A Line or Two: A Hypercreative Omaha Idea for Minneapolis/St. Paul
While doing some research on art in Omaha, I ran across the web site of a remarkable institution in that city: Kaneko
. It bills itself this way: "Not a museum--not a gallery--not a library or a research center—but an open space for open minds."
The negative definition is an intentional paradox, because Kaneko does display art, assemble ideas, host performances. But its real goal is to understand and promote the creative process, both within—and well beyond--the arts.
It was founded by Japanese-born sculptor and ceramist Jun Kaneko
and his wife, Ree. The internationally known artist is one of the major catalysts of Omaha's burgeoning art scene. But the art-component at Kaneko is only the starting point for creative thinking, and the Kaneko building, a former dairy processing plant and truck-repair garage, is a space where artists, musicians, designers, and other professional creators rub elbows with creativity theorists, urbanists, scientists, and other types of thinker--the goal being to support as wide a definition of creativity in as many fields as possible.
Advisors and friends of Kaneko include some major names: Columbia University philosopher and art critic Arthur C. Danto
, anthropologist Wade Davis
, artist Chris Burden
, and Twin Cities-based composer Libby Larsen
, to name a few.
Kaneko has hosted Vienna-and-Los-Angeles-based exhibition designer Peter Noever
in a discussion of his byword, "design is to think." It's welcomed creativity consultant and author Shelley Carson
, leading a workshop on the brain science of creativity, and sculptor John Balistreri
, discussing how he uses digital rapid prototyping technology to create ceramic art objects. A panel discussion entitled "Undivided Lives" featured psychologist and CEO of the Apogee Group Roger Fransecky
together with a photographer/publisher, a stockbroker/sculptor, a medical researcher/songwriter, and others balancing "real jobs" with serious creative pursuits in "A Conversation About Career and Creativity."
Coming up: an exhibition of photos from Chernobyl, a discussion of a new energy economy for the Midwest, creativity expert Keith Sawyer
on the implications of jazz improvisation for group creativity, and Jun Kaneko himself discussing his scene designs for the San Francisco Opera's production
of Mozart's The Magic Flute.
I called Heike Langdon, Kaneko's events and community relations manager, for her take on Kaneko's mission and how it works. "We try to be a place where creativity is fostered and supported, and that can be in anything from business to research to the arts," she said. "It's made for some interesting combinations. We had Rosanne Cash and Dr. Daniel Levitin come and talk about creativity. Cash spoke as a creative person who had gone through a traumatic brain malfunction, and Levitin approached the topic from the science of the brain."
For Langdon, Kaneko's arts orientation helps open up dialogue and thought. "I think what happens is that people come into the space allowing themselves to be a little more open because we're an arts organization." she says. "We may be feeding them business or science, but they feel freer than they might in a strictly business or scientific atmosphere."
An Example for Us?
Here in the Twin Cities we already have a rich mix of art museums, art galleries, concert halls, and wide-open performance venues--and many forums where innovative ideas are discussed. But what about a place in the Kaneko spirit: a permanent space, widely publicized and open to all, whose goal is to regularly bring artistic creativity under the same roof as political, social, scientific, and business creativity—and see what happens?
Local heroes like Works Progress
are moving in this direction. Most of our local arts institutions, from the Walker on down, engage ideas--particularly issues of social and economic justice--that reach beyond the gallery space. But what The Kaneko aspires to be—a hybrid of a Walker-style art center and the TED talks, an open-form innovation forum fueled by the try-anything spirit of the arts—would be something new for us, and something very exciting.
Photo: Screen grab from a video of Los Angeles Times journalist Sonia Nazario in a discussion of immigration and education at Kaneko.