By Travis Wood
From atypical art to Legos, Kaneko is an Old Market institution dedicated to the community as an open space for your mind.
Kaneko may seem like just an art gallery to the uninitiated, but they invite people to use the facility to explore the creative process. Jun Kaneko is a Japanese-born, Omaha artist known for his work in ceramics. He started Kaneko in 1998 with his wife, Ree, to create a space to foster such creativity.
“Kaneko is about creating a space that acts as a catalyst and facilitates creativity and exploration of creativity,” said Michael Hollins, program director for Kaneko. “Everybody implements and utilizes the creative process in their daily lives. Doesn’t matter if you’re a fine artist making a ceramic piece, or you’re a salesman trying to push a product.”
One of Kaneko’s biggest features is their art gallery, highlighting pieces that might not be considered art at first glance. “Play,” the previous exhibit, utilized art that functioned as toys for children to play with. The upcoming exhibit, “Design in Motion,” will look at the design of automobiles and bicycles and focus on the concepts of movement, transportation, lines and curves.
Lindsey McDonald, a communications assistant and gallery attendant, says the art at Kaneko has more room for interpretation.
“In other places, there are placards on the wall explaining what the art piece is or what it’s meant to do to you, what sense it is supposed to touch on. Whereas here, you come in and you decide,” McDonald said. “So it gives autonomy to the public in a way that I don’t think other spaces really touch on.”
Kaneko and the University of Nebraska at Omaha formed a partnership in 2009 to bring Omaha and UNO students a new community resource – the Kaneko-UNO Library. The space is meant to provide materials and creative opportunities that might not be found in an everyday library.
“For me it’s a space that can trigger new ideas,” said Melinda Kozel, library manager. “It’s set up to be a great place to collaborate with other people, find really interesting resources that you can’t find in other places.”
Many of the books are more visually interesting rather than text-heavy, Kozel said. This can be helpful for finding visuals to supplement a presentation, for ex- ample. However Kozel recognizes there are more materials at Criss Library, but insists that each library has its purpose.
“Most of our materials are about fine arts and design and architec- ture…but we also have materials about business, computer science and cooking,” Kozel said. “So if you’re doing a little bit more academic research, Criss Library is probably your best way to go.”
Kaneko’s collection also features many books from local artists and writers, Kozel says. They also have other works that compliment Kaneko’s current exhibits. The books will soon go into circulation on Sept. 24, able to be checked out and taken home.
Kozel says the library also features conference room space, a cassette deck and turn table, music editing software called Reaper and a “pretty impressive” collection of Legos.
However, the library is not only dedicated to UNO students, it is free and open to the public.
“If you are a freelancer who just wants a different place to work, it’s a great place for you.” Kozel said. “If you just wanted to come and be inspired, if you wanted to have a cup of coffee and read a good book, or listen to an album it’s a place for that.”
Library hours go from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the “Design in Motion” exhibit will run from Sept. 22 through Jan. 2. For more information visit www.thekaneko.org.