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Inhabiting a neighborhood’s stories

The artist, Watie White, and Habitat for Humanity of Omaha are collaborating on a remarkable endeavor entitled all that ever was, always is. Watie describes the site specific art installation as follows:

My new public art project, part of the All That Ever Was, Always Is series, is a collaboration with Habitat for Humanity of Omaha exploring the rich history within two condemned homes in North Omaha located at 1468 and 1470 Emmet. The homes themselves are used as narrative inspiration, a source for building materials, and a public, albeit temporary, gallery.

For this project I interviewed former residents of the homes, neighbors and community members, and even police officers to collect information about the stories contained in each abandoned structure. From the floorboards and walls of the houses, I unearthed artifacts abandoned by past residents and left suspended in time including old photographs and playbills from movie theaters. As I created each painting, I used the direct sources left behind–letters, photographs, historical documents, household items–to re-imagine the events, memories and dreams that might have taken place in each home throughout its history.

The installation shifts our perceptions, so that instead of centering on dilapidated structures, our focus is on the lives led and continuing to be led within the neighborhood, and the stories and conversations that spring from this community’s experience and our engagement with it.

By releasing the stories held dormant within the physical structures, and interviewing those people whose lives are interwoven in these houses, Watie has reawakened narratives and sparked adaptive conversations and the possibility of new tales.

IMG_0157I toured this area in north Omaha with Amanda Brewer, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, and came to realize that while Habitat’s ostensible activity was the building and repair of houses, its aspirational purpose was to support the positive, organic evolution of flourishing communities. The ecosystems of neighborhoods and neighbors rely upon shared tales and conversation to grow. all that ever was, always is contributes to that, and you can learn more at the opening on Saturday July 19 (details on Watie White’s Facebook page here).  Look our also for Squishtalks programming there in the fall, embracing Peter Cales’s fantastic 30ft table and benches.

In the meantime, take the time now to nurture shared stories in your own neighborhoods. Build your community through conversation.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Updates and a Question | squishtalks

  2. Pingback: Identity and Conversation | squishtalks

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