North Omaha Tool Library
Want to start a garden? You’ll need tools for that. Want to renovate your bathroom? You’ll need tools for that, too. For any project you may have, tools are available for your use at the North Omaha Tool Library thanks to artist Kjell Peterson.
Kjell created the tool library while he was participating in a fellowship at the Union for Contemporary Art. As a part of its yearly fellowship program, the Union selects 10 artists and provides them with studio space, a stipend and professional development opportunities. The program culminates with a group gallery show.
As part of the program, the Union asks the artists to commit a portion of their time to North Omaha. Artists are encouraged to engage the community through their artwork or volunteer work. Due to his passion for gardening, Kjell thought a tool library would be a great resource.
“The idea was that people could come to the library and rent tools to use for home projects or in their gardens,” explains Paige Reitz, program coordinator at the Union. People are welcome to come and borrow tools at no charge. The library houses saws, air compressors, hoses, shovels, hammers and more. Even more incredible, checkout is documented merely on the honor system.
In addition to the tool library, Kjell also started a garden outside the Union’s building, located in North Omaha at 24th and Burdette streets.
“Gardening is a huge part of our mission. We provide garden education and have a steady group of kids who come to the Union every Saturday to take part in cooking classes,” says Paige.
Food education is one part of the Union’s youth outreach program. Kids now not only learn different art and craft techniques but also how to cook. “We were providing snacks and then we realized with the population of kids we have that hunger is a big problem. They come and they’re hungry, so we ramped up what we were feeding them,” Paige says. Initially, the kids only helped pick vegetables from the garden, but they expressed interest in assisting with the prepping and cooking process as well.
Favorites include pumpkin chili, roasted beets and veggie pizzas made in the Union’s brick-fired oven, built by another member of the fellowship.
“We are working toward having a market where the kids run the show because we have so much produce. I think the market would give the kids an opportunity to grow in their leadership and entrepreneurial skills,” Paige says.