THE UNION FOR CONTEMPORARY ART | ALLEY POYNER MACCHIETTO ARCHITECTURE

AWARDS
AIA CENTRAL STATES DESIGN AWARDS / EXCELLENCE IN INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE_HONOR AWARD / 2017

 
 

THE PROJECT

DESIGN ARCHITECT                     
   
 ALLEY POYNER MACCHIETTO ARCHITECTURE | OMAHA NEBRASKA
OWNER
   THE UNION FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
CONTRACTOR
    DICON
CIVIL ENGINEER
    THOMPSON, DRESSEN & DORNER
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER
   
THOMPSON, DRESSEN & DORNER  
MEP ENGINEER
    MORRISSEY
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT
    CONFLUENCE
THEATRICAL CONSULTANT
    PEERBOLTE CREATIVE
EXHIBIT CONSULTANT
    ESTERHOLD ASSOCIATES
A/V + ACOUSTICS
    AVANT ACOUSTICS

LOCATION             
    OMAHA NEBRASKA
SQUARE FOOTAGE
    23,000 SF
OPENED
    2017  
PHOTOGRAPHY
    
DANA DAMEWOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

 

THE STORY

The North 24th and Lake Streets Historic District one of Omaha’s most significant central business districts. Once a vibrant commercial and entertainment node, the neighborhood had become neglected. Today the district is being restored to its former glory, and the new home for The Union for Contemporary Art is a crowning jewel in the neighborhood’s rebirth.

Since 2011, The Union for Contemporary Art has worked to strengthen the creative culture of the city by supporting local artists and increasing the visibility of contemporary art. The Union’s mission is to unite artists and the community to inspire positive social change in North Omaha. Executive Director Brigitte McQueen-Shew’s vision – that the arts can be a vehicle for social justice and civic engagement – has played a critical role in the resurgence of this vital neighborhood.

In January 2017, The Union moved into its new home in three, combined early-20th century buildings that have been completely transformed to meet the needs of the organization’s various programs. The new space has allowed The Union to increase its capacity and ability to better serve its mission by creating opportunities for them to:

  • Expand their youth mentoring programs from 15 to upwards of 80 children

  • Create 1,700 sq. ft. of exhibition and performance space in a gallery dedicated to the memory of local artist, Wanda D. Ewing

  • Enhance their artist residency program through upgraded studio facilities and broadening the program’s impact on the professional development of local artists

  • Expand and fully-equip their public Co-Op Studios

  • Promote North 24th Street as a growing arts and culture district by anchoring a multi-million investment into a first-class facility

The revitalization of the buildings (nicknamed the Blue Lion in reference to its previous tenants) capitalized on the Historic District designation to make changes that celebrated the original aesthetics of the structures. By reopening the historic storefronts and original corner entry (bricked up in the 1980s) the design team once again created a street presence and an open face to the community. As a community-focused non-profit, it was important to be a strong community partner throughout the design and construction process. Artists and community members were engaged at the start of the design process, providing input on their hopes and aspirations for the new facility. Exterior improvements provide safe and welcoming surroundings in the vicinity. The alley behind the building was cleaned up offering safe access to the building and creating new outdoor gathering space.

The rehabilitated building contains an art gallery, printmaking shop, painting studio, ceramic studio, textile studio, photography dark room, tool library, 50-seat theatre to showcase works by contemporary black playwrights, six private artist studios, and 3,000 square feet of youth studios. Respecting the history of the buildings was a critical component of the project. The team incorporated new wood storefronts along the primary street to replicate the original entrances to the individual bays.  Inside the team worked with the building’s existing fabric –brick walls, skylights, and light well – by selecting understated materials that highlight the structure’s history and allow the art to speak for itself. The six artist studios are raw plywood, creating proverbial “blank canvas” work spaces.

The transformation of the Blue Lion into The Union for Contemporary Art provides an impetus for more community-impacting development in the neighborhood. The group’s presence helps to extend the boundaries of the North Omaha Arts District and helps to reconnect North Omaha with the city’s downtown core. The Union’s new home helps elevate the standard of design in the neighborhood while infusing the neighborhood with new hope and energy as it continues its metamorphosis into one of Omaha’s most culturally relevant and beloved areas.  

 

FULL PROJECT GALLERY

 

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