Tag Archives: Bemis Center

This is Omaha

May 4, 2015 by

FourStarters-1Once

This article appears in May/June 2015 Omaha Magazine.

ONCE 

Orpheum Theater

May 13-17

Winner of eight 2012 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, Once is a truly original Broadway experience featuring an impressive ensemble of actor/musicians who play their own instruments onstage. Based on the Academy Award-winning film, it tells the enchanting tale of a Dublin street musician who’s about to give up on his dream when a beautiful young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs. As the chemistry between them grows, his music soars to powerful new heights, but their unlikely connection turns out to be deeper and more complex than your everyday romance.

The Oscar-winning independent Irish film, Once, was made for $150,000. Shot in 17 days, it went on to gross $20M worldwide, becoming a critically acclaimed international smash. It stars Glen Hansard, from the popular Irish Rock band The Frames, and Markéta Irglová. The duo won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song with “Falling Slowly,” and the film won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Music. The soundtrack was also nominated for two Grammy Awards.

Orpheum Theater

409 S. 16th St. 

TicketOmaha.com

liedcenter.org

FourStarters-2CWS

The College World Series

TD Ameritrade Park Omaha

June 13-23/24

Call it Baseball’s Burning Man. There’s just nothing like it in the world of college sports: One city inextricably linked to the national championship of a major sport. For more than 60 years, college baseball players have had one goal each spring—to keep rolling down that “Road to Omaha.” For many it’s more a week-and-a-half-long vacation, a chance to leave the real world behind at the rebirth of summer and immerse in the unique rhythms and peculiarities of “America’s Pastime.” For 10 days (or 11 days if the 3-game championship series goes to a third game), Omaha adopts the spirit of the game, a vibe built on colorful people, bizarre superstitions, and a freewheeling festival groove. Baseball fans are cool. They’re laid back. They’re friendly. They’re master tailgaters. There’s a reason the series has stayed in Omaha all these years. It’s just hard to imagine any place doing it better.

TD Ameritrade Park Omaha

1200 Mike Fahey St.

Tickets from $30.

cwsomaha.com 

Fourstarters-3friedfood

Omaha Magazine’s Fried Food Festival

Presented by Storz Brewery

Lewis and Clark Landing

June 20

Partnering with Storz Trophy Room Grill & Brewery, Omaha Magazine’s Fried Food Festival promises lots of outdoor fun on Father’s Day weekend. Featuring everything for the fried food foodie, this festival will celebrate all things dipped and battered on the Lewis and Clark Landing from 1 to 6 p.m.

Bringing together street-style vendors, food trucks, and multiple beer gardens is a sure-fire way for dads to load up the calories and enjoy this special weekend. Sticking to a theme we think is only natural for a fried food festival, you’ll enjoy live country music while gobbling down such perfect—if funky—combos as deep-fried pickles and squid.

Enjoy the view of the riverfront while learning a twangy two-step or a do-si-do from professional line dancers. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can try your luck on the mechanical bull. If a little liquid courage is needed, relax in one of the many beer gardens featuring locally brewed Storz beer.

But don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen and bring the kids to the fun zone featuring large inflatable obstacle courses. Admission is free, so bring dad, the kids, and yourself to Omaha’s only Fried Food Festival.

Lewis and Clark Landing 

345 N. Riverfront Dr.

FriedFoodFest.com

FourStarters - 4RiitaIkonen

Riitta Ikonen: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Leaf 

Through June 27

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

Myth, memory, and mysticism. Finnish artist Riitta Ikonen ties together all three, and she does so through long-term, multi-disciplinary projects that she creates alone or in conjunction with regular collaborators. Throughout her work, nature frequently acts as both content and context, with characters literally inhabiting the natural landscape or anthropomorphizing into it.

This is evident in several of the exhibition’s featured projects, including Ikonen’s acclaimed Eyes as Big as Plates series, which she created through an on-going collaboration with photographer Karoline Hjorth. Inspired by Scandinavian folklore, the series documents older inhabitants clad in the artist’s wearable costumes in remote landscapes around the world. Within the solitude of these places, her subjects become one with their surroundings, subtly underscoring the age-old relationship between people and nature.

While each of Ikonen’s projects differ in breadth and scope, at their core they all emphasize the deep and abiding connection as well as the silent, dynamic potential that exists between people and nature, the spaces they inhabit, and the experiences they share.

