The Bemis Center’s curator Hesse McGraw will be lecturing at the University of Kansas Friday, April 3rd.  His lecture celebrates contemporary artists who crack up places, communities and social space. Plato thought artists disturbed social order by traversing classes, yet their unique ability to infiltrate social structures creates transformative cultural power. The lecture features artists inventing new life forms, launching community gardens, mapping networks of capitalist corruption and establishing new nation states. It further chronicles the rise of collaborative practices, where artists working with individuals as diverse as architects, doctors, chefs, meteorologists, psychics, ministers and others have madly conjoined formerly discreet disciplines. The talk proposes the integration of artists within urban development, social justice and ecological efforts, with examples of upcoming projects at the Bemis Center with artists working in the expanded field.

At the Bemis Center, which is both a laboratory for artists and a cultural hub, artists reshape their environment, and Omaha’s, on a daily basis. There is benevolent danger in the way art can bring us boldly to our culture’s frayed edge, a place of lurid complexity and enlivened possibility — in the midst of the morass of federally-subsidized greed, artists offer a solution. Let’s put faith in the gift-giving and creativity at the core of art making, rather than the mirage of the engorged self. Art and artists can do something new for life, because not much else can.

Hesse McGraw is the curator at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska. He is the former assistant director of Max Protetch gallery in New York City and was the founding director of Paragraph, a contemporary art gallery operating under the non-profit Urban Culture Project in downtown Kansas City, MO, where he also served as senior editor of Review magazine. He received a BFA from KU in 2001.