The culmination of Lee Emma Running’s year-long residency with Opera Omaha will be unveiled at KANEKO on November 11.


Omaha, NE — The culmination of Lee Emma Running’s year-long residency with Opera Omaha will be unveiled at KANEKO on November 11.

“Opera Coat”, an enameled cast iron sculpture, embellished with copper and bronze, is “an object of beauty and mystery, inviting an audience to explore the complexity of the objects used in opera represented in the unique tailoring and particular plants” says Running.

Running is a sculptor living and working in Omaha with a studio above Opera Omaha’s production space. “I’m inspired by being adjacent to the rhythms, sounds, and sights of the opera,” says Running. “As someone who makes sculptures and installations, I am curious about the talented people who create the physical elements of opera.”

“Initially, all my conversations with Lee focused on the value of art and creativity and the people who are creating it that we don’t think about all the time. That non-public facing part of art and creativity. This sculpture is about highlighting process, the behind the scenes moments that are not final performance. So much of opera is weeks, months, and years of process for a night or two of performance” says Lauren Medici, Director of Engagement Programs at Opera Omaha. “Lee’s art focuses on bringing attention to elements that we don’t think about.”

In 2022, Running was invited to be an artist in residence for Opera Omaha’s 22/23 season. She watched many rehearsals and performances and was fascinated with the sets, costumes, and lighting that help bring a character and story to life.

“These elements make the stage feel like an installation to me,” says Running. “I spent time talking to the production staff and exploring behind the scenes of a production. I wanted to create a sculpture that celebrates the underlying craft of opera production and identifies specific elements of place.”   

Running selected a coat from one of Opera Omaha’s recent productions to use as the basis for the sculpture.

The coat sculpture is a direct cast, meaning each piece of the sculpture is cast exactly from the fabric. Before casting, the garment was turned inside out, exposing the part of the costume that is usually hidden from the audience, prompting a focus on what goes on behind the curtains and inside an opera company. The exterior fabric is embellished with botanical symbols, wild roses and deadly nightshade have been cast into the iron. The space inside the garment is empty, allowing the viewer to imagine their own body inside the opera coat.

“My hope is that this sculpture will begin a conversation about the many hands that make a production possible and the transformative role of a garment in helping create a character that many people can inhabit over time.”

In addition to her work in Omaha, Running was a resident in the Cast Iron Foundry at the Kohler Arts/Industry Residency in 2023. Most of the casting and enameling of the Opera Coat was completed at the Foundry in Kohler Wisconsin. Surface treatment was completed in Opera Omaha's production space, and the final bronze casting and assembly was completed by Les Bruning Sculpture at Hot Shops Omaha.

The exhibition opening will take place on November 11, 2023, at KANEKO in Omaha. “Opera Coat” will be exhibited through early February and can be viewed during regular KANEKO library hours.

Sparking the curiosity and inspiration of the community stands at the core of Opera Omaha’s programming and KANEKO’s mission. Various engagement events are being planned around the exhibition and most will be free and open to the public.

Opera Omaha hopes that through collaboration and creativity, ripples of the possibilities of opera and art will impact thousands in Omaha.

Exhibition Opening
Saturday, November 11, 2023
Time: 4 PM — 6 PM
KANEKO Library
Free and open to the public.
Drinks and light appetizers provided.
Advance registration is requested - https://operacoatexhibition.rsvpify.com/

KANEKO Library Information
1111 Jones Street, Omaha, NE 68102
Thursday - Saturday 1 pm—7 pm
Sunday 1 pm—6 pm

Event Entrance: Please enter through the west KANEKO Library doors on 12th & Jones Streets

Parking: KANEKO is located in three turn-of-the-century warehouses in Omaha’s historic Old Market district. Street, meter, and service lot parking are available throughout the Old Market.

Accessibility: Our facilities are entirely ADA-accessible. As an organization that encourages the exploration of the creative process, we strive to ensure everyone feels safe and welcome in our space. If you have any accessibility needs, please reach out to us at least 48 hours in advance of this event at info@thekaneko.org

For further information, please visit operaomaha.org/community/opera-coat


About Opera Omaha

Opera Omaha is a growth-minded, high energy, and innovative company with a demanding mission: producing opera performances in multiple formats and styles and co-creating artist-led programs for a variety of community service organizations. We believe the power of opera is transformational, and as a result supports the creation of an inventive, creative, empathetic, and inclusive community that inspires joy, self-discovery, kinder discourse, and opportunity for all.


KANEKO is a non-profit cultural institution that explores human creativity in all of its expressions – in the arts, sciences, humanities and business. Our mission is to create an open space for your mind, a place where imagination has complete freedom and people can begin to see things differently. KANEKO explores creativity and the creative process.


Artist Lee Emma Running in Coat Opera Coat in progress

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