Omaha Arts Collective Dissolves After Allegations of Racist Practices

April 28, 2021, 4:53 p.m. ·


In a now-viral social media post, the executive director of an Omaha nonprofit called out the twelve members of collective Arts Omaha, which included Lauritzen Gardens and Omaha Performing Arts, for promoting what she called a culture of white supremacy. The collective has now been disbanded.

Brigitte McQueen is Executive Director for the Omaha-based, Union for Contemporary Art, and alleges in her article that the group was a “segregated collective of white executives” that showed bias toward white members when choosing membership.

She also says when petitioning for pandemic funding, their proposal overwhelmingly favored its members to the detriment of non-member organizations and artists.

Andy Saladino is the Executive Director of Amplify Arts, and says that, from his perspective, the article brought to light many things he had long suspected.

“I mean, it was certainly ‘Country Club’ and people not being invited and that's fine, but it also wasn't doing anything and I think sort of the the audacity to to name yourselves Arts Omaha when you are not representing the full sector when those are huge organizations that have had... very little sort of grassroots support on boots on the ground. You know, I think that's very presumptuous and problematic,” says Saladino.

Artstock, a group of over 40 Omaha artists and nonprofits, is run by Amplify Arts and is set to replace Arts Omaha.

Saladino hopes Artstock’s more centralized power structure prevents it from repeating the mistakes of Arts Omaha.

“We hope that Artstock represents an opportunity for the full sector to come together and improve upon itself,” says Saladino. “This is pretty standard practice. Nothing we're doing is revolutionary, it just hasn't been done here and for the arts.”

Since McQueen’s post in early April, members of Arts Omaha have acknowledged her concerns via social media and had been gradually leaving the organization until the Executive Director of Omaha Performing Arts said the collective would be no more.

According to McQueen's article, former members of Omaha Arts included Film Streams, Joslyn Art Museum, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha Children’s Museum, Omaha Performing Arts, Omaha Symphony, The Community Playhouse, The Durham Museum and The Rose Theater.