Tag Archives: Chicago

Sentimental Journey

May 3, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Michael Heaton had a royal curiosity, which he ultimately satisfied by buying a palace.

Eleven years ago, Heaton and partner Barry Burt happily occupied an adorable English Tudor home in Florence, which they had lovingly remodeled. That’s when the Chiodo Palace came calling.

“I never thought we’d leave [the Florence house], but my friend Christy, who’d just started with NP Dodge, said ‘Michael, you’ve got to come look at this amazing house with me,’” Heaton says. “So, we came to look four times and would just sit on the floor fantasizing about living here…then we just went for it. I’ve never regretted it. It’s been an adventure.”

The Chiodo Palace, near 25th and Leavenworth, was built in 1922 by Vincenzo Pietro Chiodo. Burt and Heaton, together nearly 20 years, have worked diligently to preserve the legacy of one of one of Omaha’s more unique, storied homes since purchasing it in 2006.

Chiodo immigrated from Southern Italy to the United States in 1885 at age 16. He studied in Chicago before settling in Omaha, where he operated a tailor shop, then found his fortune in real estate.

“He owned 50 homes in the area,” Heaton says. “This was one of many he built, and his primary residence.”

According to the Nebraska State Historical Society, Chiodo wasn’t so much an architect or builder himself, but he had ample vision and funds to support the proliferation of his real estate empire.

“He was billed the first Italian millionaire in Omaha and was also very politically active,” Heaton says.

In fact, Chiodo was an Elk and a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus. His titles included Italian Vice Consul of Omaha, State Supreme Deputy of the Sons of Italy, Knight of the House of Savoy, and Cavalier of the Order of St. Gregory.

Heaton lights up when sharing stories of days gone by in his abode, many of which were relayed by longtime neighbor Angelo Bonacci, now deceased, who worked at the Chiodo Palace as a young man when it functioned as the consulate.

“Chiodo was very popular, and described as an elegant man,” Heaton says. “He could be seen walking the neighborhood and his domain wearing a long, white fur coat. When the Santa Lucia Festival parade made its way through the neighborhood, they always stopped in front of the Chiodo Palace and saluted Vincenzo, who’d be sitting up on his veranda. You can just picture him up there with the crowds passing by.”

“‘Chiodo Palace’ is what Angelo said they called it,” says Heaton, who believes the moniker comes from “palazzo”—Italian for a large, palatial building.

Chiodo passed away in 1949 at age 80, but his grand domicile lived on to weather years of general dirt and disrepair, water damage, and updates like ill-placed drop ceilings and gaudy, yellow wallpaper that spoiled or obscured the home’s unique character and verve.

Heaton and Burt, who are members of Restoration Exchange Omaha, purchased the house to preserve its history.

“We knew it had been an important house in the past and, seeing the sad condition, we thought we could have some fun, restore its appeal, and get the history back as much as possible,” Heaton says.

For Heaton, who owns and operates Legacy Art & Frame in Dundee, preserving historical homes and objects is a longtime interest.

“The house is a mix of styles,” he says. “The outside is very Craftsman. There’s some Italianate detail with the dentil molding around the tops of the eaves. The stained-glass windows are a mix: Some [feature] traditional designs, but in the dining room there’s a very Frank Lloyd Wright Mission-style design. So, there are unexpected elements here and there.”

The interior swims with stunning, rich mahogany woodwork, accented by a striking fireplace constructed of rough-hewn, imported Burmese stone. Colorful, original tile surrounds the floor of the fireplace, featuring a horseshoe that’s open into the room and closed toward the hearth.

“That was to deter unwanted spirits from entering the home through the fireplace,” Heaton says.

In the sunroom above another fireplace, a large painting in memoriam to Chiodo’s wife and daughter, both named Caroline, remains molded right onto the wall.

Ornate, hand-painted, original murals on linen grace the tops of walls throughout the main floor.

“Each of these murals depicts different aspects of Italian culture and Roman life,” Heaton says of the incredible illustrations of accolades, life phases, arts, animals, and plants.

