White Gives Voice to Abandoned Homes


July 17th, 2014

Omaha, NE — An Omaha artist’s new project looks to reflect on the stories inside two homes.

One of the houses installed with Watie White's art.

One of the houses installed with Watie White’s art.

This Saturday, Omaha Artist Watie White will open his latest large-scale project entitled All that ever was, always is. The project saw White create and install 51 paintings into the windows of two abandoned homes in North Omaha on 1468 and 1470 Emmet St. The title of the piece came from an interpretation of a Kurt Vonnegut quote.

“The idea of things never really dying, coming back again. It seemed to resonate with this idea,” White said.

The idea was to look inside the abandoned homes and their surrounding neighborhood in order to find the stories of the people that lived there. The process began with interviewing those familiar with the area.

“I interviewed neighbors, police, people who would talk to me on the street. People we were able to track down who used to live in the home, people who grew up near by, to get this rich tapestry of portraits of the lives that those homes led,” he said.

He then looked inside the homes and found bits and pieces of lives found in pictures, etchings, and knick knacks, some that dated back almost 100 years. At one point, White came across the name of a young girl scratched underneath a bedroom cabinet. After some researching, White found the girl, now around his age, and interviewed her for the project.

“I was able to get her to tell me stories of growing up in that house, growing up in that neighborhood,” he said. “Specifically growing up with the family members that she had, the specific tales of growing up with her mother. I was able to get her and her family to act out all those stories for me so that I could use them to structure all the paintings around.”

To create the window paintings, White would create his initial works on paper and then scan them to be enlarged and printed on vinyl. The vinyl printings were then mounted on plywood and then used to board up the houses’ windows from the inside. Each window painting that viewers see from the outside of the homes will match what would have been going on in that specific room.

White interviewed several people for the project. Residents of the neighborhood, police officers that regularly patrol the area, and others. He said the whole project stems from the idea each story of our lives is important. No matter if we are an everyday individual or a king, the stories we share with one another are the most important resource we have.

“Tell me something about you,” he said. “Tell me something about how you relate to where you are now. Tell me personal anecdotes of something that you lived, that you saw, that you heard, that you did. Allow me to have a glimpse into what the intersection of your life and this neighborhood looks like.”

Watie White latest project entitled All that ever was, always is will be available for viewing now until the New Year. The homes are located at 1468 and 1470 Emmet St. This Saturday, July 19th, White will be hosting a viewing and discussion of the site at 10:30 am. For more information on the house-turned-public art gallery, visit www.watiewhite.com.


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