KANEKO shows that even flooding can’t keep good art down


James Knowles

The innovative non-profit was forced to close its doors after flooding caused significant damage. Photo courtesy of KANEKO.

The torrential rain that poured over Omaha on Aug. 7 led to flash floods that damaged much throughout the city, and unfortunately found their way into KANEKO, a non-profit dedicated to the arts, forcing it to temporarily close its doors.

Founded by innovative artist Jun Kaneko, KANEKO has been an established space in Omaha’s Old Market since 1998. The location is comprised of three warehouses, which among other things, features a gallery space that nurtures four major themes through its programming: design, ideas, performance and innovation.

It’s almost needless to say, but the art that KANEKO exhibits is always of a very modern persuasion. Past collections have included the boundary-pushing ceramics of Juan de Dios Sánchez, the glasswork of Therman Statom and the striking masks of Pamela Conyers-Hinson—all of these collections have been free to access by the public.

The art of Jun Kaneko himself not only fits in with the rest of the work exhibited, but seems to guide the selection process, or at least set a benchmark. Kaneko’s creations are abstract and bold, tradition fallen to the wayside. UNO students are already familiar with his style, whether or not they’ve made the connection—a pair of massive heads created by the artist reside on the university’s campuses, one each in Criss Library and Mammel Hall.

Floodwater left much of Omaha’s Old Market submerged on August 7. Photo courtesy of Molly Ashford/The Gateway.

KANEKO was hit hard by the flooding that occurred in Omaha on Aug.t 7. Though the full extent of the damage is unclear, “minimal demolition” is being undertaken in repair efforts, and reconstruction is set to begin. Though these terms might paint the situation as dire, impressive progress seems to have already been made. A newsletter sent out by the institution praises a “herculean” effort to clear and clean the gallery spaces of debris.

All damage discussed by KANEKO’s information releases relates to the building and interior space, not the art housed within. Though it hasn’t been said one way or the other, this journalist would infer that no significant or long-lasting damage was sustained by the pieces on display—no concern about their survival has been expressed, and when it comes down to it, art will always remain KANEKO’s priority.

Staff from UNO’s Criss Library assisted in the restoration on Aug. 11, moving books from the building’s flooded creativity library to safety and assessing them for damage.

Even before the flooding, KANEKO and UNO have had a productive partnership. Jun himself holds an honorary doctorate from the university. Two of his works are displayed in university buildings, and most prominently, both parties collaborated on the previously mentioned KANEKO-UNO Library. The library is described as “an open place for research and exploration,” combining many traditional elements of a library with more modern electronic technology to stay right at the front of progress— a space KANEKO tends to occupy.

The non-profit’s dedication to progress hasn’t been swayed by floodwaters or the damage they caused. Down but not out, KANEKO is mopping up the mess and priming for a well-earned reopening within a few months.