“I love these dragons,” Heaton says, zeroing in on a mural. “They’re griffins, protectors of the empire, and their protection allows wealth and prosperity to extend from them, so they turn into these leaves. I’m just so glad no one ever ruined them.”

Part of one dining room mural suffered water damage prior to his ownership, so Heaton completely—and 100 percent convincingly—reconstructed it.

“I rebuilt the wall, put linen on the top, created a stencil off another wall, transferred it, and then, over about four weeks, hand-painted it,” he says.

With the scope of work Heaton puts into his home and a handful of rental properties, you’d think he had extensive training, but no. He says just the occasional HGTV show or YouTube video help him complete home projects.

“My grandfather was a real hands-on kind of guy, so I learned lots about working with wood, building, and fixing from watching him,” Heaton says. “He could do it all, so I just kind of hung out with him a lot.”

Like Heaton and Burt, Chiodo himself preserved Omaha history.

“Chiodo was a preservationist way ahead of his time,” Heaton says. “He got the salvage rights to the original county jail and courthouse, and used all of the marble, stones, cobblestones, and other materials he harvested from that in several of his other properties.”

We’ll never know whether Chiodo was a sentimental preservationist, simply a cunning businessman, or perhaps both. As for Heaton, that case is closed.

“I’m painfully sentimental,” he says. “That’s my inspiration.”

Visit Legacy Art & Frame on Facebook for more information about the homeowners’ business.

This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

2017 May/June Performances

May 1, 2017 by and

*CatherlandThrough May 14 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. A budding author and her husband head to Red Cloud, Nebraska, to begin a simpler life, but a slew of mysterious guests prove that there’s nothing simple about small-town living. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $25 general admission; $20 students, seniors (65+), and TAG members. 402-341-2757.
shelterbelt.org

MOMIX Opus Cactus: May 4 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The internationally acclaimed dancer-illusionists troupe, directed by Moses Pendleton, presents a show for all ages. The troupe creates a visual journey into the hidden secrets of the Southwestern desert by bringing all of its creatures to life. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $20-$45. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Superior DonutsMay 5-June 4 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Taking place in the historic, diverse Uptown neighborhood of Chicago and written by Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright Tracy Letts, this provocative comedy explores the challenges of embracing the past and the redemptive power of friendship. Times vary. Tickets: $36 adults, $22 students. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Symphony—The Music of Star Wars: May 6 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Music from all seven episodes of Star Wars will be featured, conducted by Ernest Richardson. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$89. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Florentine Players’ 53rd Annual Melodrama: May 11-13 at Florence City Hall, 2864 State St. Written by Nebraska natives, this is a story of “Omaha’s only shipwreck” in 1965. 7 p.m. Tickets: $10 general admission; $8 seniors (65+), TAG members, or groups of 8 or more. 402-453-4280.
florencetheater.org

Omaha Symphony—Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein: May 13-14 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Conducted by Ted Sperling, a Broadway cast and the Omaha Symphony perform favorites from The Sound of Music, The King and I, Oklahoma!, and South Pacific. 7:30 p.m. May 13; 2 p.m. May 14. Tickets: $19-$79. 402-345-0606.
—ticketomaha.com

The Met: Live in HD: Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss): May 13 and 17 at Film Streams, 1340 Mike Fahey St. The Met’s final performance for this season features Renée Fleming as the Marschallin and Elīna Garanča as Octavian. 11:30 a.m. May 13; 6 p.m. May 17. Tickets: $10-$24. 402-933-0259.
filmstreams.org

All the King’s WomenMay 15-21 at Bellevue Little Theatre, 203 E. Mission Ave. Obsessed women who encounter Elvis Presley in everyday situations grant theatrical insight into the man rather than the rock ’n’ roll superstar. Times vary. Tickets: $20 adults, $18 seniors (60+), $10 students. 402-291-1554.
bellevuelittletheatre.com

