Five Questions with Kaneko's Chris Hochstetler

Five Questions with Kaneko's Chris Hochstetler

A view of Kaneko's "Water" exhibition

A view of Kaneko's "Water" exhibition

Photo: Ben Semisch, courtesy of Kaneko

As we prepare to host "Present Tense," our national conference on craft this fall in Omaha, we asked Chris Hochstetler, executive director of Kaneko, to share more about the space, how it's grown, and what visitors can expect this fall.

Since Kaneko was established by Jun and Ree Kaneko in 1998, how has it grown and expanded on its mission?
The Kaneko has grown and expanded its mission, while remaining true to the founder's vision and the vision of the board of directors. From a physical perspective, our presence and capacity has changed so much. Initially, the concept of Kaneko was truly just that: a group of creative minds gathering together to explore creativity and innovation and how that exploration could advance our community and our lives. In 2008, our largest space, the Bow Truss space, was finished in renovation. This unique and beautiful space allowed us to start to host large scale exhibitions, lectures, and performances. So, exposing larger audiences to creative and great minds like designer J. Mays, architect Wallace Cunningham, artist and designer Cedric Hartman, performer and artist Rosanne Cash, scientist Dr. Tyrone Hayes, and author Stephen King, among others, not only became a possibility, but a vital part of Kaneko offerings.

Our space has since grown to a very expansive 60,000 square feet with an additional 5,000 square feet coming in November of this year. Kaneko offers the best in creative exhibition, dialogue, lectures, workshops, and children's programming, including summer camps in robotics, video game design, architecture, and 3D prototyping and design. Additionally, we offer what we call Creative Catalysts, where we partner artists with children to spend workshop time creating a project that later becomes a part of our current exhibition. All of our children's programming is designed to expose and engage underserved children in an opportunity that they may not be able to find elsewhere in our community. We very much are a place where we advance creativity and innovation to impact our community, not only from a personally life enriching perspective, but also from a community innovation and economic perspective.    

What do you think makes the Kaneko such a unique space?
Kaneko is such a unique space because it truly is an "open space for your mind." The space itself has a lifeblood of its own, and you really have to visit it to experience that life and vibrancy. The space exudes the creativity of all who enter here, and those who visit here leave with a fuller understanding of their own creativity, even if that means that they leave in a "questioning" frame of mind. In all of my travels around the world, I have rarely encountered a space and a group of people (volunteers, board members, and staff) who when combined, form a space that infuses visitors and participants with such creativity.
   

Kaneko Water exhibition

Another view of Kaneko's "Water" exhibition

Photo: Ben Semisch, courtesy of Kaneko


Can you tell us about a favorite exhibition or event you held there?
I truly enjoyed our "Water" exhibition this past spring. The contemporary challenge that we face around water quality and production issues produced the perfect time for this exhibition. Fine art, science, and dialogue all collided in perfect concert to showcase an exhibition that was particularly relevant, but also visually stunning. We were reviewed by Smithsonian magazine as well as Sculpture magazine. I believe the artists, scientists, sponsors, volunteers, board members, and staff that participated in this exhibition should be very honored and proud.  

What else can guests expect to discover while they're attending our conference there this October?
I believe that guests at the ACC conference this October will encounter a space and an exhibit that will both excite and challenge them. I think that everyone who attends the conference will walk away with something very unique, personal, and lasting. The vision of our founders is very palpable in this space, and I am excited to welcome the attendees. 

What's something a craft enthusiast should be sure to do if they're visiting Omaha for the first time?
Omaha – in particular the Old Market District – is truly a gem. There are wonderful works of art and craft to visit in all kinds of nooks and crannies throughout. With many of these in walking distance of the Kaneko, I believe it will be the perfect place for craft and art enthusiasts to enjoy, revel, and share. My advice would be to immerse yourself in the Old Market.