In a reorganization move at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, with several staff members let go, the buzz around town is the apparent closing of Underground and the departure of the venue’s third official manager and curator, Joel Damon. According to Todd Simon, Bemis board of directors vice president, “In an effort to optimize the exhibition program at Bemis, we made the decision to bring the activities at the Underground galleries under the same umbrella as the rest of its exhibition and community arts programs. Projects previously destined for the Underground will continue to be realized through exhibitions, events and projects that take full advantage of the organization’s unique spaces and resources”. Opening in 2005 under the vision and direction of former Bemis curator Jeremy Stern and director Mark Masuoka, the Underground first featured Omaha artist Scott Blake’s Bring Your Bar Codes installation. This experimental and vital venue for artists exploring stimulating concepts in contemporary art also included UNO faculty members Jody Boyer and Russ Nordman’s  Paramnesia  and Tim Guthrie and Doug Hayko’s Extraordinary Rendition as two notable examples. The arts community will miss the Underground’s edgy shows and installations as well as its enthusiastic curator Damon who Simon said “Serving in multiple roles over the past five years,  Joel advocated for a dynamic connection to local artists and initiated projects that amplified the value of our local and regional communities.”  The Bemis Underground’s roster, their hosting of regional juried exhibitions, gallery talks, community potlucks and crowd-funding dinners have been woven into Omaha’s cultural fabric. It is hoped the Bemis will continue their commitment to emerging and experimental art.


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