Something Rotten!May 16-21 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Set in 1595, this comedy tells the tale of two brothers desperate to write the world’s very first musical. Times vary. Tickets: $35-$95. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Rebellion Ends: An Apollon Star Wars Story: May 18-27 at The Apollon, 1801 Vinton St. With the rebels wiped out once and for all, Emperor Palpatine announces details for the largest mandatory celebration in history to mark the anniversary of the rise of the Galactic Empire. 7:30 p.m. Admission: $35 adults, $25 students and TAG members. 402-884-0135.
apollonomaha.com

Joey Alexander Trio: May 19 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. One of today’s most talked-about jazz artists, this 12-year-old Indonesian piano prodigy and 2016 Grammy-nominee performs classic songs and original compositions. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20-$35. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: May 26-June 25 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. The classic tale of Belle and the Beast is back with spectacular sets and costumes. Times vary. Tickets: $42 adults, $25 students Thursday-Sunday; $32 adults, $20 students Wednesday. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Symphony–Mahler’s Ninth Symphony: June 2-3 at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. The symphony performs this rich, emotional orchestration for the first time in more than 20 years. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$70. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Peter Pan: June 2-18 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St. This musical rendition features fabulous flying effects and the iconic songs “I’m Flying,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” and “Never Never Land.” Times vary. Tickets: $22-$27 general admission, $15-$20 for members. 402-345-4869.
rosetheater.org

Rent—20th Anniversary Tour: June 3-4 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-Winning musical from 1996 follows the lives of seven struggling artists trying to follow their dreams without selling out. Times vary. Tickets: $40-$105. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Girls Like Us: June 15-25 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. This show, based off the book by the same title, showcases the work of groundbreaking singer-songwriters Carole King, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell. 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $40. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Shakespeare On The Green: King Lear: June 22-25 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Pack a picnic and bring lawn chairs or blankets, as King Lear attempts to fight against impending mortality along with the inevitable loss of his kingdom and his crown. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Shakespeare On The Green: The Merry Wives of Windsor: June 29-July 1 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Windsor is at a crossroads. All the elements that constitute the town—social strata, tradition, morality, religion, characters, the English language itself—are turned upside down. Don’t forget a picnic basket and seats. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com


This calendar is published as shown in the print edition

We welcome you to submit events to our print calendar. Please email event details and a 300 ppi photograph three months in advance to: editintern@omahamagazine.com


*Event times and details may change. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

Brew Almighty

January 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The term “act of God” can conjure images of broken levees, tree trunks on car roofs, or even incredibly bad hair days. But for Belgian farmers, it once signified pints of seemingly heaven-sent brewskis.

After harvest, the farmers crushed and boiled leftover grains, leaving them in open casks. Fast forward a couple of months, and the farmers returned to their casks to find them miraculously filled with beer. We now know it was less miracle and more wild yeast blowing in to ferment the wort that created the beer, but the farmers considered it a brilliant “act of God”—or, in Latin, “vis major.” This history inspired the name of Lindsey and Tom Clements’ Vis Major Brewery, which has been a passion project since its genesis.

The couple met in Omaha in 2008, before relocating to Chicago, where they developed a love of craft beer.

“It quickly grew into a passion,” Lindsey says. “Before long, our interest [in] and love for craft beer evolved into homebrewing for fun.”

The couple married in 2011 and returned to Omaha in 2012. That is when they got serious about homebrewing—getting new equipment and graduating from the typical novice extraction process to mashing their own grain. Within a couple years, Vis Major was serving suds at beer fests and other local events. Now, the Clements are polishing off the plans for their brick and mortar Vis Major Brewery, located at 3501 Center Street and slated to open in spring 2017.

The three-story building on the cusp of the Field Club and Hanscom Park neighborhoods was once Clanton’s Grocery. Tom will make beer in the walkout basement. The main floor taproom will seat about 40 people, with an additional private party space.

“We were attracted to the neighborhood because it’s so community-centric,” Lindsey says. “Families there aren’t just neighbors, they’re friends, and they’re really engaged with each other.”

Tom, a former Marine who works as an aircraft mechanic, is the head brewer, pinning down the technical side of the couple’s craft beer vision and ultimately bringing it to life in the clinking glasses of happy Vis Major drinkers. Lindsey handles marketing for Vis Major and works for a local craft beer distributor, which has provided invaluable experience and knowledge of the industry.

vismajorWith Vis Major, the Clements aim to “push the palate of the true craft beer drinker” while also offering styles appealing to entry-level drinkers.

