Karin Campbell would never have known about the Omaha art scene had she not become a part of it.
Campbell, Joslyn Art Museum's Phil Willson Curator of Contemporary Art, came to the city a year ago for the first time and quickly decided that it was going to be her new home.
“There is amazing support for the arts here,” she said.
Campbell, who spent some time in Barcelona, Spain, before coming here, also likes the city's low cost of living and its friendly people — though she could take a pass on the weather sometimes.
So far, the 28-year-old Campbell has organized two exhibitions at Joslyn — last year's “Under Pressure,” which featured contemporary prints from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his foundation, and the current installation “Madame Curie,” a large-scale video piece of undulating botanicals by artist Jennifer Steinkamp. That show continues at the museum, which now has free admission, through June 9.
That free admission is something Campbell is excited about.
As a free museum, she said, Joslyn becomes open to anyone — families, artists and art educators included.
“Joslyn should play a big role in the city,” she said. “I am hoping we get more people talking about arts in general. It's a good moment for the arts in Omaha.”
She said she hopes the museum's free admission encourages gallery-goers to just pop in.
“They don't have to feel like they need to spend three hours here to get their money's worth,” she said. “If they want to come in and look at one painting for 15 minutes and then leave, they can. I hope people come in and leave inspired.”
Campbell also is excited about the next exhibition she's working on, which opens this fall.
“Legacy,” a show organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, features a selection of paintings, sculptures and works on paper from the collection of Emily Landau, a widely known collector of postwar art in the U.S.
Themes in the show include representation in the aftermath of Minimalism; gender and racial politics; and the “culture wars” of the 1980s.
The show features some big names, too: Andy Warhol, Glenn Ligon, Sherrie Levine, Agnes Martin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, John Baldessari, Kiki Smith and Ed Ruscha. It opens Sept. 28.
“It really is going to sing in our galleries,” Campbell said. “I am looking forward to seeing how it transforms the space.”
Campbell has at least one piece of advice for the city's art newbies or first-time Joslyn visitors: There's something for almost anyone inside Joslyn's encyclopedic collection.
“Even if you've never engaged with art, that's OK,” she said. “There's a chance you will see something you find beautiful or you want to know more about or that confuses you.”
First-time visitors can read wall labels or take a docent-led tour, she said, to get insight into the artwork.
“We want to be generous to our audiences,” she said. “Don't be afraid to ask questions.”
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