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

724 S. 12th St.

BemisCenter.org

Loyalty and Pride

February 8, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Ron Dotzler asked his future in-laws for permission to marry their daughter, her mother said no.

“No? Why?”

“Because you’re white.”

Dotzler grew up in rural Iowa, in a small town of about 300 people. “No diversity whatsoever until I went to college and played basketball. Met my wife, fell in love with her…” He shrugs. “I had no clue.”

After a few years of a successful career as a chemical engineer, starting a family, and building a brand new house out west, things settled down. Then Dotzler and his wife Twany announced they were moving to North Omaha as a sort of pit stop before serving overseas in missions. “Her mother went off on me,” Dotzler recalls. “‘We did all we could to get our daughter out of the ghetto, and you’re taking her back?’”

They’ve lived in North Omaha 25 years now. The Dotzlers never did make it overseas.

Instead, the couple works alongside a small staff and a large roster of volunteers as the Abide Network. The organization is one of many groups in the North Omaha area working to infuse neighborhoods north of Cuming Street and east of I-680 with new work, new homes, and new empowerment.

Its reputation

JoAnna LeFlore, interim program director of Bemis Center’s Carver Bank art gallery at 24th and Lake, calls these pockets of activity “bubbles.” “Brigitte over at The Union is a bubble,” she says, referring to Brigitte McQueen, director of the artist residency program at 24th and Burdette. “Love’s Jazz is a bubble. The Empowerment Network. We’re a bubble. If you didn’t grow up in North Omaha, you have no idea what vibrancy is here.”

It’s true that Omahans outside of the vague borders of North Omaha have a certain perception of the area. LeFlore recalls an exchange she had with a bank teller from Bennington after she read LeFlore’s business card. “24th and Lake?” the woman asked. “Isn’t that a bad neighborhood?”

“I just…I took a minute,” LeFlore says with a tired laugh. “And I said, ‘Why would you think that?’ And she said, ‘One of my friends is a police officer, and he told me not to go to that neighborhood.’” LeFlore reverted to her default reaction whenever she runs across someone who relates hearsay. “I listened, and I let her talk.” She pauses. “And then I just told her to come down to Carver Bank and get a sandwich at Big Mama’s.”

The sandwich shop next door to Carver Bank’s gallery and studio space is popular with Creighton students. Grace Krause, a graphic design graduate from Creighton University, has been an intern at Carver Bank for a couple weeks. “I grew up in North Omaha, kind of in the Florence area. I’ve always been a defendant of North Omaha. It’s a really great place; it just has a bad rap.”

JoAnna LeFlore is the interim program director of Bemis Center’s Carver Bank art gallery at 24th and Lake.

JoAnna LeFlore is the interim program director of Bemis Center’s Carver Bank art gallery at 24th and Lake.

LeFlore agrees. “Yes, there are things that happen in this neighborhood that are regrettable, but they also happen all over the city.”

Stats collected by the Abide Network suggest that, while violent crimes do happen all over the city, North Omaha still bears the brunt of them. Dotzler keeps a map covered in red pushpins for every murder (“It’s approximately 820 total”) that’s happened in the city in the 25 years he’s lived in North Omaha. “As you can see, two thirds of them take place right here,” he says, pointing to the area north of Dodge and east of 50th Street.

Its goals

However, Krause’s comments reflect another side of North Omaha, one that statisticians can’t discount. “When you meet people from North Omaha, they’re exceedingly loyal and proud of where they’re from,” says Othello Meadows, lawyer by profession, community developer by chance, and North Omahan by birth. “You always have this feeling of, like I owe something to where I grew up.” His work in Seventy-Five North Revitalization Corporation offers what he calls the best of both worlds. “It’s challenging work intellectually, but there’s also this greater good we’re trying to achieve.”

Through Seventy-Five North, Meadows wants to bring three elements of greater good to North Omaha: high-quality, mixed-income housing; a cradle-to-college educational pipeline; and a network of community services.

“Neighborhoods with good economic diversity are more resilient and economically stable,” Meadows says. “And we’ll create that with a combination of for-sale and for-rent homes.” That means multi-family apartments, single-family homes, and duplexes.

