Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

Collapsing sites of production and sites of consumption of art

  • Type Cultural
  • Location Omaha, Nebraska
  • Area 150,000 s.f.
  • Status on going
  • Date 2003-2018
  • Project Partners

    Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts:
    Chris Cook, Executive Director
    Mark Masuoko, former Director
    Hesse McGraw, former Chief Curator
    Ree Kaneko, founding Director
    Joe Girandola, former Residency Director

    Architect of Record (3rd floor studios; Okada Sculpture Facility):


FACT started with a project to imagine a new future for Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska. Founded in 1981, by artists for artists, the Bemis Center supports today’s artists through an international residency program, temporary exhibitions and commissions, and innovative public programs. Located in the historic Old Market district, Bemis Center serves a critical role in the presentation and understanding of contemporary art, bridging the community of Omaha to a global discourse surrounding cultural production today.

Over many years FACT designed a framework plan (through multiple iterations), held several exhibitions featuring the work, and realized a series projects for the Bemis Center.  Our approach imagines the center not as a static container for art objects, but as a dynamic, transmutable landscape within which art and public discourse occurs. The Bemis is a social condenser. Following the institution’s goal to promote open dialog about art and civic engagement, we focus the diverse program around a series of public galleries, artist work spaces, artist-designed gardens, and public outdoor spaces in the center of the former warehouse district. Offices and artists’ live-work studios have necessary privacy and control, but also easy access to the public realm both indoors and outdoors. The culmination of this phase was Building Bemis in 2011, a capital campaign that led to the build-out of the FACT-designed third floor studios and the Okada Sculpture Facility. Following the framework plan, we have completed several projects, many of which have dedicated pages on this website.

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The Bemis InfoShop during a gallery opening.

Framework Plan
The goal of the expansion plan is to create fluid connections between public and private areas, and between indoor and outdoor spaces. Surrounding this work is the notion of bringing artists and the public together in novel ways, while keeping at heart the Bemis' primary mission to support the work of today's artists. Breaking down barriers is a significant challenge for art centers, especially between indoor and outdoor spaces.

Bemis Gardens pictured; see Bemis Gardens page for more detail.

Breaking down barriers between artists and the public.

More than a reception area and lobby, the InfoShop focuses attention on ideas and issues brought up by gallery programs, artists, and patrons by providing a social platform for spontaneous meetings, dialog and debate. Designed for flexibility, the InfoShop is anchored by a 24'-long faceted reception desk that transforms into a bar for evening events. The walls are clad with custom, CNC-milled panels derived from a pinwheel aperiodic tiling pattern suggesting precision, complexity and playfulness.

See Bemis InfoShop page for more information.

InfoShop and Garden.

Soft Cube
A permanent installation in Gallery 3, Soft Cube functions as a set of devices that soften the white cube and create a flexible, multi-purpose social platform for events and exhibitions.

See Bemis Soft Cube page for more information.

Building Bemis
For the Bemis Center's largest capital improvement project since originally moving into its current location, we worked with the board of directors, leadership, staff and stake holders to identify priority projects from our earlier framework plan. Motivating this effort was a desire to expand the core residency program. Specific projects included renovating the one-story Okada warehouse into a large workshop with ceramics studio, building out the 3rd floor of the McCord-Brady building for live work studios, and further opening up the exhibition gallery floor to improve flexibility and flow.

Architect of Record: AO*

Artist's studio with living pod.

The art studio takes its character from the artist, not the architecture.

Bemis Sound Art + Experimental Music Program
As part of the Bemis Center’s international Artist-in-Residence Program, Bemis Sound is a specialized track offering three-month residencies to artists pushing the boundaries of sound, composition, voice, and music of all genres. FACT students collaborated with prominent musicians, artists, designers, sound engineers, tradespeople, and Bemis staff to design the unique venue and its support facilities. The program includes a performance venue, a pre-event bar, a merchandise store, a green room for artists, a recording studio with live and dead rooms, and storage.

See Bemis Sound page for more information.

Exploring the boundaries of conventional architectural taste and expectations of design precision, the bold interior environment aims both for longevity and the unexpected.
Bemis Projects

Follow these internal links to pages for individual projects at the Bemis Center: Soft Cube, InfoShop, Bemis Gardens, LOW END.


(awards for various Bemis projects)

2007 AIA Nebraska Honor Award for Unbuilt Work

2003 ACSA Faculty Design Award

2011 AIA Nebraska Honor Award for Details

2013 AIA San Francisco Honor Award

2013 AIA National Small Project Honor Award

2013 ACSA Design Build Award

2010 AIA Nebraska Merit Award

2010 AIA Central States Region Honor Award



Project Team

students (initial framework plan and updates):
Darin Blair, Jeremy Christopherson, Matthew Cole, Justin Gregonis, Chad Hutchinson, Ronald Larson, Corey McClenahan, Daric O’Neal, Ryan Pavlik, Nicholas Schulz, Brian Spencer, Michael Stolle, Nicholas Weber, Matthew Wegener, Alexander Wendt, Matthew Wilhelm, Alex Jack,Nathan Miller, Ian Robertson, Fara Britt Woolf

Michael Davis, Jack Fowler, Brandon Horn, Danielle Johnson, Dale Schilke

Min | Day staff

Photography By Photography by Larry Gawel, Mike Sinclair, and Bemis Center
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