Blue Lion Growth Campaign
For the past four years, The Union for Contemporary Art has provided its services to the community through a 3000 sq. ft. building at 2417 Burdette Street. During that time, we've grown from a staff of one to eight; connected hundreds of children with cultural experiences; helped our local artists achieve their goals of expanding their creative practice and brought thousands of people into the north Omaha community to celebrate the arts. While our current facility served us well during our early years, its size has become a detriment to our sustainability and capacity to effectively serve the needs of our community. Every foot of the building, including closets, is currently being used as programmatic space.
In the fall of 2014, The Union was approached with an opportunity to relocate to our dream building: the Blue Lion Center. For over 100 years, the 22,000 sq. ft. building has served as a cultural institution + gathering space for the north Omaha community. Located just blocks from our current building, the Blue Lion affords us an opportunity to vastly increase our capacity to serve our community, while providing us with a permanent home in the heart of north Omaha's arts + culture district.
In celebration of our 5th anniversary, The Union is raising $5 million to support 5 initiatives that will strengthen our organization and help us better serve our mission.
1. Renovation of our new 16,000 sq. ft. facility in the Blue Lion
Built in the early 1900s, the Blue Lion sits at the heart of north Omaha’s cultural center at North 24th and Lake Streets. The Union is honored to be able to play a role in the $4 million renovation of this culturally significant building, which will support the arts + economic development in the north Omaha community. Our Growth Campaign provides us with an opportunity to:
- Restore a 100 year old cultural institution + community hub in north Omaha
- Create an innovative arts campus for the Greater Omaha creative community
- Support economic development along the North 24th Street corridor
2. Strengthen our sustainability through capacity building
Our 5th year marks a period of accelerated growth for The Union. A key goal for our campaign is to invest in the effectiveness and future sustainability of our organization through capacity building, so that we can strengthen our ability to have a positive impact on the communities we serve. As part of the Campaign, The Union will:
- Secure three years of operating expenses + $500,000 in unrestricted net assets to be used as operating reserves
- Hire program + administrative staff to increase our effectiveness so that we can better serve our mission
- Significantly expand our donor base and strengthen donor stewardship
- Increase professional development access for staff + Board
- Develop opportunities for peer learning, networking + leadership development for staff
- Strengthen collaborations with our community partners
3. Improved Programs + Services for our Local Creative Community
The Campaign allows us to create a true arts campus in north Omaha by expanding and improving our facility. As a result, The Union will be positioned to provide vastly improved support for our local creative community in the following ways:
- Our revamped Fellowship program will provide local artists with a year of support that include better work space, opportunities for mentorship with national artists, a greater materials stipend and increased support for their community projects.
- We will launch redesigned professional development programs + annual lecture series
- The expanded Co-Op Studios will be better equipped, larger and offer greater support for artists
- Our facility will contain an art text library, providing the community with access to books covering everything from theory + art history to artist biographies + how-to manuals
- We will provide greater support for performance artists through our Performing Arts Collective programs
4. Increased Mentorship + Access to the Arts for north Omaha Youth
The Union’s outreach to youth in north Omaha is rooted in research that shows that art-based enrichment and mentoring relationships can make a meaningful difference in the lives of at-risk students in our community. The Blue Lion Growth Campaign allows us to improve and expand out youth engagement in the following ways:
- We are creating a 3000 sq. ft. work space, with a ceramic studio + kitchen, dedicated to our youth programs
- We will offer our free, mentor-based cultural opportunities to children on a daily, after school basis
- Program offerings will be expanded to include the performing arts
5. Expanded Access to the Arts and Greater Civic Engagement for our Community
At The Union, we strive to serve our mission by increasing the visibility of contemporary art forms in our community. At the root of every program we offer is a commitment to unite artists and the community to inspire positive social change in north Omaha. Our move to the Blue Lion provides us with the space to achieve both goals in the following ways:
- The Wanda D. Ewing Gallery becomes a stellar exhibition and performance space, providing 1700 sq. ft. of space for the exhibition of contemporary work.
- The building will house a black box theater, which will provide a platform for the celebrations of the contributions of African-Americans to contemporary theater.
- Our Abundance Garden Project expands to a 6300 sq. ft. community-based urban agriculture hub
- The North Omaha Tool Library is restocked with new equipment + improved community access
- Our programs will be strengthened with a greater emphasis on social practice + community engagement
Blue Lion Growth Campaign Committee
Drew Weitz \\ Campaign Chair | Jamie Berglund | Denise Blaya Powell | Karin Campbell | Machaela Cavanaugh Ryan Ellis | Jason Fischer | Freddie Gray | Tulani Grundy Meadows | Heike Langdon | Nancy Novak | Carol Russell
renovation // leadership team
Architect: Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture \\ Kylie Von Seggern + Nancy Novak
Contractor: Dicon \\ Royce Maynard
Engineer: Morrissey Engineering, Inc. \\ Nick Limpach + Andrew Lang
Structural Engineer: Thompson, Dreessen & Dorner, Inc. \\ Andrew Johnson
Developer + Project Manager: Field Day Development \\ Andrea Kathol