CAROLYN OWEN ANDERSON
1/28/1946 – 10/8/2023
She brought art to underserved populations in Omaha through her work and advocacy. A mentor, role model, leader, visionary, and mother to many.
Carolyn Owen Anderson, founder of the non-profit WhyArts, longtime advocate for accessibility and inclusivity in the arts, passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by family from recently diagnosed esophageal cancer.
Through Carolyn’s eyes, equity, inclusion, empowerment and love drove her passion to build ideas and connect. “I believe art is for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to express yourself,” Carolyn said.
Carolyn’s longtime history of work in the Omaha community spans decades and organizations; Monroe Meyer Institute, JP Lord School, Heartland Family Services, Great Plains Theater Commons, Circle Theater, No More Empty Pots, Benson Theater, Boys and Girls Club, Omaha Children’s Museum, Nebraska Good Beginnings, Lauritzen Gardens and more.
She is a Graduate of Northwestern University, with master’s in agency counseling and Ed.S. in school psychology from University of Northern Colorado.
In 2023, Carolyn received the “McDowall” award from Great Plains Theater Conference. Carolyn is a past recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award from the Nebraska Arts Council for “Access to the Arts” in 2020. She is a past YWCA Woman of the Year in the arts. November 2nd was officially declared “Carolyn Owen Anderson Day” by Mayor Stothert in 2019. She received a Key to the City for her work bringing arts to the underserved in Omaha.
Carolyn’s continued dedication to the organizations she was passionate about continued until her very last days.
Carolyn is survived by her five children, their families, and her rescued Great Pyrenees Lucky. Kalen Mehlman and John Lichtenberg (Phoenix) Ben, Lily, Isa, Gia, Laurie and Charles Kay, Jr. (Omaha) ; Miles and Evie, Steve and Courtney Anderson (Kansas City); Will and *Liesel* Tim Anderson and Katie Bestenlehner (Palatine, IL); Owen, Emmett, Parker, Lila, Anna and Todd Swirczek (Omaha).
A Celebration of Carolyn’s Life will take place on Monday, October 16th, 11AM at the Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass Street).
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Omaha Community Playhouse in honor of the Owen Family Legacy.