“Bear Witness” to the impact of community experiences and change at W. Dale Clark Library’s Michael Phipps Gallery

Omaha Public Library (OPL) introduced the final local art exhibition “Bear Witness” at Michael Philips Galley Friday, July 8, 2022. “Bear Witness” portrays the connections between, memory, culture, knowledge, and change, all key components this year at OPL. The four featured artists showcase the transformative and aspirational impact of community experiences and celebrate the connection between art, literacy, and the power of story.

Daniel Castaneda (a.k.a. Sedra D’) connects motion, memory, and culture in his work, standing on firm roots and Indigenous heritage. His love for literature, history, and the magic within them inspire his pieces and reflect his diverse background. For this exhibition, his paintings are inspired by “The Teachings of Don Juan” by Carlos Castaneda, “The Popol Vuh” by Francisco Xavier, "The Alchemist, opens a new window" by Paulo Coelho, the mythological history of “The Rabbit in the Moon” by the Aztecs, and "The Raven, opens a new window" by Edgar Allan Poe. These are the stories that had the most influence on his childhood.

Jacqueline Washington took inspiration from historical moments to call for justice and change. Growing up during the '80s and ’90s, a turbulent historical period, her personal experience and exposure to injustices have shaped her artistic vision. Reflection upon Dr. Martin Luther King’s "I Have A Dream, opens a new window" speech deepened her connection to LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, and motivated her to challenge silence and strive to inspire change. Her series of photographs from the 2020 human rights protests and riots capture powerful moments in history, and emphasize the strength of community experiences and the power of unity.

Jair Rodriguez paints to enable the power of story to connect across generations, reflecting community experiences in community spaces. He believes in the importance of passing on the stories of the past to transform the future. His work emphasizes the connections between generations and the shared memories of communities. He incorporates themes from his culture and traditions as well as assimilation and immigration. Through his mural medium, he sheds light on the complex and multilayered story that is the present with reflections on the past. His inspiration comes from his observations and admiration of the beauty of the present.

Ally Karsyn brings a transformative, interactive project inviting viewers to plant hope for future growth and aspiration. Karsyn sheds the belief that change defines us and redefines change as a pinpoint on a map of endless opportunities and a source of strength. She utilizes her words and poems to take the rein of her own identity to transform, connect, and move forward. Her work explores the edges of how we relate to one another and reframes the spaces we share to find courage, compassion, and connections.

This year marks twenty-five years of art exhibits in the Michael Phipps Gallery. Together, these artists combine into a perfect send-off for a community art space. Bear witness to the end of a generation of stories, art, and community ideas at W. Dale Clark Main Library. Celebrate the connection between art, literacy, and the power of story by visiting the final exhibition in the Michael Phipps Gallery, opens a new window through August 31, 2022.