KANEKO: Putting Omaha on the Map

Some might not realize it yet, but the arts and culture nonprofit KANEKO has fans all over the world.  “KANEKO puts Omaha on the map,” said Samuel Bertino, KANEKO’s Individual Gifts & Community Engagement Manager.  “It’s a place to come and see new and exciting things that are happening. Whenever we have people come in…

Exhibit KANEKO 5

Some might not realize it yet, but the arts and culture nonprofit KANEKO has fans all over the world. 

“KANEKO puts Omaha on the map,” said Samuel Bertino, KANEKO’s Individual Gifts & Community Engagement Manager. 

“It’s a place to come and see new and exciting things that are happening. Whenever we have people come in from out of town, from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, they’re amazed by the space. They have no idea that something like this would be here,” he continued.

Founded by iconic Omaha-based artists Jun and Ree Kaneko in 1998, KANEKO hosts an array of programs, lectures, exhibitions, performances, conferences and events that properly contextualize creativity as elemental to all pursuits, not just the arts.

“We look at how people are creative in business, technology, science, medicine, philosophy. Everything that makes us human,” Bertino said.

Take, for instance, an upcoming talk with John Balistreri, an artist known for his 3D-printed ceramics and his multiple patents related to 3D-printing technology. On Thursday, March 12, from 6 to 7 pm, Balistreri will speak about his work and career alongside special guest Karen Linder, founder and CEO of Tethon3D. In 2011, one of Balistreri’s lectures on his academic research into ceramic 3D printing inspired Linder to found Tethon3D. Now her privately held Omaha company develops materials for ceramic 3D printing and provides modeling, scanning and printing services to a variety of industries.

Such fortuitous collisions embody the spirit of KANEKO. 

The unexpected nature of creativity, the apparent flitting randomness of its appearance, is given its due not as some intangible ghost element striking from the sky, but as a replicable way of thinking about and interacting with the world, one that may result in ingenuity. 

Anchoring the organization’s various offerings are three quarterly programs that purposely investigate these collisions. The MOVEMENT Series, a partnership with tbd. Dance Collective, presents site-specific, multidisciplinary performances focused on modern and contemporary dance. The GENERATOR Series, a partnership with Omaha Under the Radar, presents events that investigate music’s relationship to our physical world. And the PASSAGES Series, KANEKO’s core literary program, offers critical readings, interactive writing workshops and sessions, and events featuring accomplished and diverse authors. 

Exploring the Vitality of Unlikely Ideas

KANEKO’s programming offers a welcome respite from the world of predictable, imitative presentations and humdrum talks. 

Consider last month’s PASSAGES event about the value of wasting time.  

Physicist and author Alan Lightman, author of the 1992 best-selling novel Einstein’s Dreams and 2018’s In Praise of Wasting Time, gave a provocative lecture on the necessity of frittering away at least some of our day. Despite technology allowing us to stay connected always, to jam-pack our schedules with tasks, and to distract us from the slightest hint of boredom, Lightman argued that constant connection, activity, and enjoyment endanger our ability to have an inner life.

“If we’re so crushed by our schedules that we no longer have time to reflect, what have we lost? If we don’t have time to let our minds wander and roam without a goal in mind, what have we lost?” Lightman asked a crowd of about 200 attendees.

“Creativity thrives on unstructured time,” he continued. “It thrives on play, on letting our minds wander…Many of us cannot sit for 15 minutes without external stimulation.”

Such wise, iconoclastic gems are rare in the marketplace of ideas.

The aforementioned John Balistreri lecture this Thursday might also involve a bit of iconoclasm. The artist, active in the realms of both art and technology, will compare and contrast the educational philosophies of his mentors with current trends in art education. He will also discuss several bodies of work he has generated over the past 30 years and the ways in which the Jun Kaneko Studio and the city of Omaha have shaped his artistic development. The event runs from 6 to 7 pm. Admission is free for members and $5 for non-members.

AIM Infotec 2020

New to KANEKO this year will be the AIM Institute’s annual tech conference Infotec

Scheduled for April 17, Infotec 2020 explores 4 of the most relevant topic areas in contemporary technology: AI & machine learning, cloud technology, data & cybersecurity and tech leadership. Keynote speakers include Associate Vice Chancellor of UNMC Pamela Boyers, M.A., Ph.D. and Co-Founder and CEO of Bulu, Paul Jarrett. 

For most of its history, like a lot of conferences, Infotec took place at a nondescript hotel conference center. The move to KANEKO represents the nonprofit organization AIM’s commitment to dismantling barriers to technology, including structural barriers, such as lack of access to tech education, to psychosocial barriers, such as the mistaken notion that tech is an uncreative discipline. 

Well, actually, creativity plays a huge role in technology. 

KANEKO knows this. That’s why the organization frequently hosts tech-focused programming like the erstwhile Big Omaha conference, and the REALITY season, an in-depth look at the way art, science, and technology shape our notion of the real. 

Another benefit of moving Infotec to KANEKO? Attendees can gain inspiration from the work that surrounds them.

During Infotec, the main featured artist in KANEKO’s Bow Truss Gallery will be Juan Sanchez, a Mexico City-based artist who works closely with Jun Kaneko on the latter’s raku-fired artwork.

“Sanchez’s work is going to be amazing to look at,” said Christopher Halbkat, KANEKO’s Design & Marketing Manager.

“There will be plenty of opportunity to see everything that we have in the space,” Bertino added. 

Support KANEKO

KANEKO is an annual membership-based nonprofit. A KANEKO membership directly supports exhibitions, programs, and education, and allows the organization to keep creative exploration accessible to everyone. Core membership confers a number of benefits, including invitations to member events, merchandise discounts, priority registration for camps and workshops, and access and privileges for both the KANEKO-UNO Creative Library and the UNO Criss Library. Students, artists, and educators can purchase a yearlong membership for $30. Individual memberships are $60 per year, and dual or family memberships $100. Additional benefits and privileges are available for higher-tier donors, as detailed on this page: https://thekaneko.org/give/

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