ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Celest Butler at the Union for Contemporary Arts


By Will Patterson

Celeste Butler is a current member of the Union for Contemporary Art’s Fellowship Program. The Union is a nonprofit organization in north Omaha dedicated to providing resources and artistic opportunities to the local community.

Getting into the Fellowship Program was a major accomplishment for Butler.The Union’s Fellowship Program provides local artists a studio space, a platform and a stipend to help them place their art into the community.

She applied the previous year and had been declined the position. Despite not being accepted her first time, she applied the following year when the Union started providing studio space for fellows. This time she was accepted.

Since joining the program, Butler has helped reach out to the north Omaha community through her art projects. One such project involved having community members attend quilting nights.

According to Butler, some of the notable individuals on the quilt include Omaha’s first black homeowner and Disney’s first black animator. These were just some of the 600 persons who contributed to the final product.

“Celeste is our eldest fellow, and I think that really serves to her benefit in how she connects with people. She tends to have a matriarchal effect and appeal to her,” said Dawaune Hayes, the Union’s communications manager.

Art has always played a significant role in Butler’s life. As a child,her parents encouraged her to explore artistic mediums. Butler and her seven siblings continue to participate or have careers in the arts.

Butler’s art career has been interspersed with other jobs throughout the years. While being a full-time artist in Omaha has been a more recent development, Butler has always used art to make extra money on the side.

Despite approaching the end of her time as fellow, Butler plans on continuing to participate at the Union as a youth program teacher. Additionally, she will be taking on an adjunct teaching position at Metropolitan Community College in the following semester.

“I’m happy that I will continue to help at the Union,” Butler said.