Visiting artist Bart Vargas opens exhibit at WSC

Kaitlynn Breeden, Staff Writer

Despite growing up in Bellevue, Nebraska, artist Bart Vargas has had many experiences in his career. He received his BFA in Sculpture, with a Minor in Art History, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

After graduating high school, Vargas joined the Air National Guard. He trained at Lackland Air Force in Texas and was later deployed to Istres near the French Riviera. At age 25, he decided the military wasn’t the best fit for him.

“I wasn’t happy in the military but it reinforced work ethic, taught me discipline,” Vargas said. “So, after six years of being in the air force, I tried to find personal fulfillment in something else. When I got out of the air force I didn’t know what to do. All I’ve ever been good at is drawing.”

When Vargas was 28, he enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. To help pay for college he worked as a janitor in the student center at night.

Art supplies tend to be expensive, so Vargas found natural materials to use for his art pieces.

“I realized there was thousands of pounds of trash. I started making stuff out of the trash in the recycle bins,” Vargas said.

He went on to receive his MFA in Sculpture from the University of Minnesota— Twin Cities in 2011.

“I play with the familiarity of these materials by blurring their identities into universal forms like spheres, globes, maps, pyramids, pills and skulls,” Vargas said.

Vargas served a residency at Shangyuan Art Museum in Beijing, China in 2011. He also served a residency at Carver Bank in Omaha in 2012. Carver Bank was the first African-American bank in the state.

For over 30 years, the neighborhood had been neglected. While working at Carver Bank he helped bring art back to a community that needed it. He painted positive words onto paintings around the neighborhood.

He also worked with different youth groups around Omaha, including girl scouts and after school programs.

“I worked at public schools throughout the Midwest with teachers who literally would tell me ‘these students are going nowhere,’” Vargas said. “I got to work with these kids on projects for an exhibition at the Smithsonian.”

Vargas has his work showing in galleries across the globe—some of these places being India, Mexico, and South Korea. Currently, Vargas teaches at both UNO and Metro Community College in Omaha.