Art has always been a vital part of the teenage experience. We take art classes, we perform in music groups, we consider certain fashion trends art. Ultimately, we praise art. Teachers talk about the purpose of art; where we see art in the modern world, but they may sometimes fail to mention the art’s impact on our community and how it inspires individuals daily. According to 402 Arts Collective Administrative Assistant Sara Thomsen, art means something completely different.

“I think art is really just communication and that means that anyone can do it— you can use it to communicate whatever is important to you,” Thomsen said. “It’s really important to be exposed to good music and great art at a young age. Everyone of all ages should be able to create art, see art and do art.”

A couple different things happen at the Collective, but the main thing they teach is one-on-one music lessons. There are roughly 200 people coming there every week taking guitar, piano, and voice lessons. The most popular age group being seven to ten years olds. The Collective also offers classes for middle and high school students. While the majority of students are young teens, 10% of the overall group are adults over the age of 20. There are also some visual art classes in addition to the recording studio, gallery, and the venue. The organization has an open mic night every night, and there are always students wandering around. Some have never played in front of anyone before and it’s a welcoming environment for newcomers.

“We’re all about people trying new things and pursuing their passions and finding what they love”, Thomsen said.

The organization started because executive director and musician Ben Shafer, wanted to find a way to create a community where artists could give back and do something. He wanted to create something meaningful.

Leaving an impact on the community certainly worked out for the organization.  The Collective started collaborating with schools downtown as well as dance class programs at the alternative Omaha Street School. Along with performing at the schools, the Collective makes sure the classes are affordable for anyone.

“We have a lot of generous donors. We have financial aid for people who maybe can’t afford regular priced tuition, and we have a ton of instruments and supplies that have been donated,” Thomsen said. “People have just really come to us and kind of organically created this network of people who all love doing the same thing.”

Thomsen hopes the organization will expand even more and for them to continue inspiring the young generation.  She would love for the 402 to continue to grow in size and to keep impacting more students in the Omaha community. She hopes that the students who go to the Collective are developing not just as musicians but also as a whole people.

“There’s many valuable life lessons that you learn from the experience of trying something new and creating art,” Thomsen said.

The organization has also found its way into the halls of Westside. Junior Ben Brodkey used to be a part of the organization. He found out about the Collective by going to a concert of a teen band from The 402 Rock Academy and another group called “The 402 Street Beats”, these were run by musician Nick Brophy. After the concert, Brodkey and his mother talked to Brophy about the Rock Academy and shortly after, Brodkey was placed in a band of primarily Westside students. They called themselves House Arrest.

The 402 Arts Collective has become a whole community in itself and has become immensely popular in the Benson area and around Omaha. If more students become associated with the Collective more people will become involved with art, and will learn the meaning of it through the experience of trying new things and creating something that they are passionate about.

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