Close-up shot of artworks of
Close-up shot of artworks of "Shortage" exhibition at Lux Center for the Arts Photographer: Joslyn Schmutte, Lux Communications Director

Lux Center for the Arts’ exhibit partners with Speak Up for Housing Rights

When Katelyn Farneth agreed to hold an exhibition based on the shortage of housing and poverty resources in Lincoln, she never imagined the impact it would have during an unexpected pandemic. 

“We’ve been planning this for a while and then COVID happened and we were like, ‘Oh man, this is even more important,’” said Farneth, exhibitions and gallery shop director for Lux Center for the Arts. 

Farneth said the organizers of Speak Up for Housing Rights, a coalition of local organizations working together to address eviction and housing affordability in Lincoln, reached out to her a year ago about Lux, a community art center in Lincoln, creating art shows addressing eviction and housing resources in Lincoln. Farneth said she created the exhibition “Shortage” to show how a shortage in resources, time and community can affect society members. 

“Lux serves groups of people who don’t have to worry about evictions,” Farneth said. “I think those people are the movers and shakers here in Lincoln, so if you get them talking about something, their voice can help others make actual systemic change.”

“Shortage” features works from seven artists who each presented their personal perspectives and experiences of housing and community resource shortages. Within the 20-plus pieces of artwork in the exhibit, a variety of artistic mediums can be found, ranging from drawings and photographs to video documentaries and metal sculptures. Farneth said that each artwork in the exhibition portrays the artists’ style and perspective of the shortage crisis. 

Lindsey Day, a Lincoln artist, said she contributed three artworks to the exhibition that were mostly focused on the lack of community resources and housing. Day said her pieces, “Curve Appeal,” “Olly Olly Oxen Free” and “From the Rooftops,” express the beauty of public and private places mixed with their visible underlying issues. 

“(These paintings) fit under the community category and that broader discussion of what it means to have a community, what it means to be involved in your own community and whether community is a small thing or a large thing.” 

Day said she is excited to give out the message that people in Lincoln need to be more aware and active about the issues occurring in their communities. 

“I’m just overwhelmed with the possibilities,” Day said. “It’s definitely relevant to our situation right now.” 

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Olly Olly Oxen Free by Lindsey Day. Photographer: Natalie Saenz

“Shortage” premiered on Sept. 4, as a part of First Friday at the Lux, and will remain at Lux until Oct. 30. She said about 80 people showed up for the first day of the premiere, and she noticed a variety of reactions to the exhibit. Farneth said many patrons mentioned their lack of awareness of Lincoln’s housing crisis. 

“It’s supposed to start a conversation but then also be a way for people to take action,” Farneth said. 

Bart Vargas, a contributing artist from Omaha, said his three artworks in the exhibition are focused on food deserts and the shortage of fresh produce and food in low-income communities. Vargas created two artworks out of plastic bottle caps- “The Plastic Future (Egg)” and “The Plastic Present (Earth)”- and one artwork made out of canned food containers- “Food Screwed”- all representing the high consumption of processed food. 

“I hope the audience realizes that food deserts are a problem in our communities. Not everybody has the same access to nutritious, healthy foods,” Vargas said. 

He said he has worked on trash sculptures the last 20 years portraying society’s excess use of plastic, but decided to read Matthew Desmond’s book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” as inspiration for his three sculptures. 

“I hope (my artwork) can make people stop and think. It can be used as a tool for education,” Vargas said. 

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The Plastic Present (Earth) by Bart Vargas Photographer: Joslyn Schmutte, Lux Communications Director

Farneth said “Shortage” is only the beginning of Lux’s collaboration with Speak Up for Housing Rights and will continue doing projects focused on providing information eviction and housing resources. 

“This is the beginning of us starting to dip our toes into more political and strong exhibitions,” Farneth said. “Our intentions have been to make a statement now.”