Bemis Center helps bring mural to downtown Omaha


Megan Fabry

An image of a mural on the side of a building
“Fertile Ground” is the largest public art project in the history of Omaha. Photo by Megan Fabry/the Gateway

The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts longs to create an open and diverse dialogue on a wide range of topics. To do this, they use the medium of art to reach out and inspire others to share art and conversation.

The Bemis Center has programs that feature exhibitions of artwork in all forms of media and includes work from widely known artists, as well as local artists. One work of art is not featured at the center, but instead is displayed proudly in downtown Omaha.

The Omaha Mural Project: “Fertile Ground” was originally initiated by the Peter Kiewit Institute in 2006 and the process began in 2008. Internationally renowned mural artist Meg Saligman created the massive 32,500 square foot mural and took a little over a year to finish the project.

The mural is located on the east and north wall of the NRG Energy building at 13th and Mike Fahey St. and shows the passage of time by using “back to front” instead of “left to right” composition.

Saligman’s work tells the story of Omaha’s past, present and future by showing historical references and present day communities. The mural is the largest public art project in the history of Omaha and is the largest single-funded mural in the nation.

The subjects of the mural were inspired by photographs of 50 Omaha residents from all across the city, giving a look into the lives of each person.

“The mural has relevance in Omaha,” Saligman said in an interview with KETV. “It has been well received in the community, so that I’m thrilled with.”

In 2017, Saligman and her team of eight artists from around the country returned to Omaha to help restore the mural and protect it from the elements it was exposed to for almost a decade.

The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts has exhibitions that are always free, open to the public and help Omahans see experimental and provocative art forms they otherwise would rarely have the chance to experience.