“We want to make beer for people who, like us, are passionate about craft beer,” Lindsey says. “We love exploring craft beer, and I think that’s partially why we had such a great response at tastings.”

The five flagship Vis Major beers are Amen American Wheat, Psalm Saison, Convert Citra IPA, 9th Plague Black IPA, and Almighty Stout. Seasonal brews like summer refresher Eden’s Apricot and autumn ace Proverbial Pumpkin, a Let There Be Hops SMASH Series, and several creative limited release beers round out the existing lineup.

In bringing their dream to life as 100 percent owners of Vis Major Brewing, the Clements have faced their share of financial and other hurdles that might have tried even the patience of Job. But if timing is everything, then Vis Major may be right on time in terms of consumer interest. According the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild, in-state sales of Nebraska-brewed beer have grown steadily for years, with nearly a 23 percent increase in 2015 alone.

“There isn’t a brewer out there that didn’t start as a homebrewer,” Lindsey says. “We hope to bring people into the fold of craft breweries. With our location, we see the opportunity to be the neighborhood brewery. Rather than focusing on mass production, we want to create a friendly neighborhood environment that’s welcoming to everyone.”

Visit vismajorbrewing.com for more information.

Clarence Wigington

December 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When she lived a block away, Linda Williams would pass the Broomfield duplex at 25th and Lake streets almost every day. That was a little more than a decade ago.

As she walked past the duplex, she remembers thinking, “There is something interesting about that building…something I really like.” She liked the diamond shapes inside the top border, the hints of classical style in the columns in the front, as well as the rhythm and symmetry in the arched windows.

She did not know what made the building so special until a 2002 trip to the Great Plains Black History Museum.

clarencewigington2It turned out that the Broomfield duplex, built in 1913, was indeed special. In 1909, it won first prize for “best two-family brick dwelling” in a national competition sponsored by Good Housekeeping magazine. The duplex’s 2502-2504 Lake St. address was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, too.

But what made it particularly significant was that it was one of many residential structures in the area designed by Nebraska’s first African-American architect and also the nation’s first African-American municipal architect—Clarence W. “Cap” Wigington.

Williams was shocked. She had a Bachelor of Science in design from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Architecture, and this was the first time she had ever heard about Wigington.

“I thought, ‘If I’m educated and I don’t know about him, there are a lot of other people who don’t know about him,’” Williams says. “So ever since then, I’ve been spreading the word about him.”

Williams, who works in the architecture field, has spent the last several years working to shine light onto Wigington’s work. She has presented seminars about Wigington for the Douglas County Historical Society and currently leads Restoration Exchange Omaha’s North 24th Street Walking Tour, which highlights three of Wigington’s significant Omaha buildings.

Wigington was born in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1883 and his family moved to Omaha shortly thereafter. Wigington graduated from Central High School (then Omaha High School) at age 15 and worked for the prominent Nebraska architect Thomas Kimball for six years before opening his own office. While he was in Omaha, he designed almost a dozen homes by independent commission, mostly in his North Omaha neighborhood. In 1914, he and his family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he served as a senior designer for the City of St. Paul for 34 years. He designed several municipal buildings as well as monumental ice palaces for the St. Paul Winter Carnival in the 1930s and 1940s. He passed away in Kansas City in 1967 at age 84.

While Williams highlights several structures on her 24th Street tour, including Kimball’s Black History Museum and the Jewel Building (designed by F.A. Henninger), she spends a significant amount of time and effort explaining the three buildings on the route by Wigington.

She talks about the Broomfield duplex and the fact that it was actually one of two identical duplexes on the corner designed by Wigington. The second, called the Crutchfield duplex, was destroyed by a fire in the 1980s. Williams talks about Zion Baptist Church at 2215 Grant St., another structure on the National Register with big classical columns, original stained glass windows, and a cornerstone with Wigington’s name. And she talks about the prairie style and craftsman elements of St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Church at 617 N. 18th St., which Wigington helped remodel.

