Rethinking the Great Plains

Emerging Terrain, the research-and-design nonprofit, offers a new vision for Omaha.

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Stored Potential, Emerging Terrain’s 2010 debut project, adorned 13 silos of an abandoned grain elevator outside Omaha with 20-by-80-foot graphic banners around
the themes of land use, food, and agriculture.

Courtesy Bryce Bridges

On the outskirts of downtown Omaha rests a hulking, 800-foot-long grain elevator—the kind that was once a familiar sight throughout the Great Plains. Despite having been abandoned years ago and encroached upon by Interstate 80, which shuttles 76,000 commuters between Omaha and the state capital of Lincoln every day, the massive concrete building has been deemed too costly to demolish. So there it stands, for years on end, perhaps out of mind, but never out of sight.

During countless trips past the iconic structure, Nebraska native Anne Trumble saw something beyond the thick silo walls. In 2007, while still commuting once a month from her job at a landscape architecture firm in New York City, Trumble visited a friend whose back deck had a view of the grain elevator. Over a bottle of wine, they came up with what would become a large-scale public art competition, ultimately called Stored Potential, to repurpose the curved exterior facades of the silos.

Through her Omaha-based research and design nonprofit, Emerging Terrain (established in 2010), Trumble issued a call for designs which would be featured on banners to adorn 13 of the silos. Addressing the themes of land use, food, and agriculture, the result was statement-making art, printed on polyester mesh banners, 80 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Up-lit at night, the banners transformed the derelict structure into a super-size, drive-by art gallery.

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