To get to Omaha from Colorado, you have to drive the entire length of Nebraska. It is a long state, though not without interest. After many Woolful podcasts, I arrived at Kaneko in downtown Omaha. If you've never been to Kaneko, make sure to make a visit--and leave yourself some time. Their tag line is "open space for your mind." And it is a place that will inspire you if you let it.
I was there for the American Craft Council conference, Present Tense. I was interested in meeting other creatives and having a few days to talk about the world of art-making.
To be honest, one of the biggest reasons I went was Gerhardt Knodel. He was awarded the ACC's highest honor, the Gold Medal for Consummate Craftsmanship.
Gerhardt Knodel taught at and directed Cranbrook Academy of Art for several decades. It was marvelous to meet him in person. I was able to attend a short talk he gave informally the next day and wished fervently that he had been my teacher at some point. He is now a full-time studio artist. He has a new book just out which I recommend: What-if textiles: The art of Gerhardt Knodel.
As for the rest of the conference, I'm honestly not sure what I can say that would make much sense unless you were there. I was encouraged by a panel talking about learning through traditional college programs or apprenticeship models. But then was discouraged by the following lunch chat about it. I was at a table entirely filled with academics and current art students from CCA and RISD. My thoughts about apprenticeship were not heard. I don't think they even had a framework for how they might understand learning to be an artist in this alternate way. Maybe I was just crabby because the GF option was a tiny salad which might have contained 150 calories with the dressing. Fortunately, I had cold pizza in the car. (An unbreakable rule of celiacs everywhere: always bring food you can eat.)
Sonya Clark, professor and department chair at Virginia Commonwealth University, gave a well-received talk about textiles and community. And I dearly wanted to sit down with a cup of tea with the two young artists on the Community panel, Tanya Aguiniga and Nicholas Galanin. Their talk centered around building community but also their experiences as Latina and Native artists in the USA. Fascinating stuff. And Jessica Hische was inspiring in her entrepreneurial zeal. Her book should be on my doorstep tomorrow.
I had the chance to meet up with a few people in person and talk about textile practice. Tien Chiu was there with her new book, Master Your Craft. It was fun to meet her in person and hear her talk about her book and thoughts about being an artist today. And I was able to catch Mary Zicafoose, the celebrated ikat tapestry artist from Omaha, just briefly before a lecture. I also found one of her tapestries at the Bemis Center across the street.
Sometimes you're just at the right place at the right time. I went on a tour of the art on display given by Ree Kaneko and at the end she offered to bring those of us still hanging around up to Jun's studio to see the plans for the new tower he is working on. What an inspiring place!
On the way home, I stopped in Lincoln to see the tower he did there. This one is 52 feet high and is called Ascent. The new tower will be in Omaha and I believe is over 80 feet high.
Go make something.