A space that liberates artists to take risks and present avant-garde work

  • Type Cultural
  • Location Omaha, Nebraska
  • Status In progress
  • Date Phase 1 & 2 completed 2019; Phase 3, 2022, Phase 4, 2024
  • Project Partners

    Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts:
    Chris Cook, Executive Director
    Rachel Adams, Chief Curator and Director of Programs
    Stacie Koenig Brader, Communications Director
    Keith Rodger, Sound Program Technician
    Bemis Center staff & interns
    Sean Ward (artistic direction and construction supervisor)

FACT 16 – Active Project

As part of the Bemis Center’s international Artist-in-Residence Program, the Sound Art + Experimental Music Program is a specialized track offering three-month residencies to artists pushing the boundaries of sound, composition, voice, and music of all genres. Open to national and international artists, participants receive the same level of financial, technical, and administrative support as their fellow artists-in-residence at the Bemis, along with dedicated facilities for rehearsing, recording, and performing new works that expand the field of sound art and music. The project is supported in part by a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

FACT students collaborated with prominent musicians, artists, designers, sound engineers, tradespeople, and Bemis staff to design the unique venue and its support facilities. The spatial program includes a performance venue known as LOW END, a pre-event bar, a merchandise store, a green room for artists, a recording studio with live and dead rooms, and storage.

In Fall 2023, FACT is working on furniture and upgrades to the pre-event atrium at LOW END, stay tuned for updates.

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A performance activate space: Deerhoof; Laura Ortman

Emily Wells at LOW END, 2023

Located in the organization’s 25,000 square-foot basement level, the fully-equipped artist-designed performance space offers free live shows to the community. Free public access to these performances not only builds greater appreciation and new audiences for sound art and experimental music, it also liberates the artists on stage to take risks and present avant-garde work. Receiving stipends from the Bemis, artists need not be concerned with attendance numbers and ticket sales—their “take at the door”—as is customary in traditional music venues.

Project overview showing Recording Studio, Green Room, Performance Space, Pre-event Bar, and Merchandise Lounge

Floor Plan Perspective & Section Perspective

Collective design on site; all projects start with the demo crew!

Eying the Anamorphic Stage

Brass razzle-dazzle camouflage highlights the performer in a permanent "spotlight" on the stage

The Monolith: turning a liability into an asset; a pre-existing mechanical closet becomes an acoustic baffle and seating opportunity

A working model

The Curtain Wall. & Banquette: visual and acoustic background

Material synergy

Surface details & materials

The Penrose Stool: light-weight movable seats can be arranged in complex patterns or stacked to make tables

AIA Nebraska Honor Award jury comments

This project, boldly executed, reveals a conviction that interior architecture, at its best, is a space of exploration. What at first seems to be discrete, funky episodes of radically different approaches to color texture and materiality, are artfully stitched together through subtle gestures creating a unified atmosphere.

The Green Room, a grotto-like refuge for performing artists and special guests

Cabinetry and door wall from CNC-engraved, lacquered plywood, "grotto"surfaces from marble chips set in white mortar

Floor from artificial turf

The recording studio, an experimental space for sound artists

The control booth / "dead" room

FACT worked with artist Sean Ward and collaborated with prominent local musicians, designers, tradespeople, and Bemis staff to design the venue and its support facilities. AO* served as architect of record. Construction began in November 2018 and phase one, including the recording studio, was completed in 2019. Work on phase two (Bar, Merchandise store, and a Green Room for artists) commenced in 2020, paused during the pandemic, and was completed in 2022.

Project Status

Exploring the boundaries of conventional architectural taste and expectations of design precision, the bold interior environment aims both for longevity and the unexpected. Phase-one construction began in the second half of the fall 2018 semester and was substantially completed in October 2019 when Bemis inaugurated LOW END with a first performance by Deerhoof. Phase-two of the ambitious project commenced in 2020 and paused due to the pandemic. The remaining is being completed in 2022.



2023 AN Best of Design, Editor’s Pick

2022 AIA Central States Honor Award for Architectural Interiors

2020 AIA Nebraska Honor Award for Architectural Interiors

Project Team

students (2018):
Justin DeFields, Maren Elnes, Craig Findlay, Robert Grebl, Seth Hadenfeldt, Qingyuan Han, Andrew Hicks, Monica Hughes, Audrey Lanik, Jiaji Li, Saray Martinez, Rachel Richter, Morgan Ronspies, Andrew Rose, Kristina Schneider

interns and phase 2 students (2019):
Maren Elnes, Robert Grebl, Seth Hadenfeldt, Andrew Hicks, Monica Hughes, Saray Martinez

phase 3 students (2020):
Aaron Culliton, Ashley Glesinger, Robert Grebl, Noah Schacher, Connor Swearingen

phase 4 students (2023-2024):
Zainab Albusharif, Eden Bigelow, Landyn Bish, Drue Bower, Ry Gaughan, Gianna Jergovic

consultants and subcontractors:
AO* (Architect of Record – permit phase)
Actual Architecture Co.
Lund-Ross Constructors (General Contractor)
Andy Lang / Morrissey Engineering (lighting design consultant)
Jeremy Garrett (acoustics & AV design)

Eyman Plumbing Heating & Air (HVAC and plumbing)
Robert Webber (electrical)
Mahoney Fire Sprinkler, Inc.

project advisors:
Robert Peters Company
Raven Chacon
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe
Maria Buszek
Thor Dickey
additional musicians and sound engineers

Photography By Project photography by Colin Conces, model photography by Larry Gawel, construction photos courtesy of Bemis Center and FACT.
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