“I thought, ‘If I’m educated and I don’t know about him, there are a lot of other people who don’t know about him. So ever since then, I’ve been spreading the word about him.”  -Linda Williams

Williams’ dedication has so far caught the attention of architecture and preservation aficionados in Omaha and nationwide. In 2015, she won a diversity scholarship through Historic New England and she was recently named a Diversity Scholar by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Another recent honor was particularly significant to Williams, even though it was not even for her. In October, the Central High Alumni Association inducted Wigington into their hall of fame. Since no one from Wigington’s family was able to accept the award, Williams was asked to accept on their behalf. Williams plans to deliver the award to the family, who live in Chicago, this year.

It was a humbling honor to accept the award and a humbling duty to continue sharing Wigington’s legacy with everyone who will listen. She says it is important for people to know not only what he did, but that he accomplished so much during a time in history when black men faced significant challenges.

“When you think about that particular time and era, there was Jim Crowism going on,” says Ethel Mitchell, current owner of the Broomfield duplex. “To have this black man do what he did and design this type of building was just unheard of. It’s hard to put words to that—it’s just outstanding.”

Visit restorationexchange.org/events/walking-tours to learn more.

clarencewigington1

Hungry for Answers

October 12, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

How will the relocation of ConAgra Foods’ headquarters affect local philanthropy?

Short answer: No one knows for sure. What is certain is that ConAgra Foods will continue its charity work in the Omaha area, and it will persist in fighting hunger (the company’s signature philanthropic cause).

The relocation of the headquarters of the Fortune 500 company—founded in 1919 as Nebraska Consolidated Mills—is well known. But Chris Kircher, vice president of corporate affairs and president of the ConAgra Foods Foundation, says many people have got it wrong about how many jobs will be lost.

“ConAgra will retain a large presence in Nebraska,” says Kircher. “Only 300 jobs are moving to Chicago. Our presence in this area is about 2,100, still three times the size of the Chicago operation.”

With 1,200 employees on its riverfront campus, Omaha remains ConAgra’s largest office location. This is good news for the nonprofit groups that count on ConAgra employees for their history of generous volunteer assistance.

ConAgra1ConAgra’s downsizing is occurring at an increasingly competitive time for the food industry. More competition and lower revenue streams have driven change within the company. The corporate transformation has real implications for ConAgra’s philanthropic footprint.

“We are in the process of divesting and spinning off businesses. We announced (it) early on as part of the transformation efforts selling our private brand label,” says Kircher.

“When you are a smaller company, that’s going to affect every functional area, including the foundation.”

Annual giving has been in the area of $10 million, he notes. A good portion of that is local. Add to that in-kind donations.

“The question is ‘will that $10 million still be available?’” says Kircher. “It’s safe to assume we’ll continue to be engaged in hunger locally and continue to support the Food Bank for the Heartland in a big way.”

People also misconceive how active ConAgra has been in Chicago for some time. “About three-fourths of our retail food business has been headquartered in Chicago before we announced these changes. Only one-fourth of the retail food business was in Omaha.

“Management is moving that quarter of the retail food business up to the three-fourths of business that was based in Chicago already. After we get done with investiture and spin-off, that will be our biggest business. A lot of functional areas will still be in Omaha.”

ConAgra is not suddenly leaving their partner nonprofit organizations without support. Many local groups received what Kircher calls “an exit grant.”

“We have explained we aren’t going to have the same kinds of resources as in the past.”

But if the cause has to do with hunger—especially child hunger—ConAgra will look for a way to help.

“We will continue to support the Food Bank for the Heartland and hunger-focused initiatives,” says Kircher. “It reflects one of the primary philanthropic avenues we’ve had a long time and will continue to have.”

Visit conagrafoods.com/our-commitment for more information. B2B

Doctor Blues

October 10, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sebastian Lane, at just 2 years old, strummed on the clear nylon strings of a plastic yellow guitar. At age 3, a naked Lane head-banged atop his toy chest, curly black hair whipping around his face as he jammed on his guitar while “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix played on the stereo. Eyes scrunched and head down, he mastered his “guitar face.”

