. It’s very hard for the art crowd to discover these artists — to them it may not be worth the effort.” The show is far from traditional. It’s taking place on the fourth and fifth floors of the Urban Storage building, 13th and Leavenworth. Each participating artist has a storage unit space to do with as they wish. Powell says some of the units on each floor are currently rented for storage — he’s juggled artists around the two floors when open spaces became rented — and says it’s been challenging to put together an art show in a space that’s used for a distinctly different business plan. The artists, too, have been challenged by the space. It is full of hallways bordered by corrugated metal walls. The unit ceilings are made of wire and there are only three outlets on each floor. When artists asked Powell how to adapt their work to the space, he told them to get creative. “A lot of times, I answered ‘I don’t know,’” he says. “I told people to hang work with Velcro or magnets, to wire work from the ceiling or to use LED lights or flashlights that use batteries to light work.” Many of the exhibiting artists, he says, spent hours putting together their show. Others took more of a minimalist approach, hanging just one piece. He’s also invited performers and musicians to take advantage of the space during the show’s opening. Omaha artist Scott Blake won’t be showing what he usually does, and instead will display his personal collection of more than 500 postcards. “The opening of this show is going to be insane,” Blake says. “This feels like the biggest group show I’ve ever been a part of. Josh and Kevin are doing this to celebrate the local art scene, and not simply trying to cash in on it. I hope people do buy art at the Science Fair, but I think it is more important to come to the opening, walk around, see what people are working on, and get inspired.” Powell mentioned a few can’t-miss units. Artist Holly Kranker recreated her grandmother’s kitchen. An installation from Alex Meyers and paintings by Patty Talbert are worth seeking out. Caleb Coppock is working on a collaborative video piece. Tim Guthrie created a huge video piece inspired by Frankenstein that will be projected on the outside of the building. “The show isn’t just sculptures and paintings,” Powell says. “There’s fashion designers, performance artists, installation artists, musicians.” He hopes the diversity, and the buzz the show’s garnered, will draw even non-art types. Rooney agrees. “The Omaha art scene is so much more than the Bemis, KANEKO and whatever the hell else people think it is,” he says. Powell says his ultimate goal isn’t a successful show Friday night, even though that would be nice. It’s to spur more shows like this on a regular basis. “People — artists — think they need to show in a gallery but they don’t know how to do it,” he says. “These young, ambitious artists want to show, and I can see this show spawning many more. Even though I plan to keep doing shows like this, I hope other people do, too.” Science Fair opens Jan. 29, 6:30-11 p.m. at Urban Storage, 13th and Leavenworth. Exhibiting artists include ætherplow (feat. Katie F-S, Thom Sibbit and Susann Suprenant), Alex Jochim, Alex Myers, Amy Morin, Ben McQuillan, Brittan Rosendahl, Caleb Coppock w/ Travis Smith, Cally Casteel, Chase Bobier, Christina Renfer Vogel, Christine Stormbert w/ Anna Greer, Corrie Suhr, Craig Roper, Dan Crane w/ Eric Shew, Dan Lowe, Dan Richters, Daniel Muller, Dapose, Darcie Presnall, Dave Koenig, David Shreffler, Derek Courtney, Derek Presnall, Dominic Holmes, Doug Hayko, Dwight Nysewander, Emily Sutterlin w/ Sam Martin, Eric Berner, Eric Wilson, Erin Blayney, Gerard Pefung, Holly Kranker, Ian Kuhn, Iggy Sumnik, Jake Welchert, Jamie Hardy, Jar Schepers, Jennie Mason, Jesse Fisher, Jody Boyer, Joel M!GHTY Damon, Josh Powell, Kevin Rooney, Kianna Alarid, Kim Reid Kuhn, Kiona Basile Alexander, Kjell Peterson, Kristin Lubbert, Lallaya Lalley, Leslie Duigiud, Lucille Rae, Machaela Morrissey, Maggie Weber, Matt Dinovo, Matthew Carlson, Mike Loftus, Mike Roche, Mike Sheef, Miss Cake, Nicole Rubino, Nolan Tredway, Patrick Kinney, Patty Talbert, Peter Cales, Rachel Dick, Rob Quinn, Robert Gilmer, Russ Nordman, Saber Blazek, Sam Haug, Scott Blake, Seth Johnson, Shane Bainbridge, Shannon Carroll, Sora Kimberlain, Tana Quincy, Teal Gardner, The New BLK, Tim Guthrie, Tinca and Frances Joyner, Tyler Barry, Wanda Ewing, Wiley Jack and Will Anderson.

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