One is an Omaha institution of art history, the other a start-up organization dedicated to artists of the future. Beginning in 2014, they’ll become one in the same.
Joslyn Art Museum announced Wednesday it will assume control of The Kent Bellows Studio & Center for Visual Arts starting Jan. 1, including ownership of the organization’s building at 33rd and Leavenworth Streets and the teen artist mentoring program at its core.
Boards of both organizations approved the move earlier this week. The agreement will dissolve the Kent Bellows Studio & Center for Visual Arts as a stand-alone entity and fold its programming into Joslyn’s department of education and outreach. The two current full-time employees at Kent Bellows will be retained as Joslyn staffers. That includes interim executive director Weston Thomson, who has led the organization since the departure of founding director Anne Meysenburg in April.
The Kent Bellows Mentoring Program matches high school students with professional artists for semester-long programs. Under Joslyn’s purview, it will continue to operate from its current location, which will be renamed the Kent Bellows Studio.
Leadership of both organizations called the development a win-win and said the seeds for the agreement were planted in conversations earlier this year.
For Joslyn Art Museum, the move delivers a greater connection to the Omaha arts community — the list of past and current Kent Bellows mentors is a who’s who of area artists — and engagement with teenager artists who make up the program’s constituency.
“It allows us to diversify our programming and our education outreach, and it allows us to sustain and build and expand this amazing program,” said Jack Becker, executive and CEO of Joslyn Art Museum.
For the Kent Bellows Studio, the move brings sustainability and capacity for growth.
The organization was founded in 2007 by friends and family members of the late, Omaha-based artist Kent Bellows. Board member Deb Bellows Wesselmann said the re-organization is an exciting moment for the friends and family members who founded the nonprofit in her brother Kent’s memory.
“It’s so fitting because my brother Kent spent so much time growing up and throughout his years walking the halls of the Joslyn and studying the masters,” she said. “That’s how he learned his craft.”
Over the past six years, the Kent Bellows Studio has served hundreds of teenagers from more than 25 area high schools, including students from Omaha, Blair, La Vista, Bellevue, Gretna, Council Bluffs and Treynor, Iowa.
This weekend, the organization will receive the Nonprofit Achievement Award at a gala for Voices for Children, recognizing its work with detained youth.