Two years later, clutching that same toy guitar, Lane waited until his father lifted him so he could peer into a coffin. He rested the guitar and a note next to his grandfather’s body.

Miss you. Thanks for the guitar.

sebastian-lane-1Lane’s grandfather, Jimmy Rogers, died from colon cancer in 1997. In his career, Rogers had electrified old Chicago blues. His old-style boogie beat influenced legends like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Jimmy Page. Lane remembers him as a larger-than-life figure who laughed, cuddled, and talked
to him.

But in that moment, next to the casket, a dualistic passion sparked into Lane’s life—blues and medicine.

He grew up on the South Side of Chicago. He ran around eating gumbo while blues masters such as Lazy Lester, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters visited his father, Jimmy D. Lane, and grandpa.

Lane’s father, Jimmy D. (himself a Blues Hall of Famer), continued Jimmy Rogers’ legacy, picking up the guitar to jam with musical geniuses: Mick Jagger, B.B. King, Van Morrison, and a host of others.

“Music is hard. It can be a long life of struggle,” says Jimmy D.

Growing up, Lane knew his father’s struggle. A good show, or a dry spell without gigs, could mean Lane and his younger brother were either wearing new clothes or depending on hand-me-downs.

When an opportunity came to be a musical director at Blue Heaven Studios in Salina, Kansas, Jimmy D. moved the family away from the mean streets of Chicago.

“My father basically said, ‘I choose you and your brother over being famous,’” Lane says. “And I’m so grateful for that.”

Jimmy D. never pushed his sons into the business. Lane picked up guitar playing on his own, practicing the same song for hours and hours until he could pick up patterns. He messed around with bars and chords. Jimmy D. showed his son some licks, but Lane’s skills came from a good ear.

Bash, as his friends like to call him, was well into learning the guitar by fifth grade. He won a talent show for “Sweet Child of Mine,” in a Slash rendition on the electric guitar. His tone soon became a mix of upbeat blues and nasty rock.

His fascination with medicine lingered. Ever since his grandfather’s passing, Lane wanted to understand how cancer spread, how it worked, and how it could be cured.

During a job shadow his senior year of high school, Lane saw an interventional cardiologist inject contrast that showed coronary arteries on a live X-ray. “Wow, that’s so cool,” he thought.

Lane decided to major in pre-med at Hastings College. He was the first in his family to attend college, and he wanted to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. School wasn’t easy, and Lane had to work four jobs while studying and playing music on the side. He bartended, worked for a telefund, did shows on weekends, taught guitar lessons, and started a band called Ambur Lane.

After taking his MCATs, Lane stayed in Nebraska and is now a second-year medical student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Lane says the program is the most difficult and time-consuming thing he’s ever done.

Yet he finds time for community and musical commitments. He’s a mentor for diversity awareness. “It is important to open people’s eyes to at least represent the dynamics of a population,” he says. And he still dedicates an hour or two to music each day, sometimes more. “It’s a struggle to balance your love and passion with playing guitar and medicine,” he says.

There is a complementary duality to his musical and medical passions. His nimble fingers fly over the maple neck of his Fender American Standard Stratocaster, and they move just as rapidly when throwing sutures.

In spring of 2015, Lane worked in Los Angeles with Capitol Records for various artists, which allowed him to interact with creative individuals who “got him.” In medical school, the situation is similar in his conversations with like-minded intellectuals.   

“Would I be happy playing music every day? Hell, yeah. Would I be happy practicing medicine every day? Hell, yeah,” Lane says, brown eyes suddenly wide and serious.

Music gives Lane a chance to de-stress and keeps his mind clear. In addition, Lane believes music, like medicine, heals.

When he finds time, Lane will play with his `90s cover band, 22 Days Short. His biggest love, however, is still the blues. When he is with the Sebastian Lane Band, he can be himself.

Like the old masters in Memphis and Chicago playing in dark corners of hole-in-the wall bars, Lane often showcases his blues at The 21st Saloon at 4727 S. 96th St.