“When you meet people from North Omaha, they’re exceedingly loyal and proud of where they’re from.”
—Othello Meadows

The mixed-income housing is probably the closest of Seventy-Five North’s goals to becoming a reality. The organization owns 23 empty acres where a project called Pleasantview stood near 30th and Parker Streets when Meadows was a child. “If you grew up here, you knew about it,” he says. “It was a really tough place.” When he moved back from practicing law in Georgia in 2008, “they were tearing it down. The cost to rehab it was way more than it was to tear it down. Twenty-three acres with nothing on it. Kind of a rare find.” He plans to break ground on a new apartment building before 2015.

Dotzler, on the other hand, says moving away from rented housing is what the area needs. “Seventy percent of these homes are rental,” he says, referring to the neighborhood where Abide Network is based, “owned by landlords who receive money through Section 8 housing. There’s a reason it’s a good business,” he says. “It’s just bad for our community. Fifty-eight percent of rentals are owned by somebody outside of the community.” Dotzler says that rental properties move people around constantly, making a community lack stability.

Interestingly, lack of stability is what Meadows wants to solve as well but with a combination of rental and market-price homes. “Right now,” he says, “you can’t build a house for what you’d be able to sell it. It’s different to have houses that someone can qualify for versus someone who can pay market rate.”

“It’s important for people to have an option to stay here,” LeFlore agrees, though she also would prefer to see more home ownership in the next five years. 
“Jobs, living situations. Anything that celebrates what’s good will keep people living here.” She adds that another item on her five-year wish list for North Omaha is a strong community development organization. “Something like Othello’s doing,” she says, referring to Seventy-Five North. “Other cities do it. They engage the neighborhoods that exist, and they engage the city to redevelop the neighborhood. So I think in five years that needs to happen. There is no excuse. I think it’s urgent.”

For Dotzler, one point of urgency is neighborhood safety. “The police would tell you a cleaner neighborhood is a safer neighborhood,” Dotzler says, “so let’s mow lawns, let’s pick up trash, let’s fix broken windows, let’s paint over graffiti.” To that end, the Abide Network has for the last six years been steadily “adopting” small blocks of neighborhoods, about 20-25 houses with perhaps four people per house.

The red, dotted line indicates the 23 vacant acres where Pleasantview used to stand and where Seventy-Five North Revitalization Corp. plans to break ground with new apartments by early 2015.

The red, dotted line indicates the 23 vacant acres where Pleasantview used to stand and where Seventy-Five North Revitalization Corp. plans to break ground with new apartments by early 2015.

As Meadows says, “North Omaha is a huge geographic area. It’s critical to take a manageable bite. The person who says they’re going to change North Omaha is nuts. You have to say we’re going to go to work in this neighborhood. And then hopefully you can establish a model that’s replicable.”

That’s just what Abide Network is doing. Since that first block six years ago, the organization has adopted about 100 such neighborhoods, visiting at least once a month to address the fixes that Dotzler lists. They’d like to reach over 700.

Its determination

“We see a lot of emphasis on affordable housing, a lot of emphasis on education, a lot on community services,” Meadows says of the various programs working in North Omaha, “but independently, these don’t get a neighborhood to turn a corner and stay around that corner. You can’t implement these things in any kind of isolated fashion. They really have to work together.”

In fact, one of the reasons the old Pleasantview plot was so attractive to Seventy-Five North (in addition to the vacant 23 acres) was the existence of several already-strong community partners. Meadows lists off just a few: Charles Drew, a federally qualified low-income health-care provider; Salem Baptist Church, the largest African-American congregation in the state; and Urban League of Nebraska, which provides services from job training to parent education.

“It’s our role to coordinate the support that our residents can look forward to,” Meadows says. Housing, education, and services—those elements working together, he says, are what will turn the boat around in North Omaha.

“A small organization like Carver or The Union can only do so much,” LeFlore agrees. “To really market an area of the city, it has to be a communal effort. It has to be a commitment from—well, I don’t know who to put at the table. It’s everyone’s job. Find your place and sit there. Get to the table and have a seat.” She laughs but there’s an element of no-nonsense. “Don’t point the finger and don’t be the naysayer.” LeFlore says she’s tired of hearing ‘We tried that 20 years ago, and it didn’t work.’

“Maybe someone who you meet now can you help you do it right,” she says. “You have to be humble to start a movement. Your ego has to be gone.”