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A young woman is seated at a pottery wheel giving a workshop demonstration to three other people who are seated and facing her.

Carleton Weitz Fellows | June 11, 2024

Weitz Fellow Voices: Emily at The Union for Contemporary Art

By Emily Luna

This is a guest blog by one of our Weitz Fellows, Emily Luna. This blog is estimated to take 3 minutes to read.

Hi everyone! My name is Emily Luna (she/they) and I am the Weitz Fellow at The Union for Contemporary Art. In my role at The Union, I’ve had the opportunity to wear many hats, whether that’s supporting our Abundance Garden program, our Populus Fund regranting initiative, or the Co-op Studios. I witnessed The Union’s grand opening of the Shirley Tyree Theater, a new space for community gathering and storytelling, as well as the Kali Baker Studio for our new artist residency program. I have also participated in broader organizational discussions about development, strategic planning, and leadership transition following the announcement of our Founder and Executive Director stepping down from her role. My involvement in all of these facets of The Union has given me valuable insight into the world of arts administration as well as how exactly an arts nonprofit organization may be sustained in the long term.

Since I started last August, my time at The Union has consisted of a lot of exciting learning experiences. Within my first week, I was at work supporting the Abundance Garden’s free produce stands. From what was grown not just in our own garden but also by local community partners, every Saturday we would set up a stand to share produce with regular visitors and newcomers alike. It was really special to get to know community members in this atmosphere: people were happy to see each other and many would hang around after picking up produce, catching each other up on their lives or letting us in on their own gardening journeys. On top of that, I’ve learned so much about urban gardening, seed saving, and food justice through my involvement in the Abundance Garden, which is just one of many ways that the Union operates within a social justice framework.

The Co-Op Studios are another area of programming that I have enjoyed getting to explore. I studied ceramics in college, so given my background, it’s been really fun to apply and expand that skill set within The Union’s ceramics studio. On the daily, this looks like regular ceramics studio maintenance and operational tasks: keeping the studio tidy, mixing glazes, reclaiming/recycling clay, and loading and firing kilns independently. Another way that I’ve contributed to the Co-op Studios is through developing and teaching ceramics workshops. I’ve taught an introduction to trimming workshop, an intermediate wheel throwing class, and I have an underglaze image transfer workshop coming up this month. In addition to acting as part-studio technician and part-educator, I have also been in the ceramics studio as an artist/maker. This started out mostly with my own art practice (making sculptural pottery) but has since evolved into a small-scale production of planter pots and vases to donate/sell at our upcoming produce stands to raise funds for the Abundance Garden. The time I have spent in the ceramics studio in all of these capacities has only allowed me to grow as an artist and professional, and further reinforced my belief in the transformative potential of art.

Overall, I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to work for an organization like The Union. Their commitment to using art as a vehicle for social change has really resonated with me. This commitment has been evident in our engagement with the community of North Omaha and in our work culture, which is deeply people-oriented. Thanks to the time I have spent here, I know that moving forward I want to keep growing as an artist and doing work similar to what I’ve done at The Union: putting people first and overcoming the social and financial barriers that keep people from exploring their potential as artists and creatives.


A large group of people are standing in two lines facing towards each other inside; deep in conversation.

Advocacy | October 19, 2022

Collective Power Through Policy

By Renee Fry, Policy Consultant

This is a guest blog from Renee Fry, Policy Consultant […]

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