Art at Any Age


For the last two weeks we have been working at The Union for Contemporary Art, and have gotten to discover the contagious creativity that comes from working in an office that is also an art studio.

The Union has multiple co-op art spaces that host free public classes and are open to anyone for a $40 six-month membership fee. Members have access to their wood shop, ceramic studio, dark room, screen print shop and tool library.The Union hosts five artist fellows whose studios are spread out throughout the building. The fellows come and go creating work throughout the week. On Saturdays the Union offers a free three-hour art class to kids in the neighborhood.  Most desks, including the ones Serena and I are stationed at, have left over paint dried in some corner and serve multiple purposes depending on the day.

[Fellow Dan Crane and print shop tech Josh Norton at work at The Union for Contemporary Art]

As an adult artist who isn’t pursuing fine arts professionally, being at the Union is incredible exciting and refreshing. Most art spaces reserved for adults tend to have a somewhat sterile, elitist gallery or museum feel to them. I haven’t been in a space where I feel like an artist despite my amateur technical skills and lack of experience since summer camp. Growing up, I thought of art as something anyone could do if they had imagination and interest, but with age it has turned into something reserved for the select few who can afford a degree in something society has deemed impractical.  The Union challenges that narrative and is changing Omaha’s understanding of who gets to makes art.

While on this journey I have been thinking a lot about what I want in a career and often the question comes down to: do I want to live to work or work to live? Meaning, do I want to find a job that can pay me well while I pursue my creative passions on the side, or am I committed to finding a job that is intellectually and artistically stimulating regardless of pay? I am incredibly privileged to even be able to make that decision; I don’t have debt and currently no dependents. Obviously this isn’t the case for most Americans. Most Americans work out of necessity, and the economy depends on construction, manufacturing and service jobs that may not always provide creative or intellectual stimulation. I often hear people joke that they, “can’t afford to call themselves artists,” and there is truth in that statement. Unfortunately, not everyone can make a living doing what they love. However, as The Union’s model proves, most everyone should be able to afford to make art.

— Anya