Bemis Gardens

Design process as public art event

  • Type Cultural / Public
  • Location Omaha, Nebraska
  • Status Built
  • Date 2011
  • Project Partners

    Bemis Center for Contemporary Art:
    Mark Masuoka, Executive Director
    Hesse McGraw, Chief Curator
    Alex Priest, Assistant Curator and Landscape Designer

    Collaborating Artists and Designers:
    Michael Bietz
    El Dorado, Inc.
    Fritz Haeg
    James Woodfill
    *many more individuals contributed to the public discourse held in weekly charrettes, apologies to those whose names have been left out


Breaking down barriers is a significant challenge for art centers, especially between indoor and outdoor spaces. Bemis Gardens addresses this by transforming the former loading dock into a public gathering space and rain garden. The design process itself was a performance: over the course of 12 weekly design charrettes held in a hybrid exhibition/workspace, students, the public, visiting artists, and designers engaged in deep dialog about the nature of public space and landscape within the city, and the role of the contemporary art center in such spaces. At the conclusion of the exhibition, FACT finalized the design of the garden for fabrication and installation by the students with local artists and builders. Materials include recycled steel, salvaged brick, crushed recycled brick, salvaged timbers, crushed auto glass, and native plants.

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Hybrid workshop / gallery (photo by Larry Gawel)

In recent years, artists, architects, ecologists and social designers of all stripes have invested significant energy in forming new hybrids between food production and social space, urban ecologies and public art, forgotten space and material ingenuity, storm water reclamation and public spectacle. Bemis Gardens was structured as an open laboratory and interactive exhibition. Throughout its three month run the exhibition remained in flux — between the gallery and its exterior, between design process and fabrication, between representation of completed work and installation of site-specific works.

(photos by Larry Gawel)

Art work by Colin Smith, Sean Ward, and Michael Bietz (photos by Larry Gawel)

Public design charente in the gallery (photo but Chris Machian)

FACT guiding a charrette at the continuous drawing scroll; structured gallery discussion

Bemis Gardens is the exterior counterpart to the Info Shop, the primary public welcoming space within Bemis (see Bemis Info Shop project page)

(photos by Mike Sinclair)



2016 ACSA Collaborative Practice Award
2013 ACSA Design Build Award

Project Team

Tyler Austin, Andrea Hamilton, Krissy Harbert, Jon Hoffman, Parker Edick, Colin Felipe, Benjamin Eisenman, Michael Henrichs, Jennifer Meister, Stephanie Morales, Sarah Pankow, Benjamin Pederson, Rachel Plessing, Heather Tomasek, Patrick Heermann

Photography By Photography by Bemis Center & FACT unless otherwise noted
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