URBAN DESIGN LAB
CHLOE BASS + TEAL GARDNER
BEMIS CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS
JULY 15–NOVEMBER 01, 2014
In Summer 2014, Bemis Center artists-in-residence Chloë Bass and Teal Gardner collaborated with 18 local researchers to shed new light on the nature of our urban landscape. Recruited from local high schools, the researchers first completed research for the Department of Local Affairs. Each teen filled out one of the templates listed below, sharing information about his or her experience of Omaha: making a map, designing a pamphlet, writing a review or offering advice. The shared information ranged from an account of where one student’s relatives lived in the context of her neighborhood to advice about how (and how not to) use particular parks for social activity.
Once trained in the Department of Local Affairs’ interactions and processes, researchers went into the community and asked local residents and workers to share information with the Department. One research day focused on the Old Market area, where teens engaged people at the Omaha Public Library, a coffee shop, an antique store and on the street. The second research day was focused in North Omaha, where teens collected information from people at Carver Bank, Love’s Jazz and Art Center and the Union for Contemporary Art.
Bass then organized the collected materials into a subjective guidebook. The Department of Local Affairs office installation was on view as part of the Urban Design Lab exhibition at the Bemis Center.
The Lab participants, who were recruited from local high schools, toured various parts of the city as field researchers and then synthesized their data in the Bemis’s gallery space, which consists of two parts: Chloë Bass’s The Department of Local Affairs and Teal Gardner’s Reading the City.
At the end of each week of data collection through Department of Local Affairs and Reading the City, the researchers worked as teams to develop as an intentional form of play. They were charged with the task of repurposing the sights and sounds they recorded into new tools and bodies of work, which will be offered to other visitors and participants in this space throughout the exhibition.
Taken as a whole, the Urban Design Lab provides deep, media-rich data about the city in which we live, as well as a new synthesis about the meaning of that data. As a place where new ideas and work are created, the Lab also echoes the ongoing creative processes that are at the heart of the Bemis Center’s internationally-recognized artist residency program.
Photos: Colin Conces