Soon the Omaha Mobile Stage will hit the road and get its wheels moving thanks in part to University of Nebraska-Lincoln architecture students.
The nonprofit, Partners for Liveable Omaha, is teaming up with UNL architecture students in the FACT Studio to create a performing arts stage on wheels that will travel around the Omaha community.
The studio class, Fabrication and Construction Team (FACT), brings nonprofits and communities together through design and construction partnerships.
Jessica Scheuerman, executive director and founder of Partners for Liveable Omaha came up with the idea of the Mobile Stage during the pandemic when many performing artists were out of work.
“People in the creative industry were devastated with 95% of creative workers were underemployed or unemployed at that time (December 2020).” Scheuerman said.
With many people out of work and some disconnected from reality because of too much screen time during the pandemic, Scheuerman thought the Omaha Mobile Stage would be a great way for performing artists to find work and bring the community back together.
“We recognized that, and we understood that we had an opportunity here to develop a project that would provide some opportunity for engaging with that workforce,” Scheuerman said. “Getting communities out into public space, whether it’s at a park, school or garden.”
Scheuerman shared the idea of the Omaha Mobile Stage with Jeffrey Day, a UNL architecture professor, in December of 2020. He agreed to get involved and help along with some of the architecture students at UNL. According to her, with luck and timing, this project worked out.
Scheuerman manages the production of the Omaha Mobile Stage and meets with Day’s class once a week to discuss the process of the project.
“The class is meant to get the best product out through a process of designing and critiquing,” Scheuerman said.
The Omaha Mobile Stage is based on its predecessor, the Good Fellows Show Wagon that travelled across Omaha and Lincoln from the 1950s to early 2000s drawing in hundreds of people at a time to see live performances according to Scheuerman. The Omaha Mobile Stage focuses on easy accessibility of the arts for the community.
Fourth-year UNL architecture students are designing the stage that is being built on an 18-foot box truck. The truck will feature a fold out stage that can come out when the artists are performing and retract when they are moving to the next place.
Mason Burress of Lincoln,a UNL architecture student, produces structural drawings for the project and focuses on the structure of the stage in the box truck.
“Previous coursework has not been on wheels and also it hasn’t been brought to life,” Burress said. “This is something that’s grounded in reality and is also a lot trickier than just designing a building.”
“It shows how you can bring communities together through the arts through different pieces of architecture,” Bangston said.Burress said that he never thought about the impact that a project like this could have on the community until he started working on The Omaha Mobile Stage.
The Omaha Mobile Stage allows architecture students’ dreams and designs to become reality.
Jarod Bangston, another UNL architecture student involved in the project, is part of the stage group for the project and focuses on how the stage functions by unfolding from the body of the truck.
“Mainly since we are actually building it, we are learning a lot of stuff about construction and how stuff actually goes together,” Bangston said. “Our other classes are more like, none of that gets built, it’s just ideas on paper.”
Bangston said that his class has the opportunity to work on the project until the end of this semester because the first concert is approaching quickly. The Omaha Mobile Stage is set to start bringing shows to the community in the spring of 2022.