“With blues, no rules, you know. It’s authentic. It’s in my DNA. It’s who I truly am,” Lane says.

He hopes someday to play with the big dogs.

Can Lane out-shred the old man?

“He’d like to believe he could,” Jimmy D. says, laughing.

Visit facebook.com/sebastianlanemusic for more information. Omaha Magazine.

sebastian-lane-2

Terence Herrick

October 2, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up, Terence Herrick figured he could make a difference in the world with a badge and a gun. Turns out he might do the most good with a microphone and podcast.

A one-time police officer for the City of Bellevue, Herrick is the originator of Police Academy Podcast, which encompasses a website, podcast, YouTube channel, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

At the heart of each post is an in-depth conversation about controversial police issues in the U.S. And there’s been plenty to talk about: the shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and of other black men in Minnesota and Louisiana; the shooting of five Dallas police officers; riots and rallies.

terenceherrick1It is an atmosphere Herrick calls “dismal.”

“It is discouraging to see how many powerful and influential people and organizations are willing to mislead the people of our country for whatever agenda they have,” Herrick says. “It is discouraging to see that those people and those groups are willing to literally get people killed to promote their agenda.”

That said, he is “hopeful because I do believe that most people—I think the majority of people out there—realize everything is not what it seems and are looking for the truth.”

They can find the truth, he says, at Police Academy Podcast.

The idea to start the podcast came while Herrick was spending “umpteen hours a day” driving for his job with MSI Consultants, a Colorado company that provides risk mitigation services to lenders for construction projects. Herrick had joined the company in the fall of 2015 with the idea he might one day take it over. He left behind five years with the Bellevue Police Department to do so.

“It is discouraging to see how many powerful and influential people and organizations are willing to mislead the people of our country for whatever agenda they have.”

-Terence Herrick

Before long, though, he knew the switch wasn’t working.

“I just realized that I personally cannot go to work every day if what I do isn’t literally changing someone’s life,” says the Gretna native. “That’s just the way I’m wired. To run a business that is about construction and banking risk mitigation isn’t something I can do for the next 30 years. No matter how much money I make, I would never be happy doing that.”

His Police Academy episodes are rant-free. “Just the facts,” as Sgt. Joe Friday might say, delivered in Herrick’s steady, even-keeled voice. There’s a classroom feel to it, as when he’s giving a detailed explanation for why Officer Darren Wilson’s gun didn’t fire during his struggle with Brown in Ferguson, demonstrating hands-on with a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson M&P pistol.

Herrick’s first podcast was posted in April, a five-part series about Ferguson. Herrick will often post raw police footage and then offer play-by-play analysis. He provided such analysis of when police pepper-sprayed an 84-year-old woman in Oklahoma, and he used the same strategy to examine police shootings of Charles Kinsey (the therapist for an autistic man in Miami) and the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Though podcasts were his initial focus, his YouTube channel now generates more traffic. A show discussing the Chicago Police shooting of Paul O’Neal in July had 19,000-plus views.

He laughs when asked whether his show is pro-police or pro-citizens.

“That should be the question everyone asks when they consume any content: What is the slant of this creator? I do not defend the police. And I try not to support any narrative.

“My goal is…the truth.”

Visit policeacademypodcast.com for more information.

Flying Over Hollywood

July 29, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jim Fields is a self-taught auteur, a busy English teacher, and a Nebraska-nice filmmaker trying to finish his latest project whenever he can find time. The film, Life After Ex, is a romantic comedy about a gay couple’s divorce.

Fields’ Objectif49 Films—named after the film society that spurred the French New Wave—has been busy for more than a decade making independent films with a Midwestern vibe. If Fields’ name doesn’t resonate as loudly as Mr. Payne’s, give it time.

His oeuvre of films includes one that should be on every Husker fan’s watch list: Bugeaters, a documentary about the first decade of Nebraska football. Not only entertaining and informative (having taken a year to research), Bugeaters won Best Documentary at the 2011 Estes Park Film Festival in Colorado.

In 2006, Fields released his first documentary, Preserve Me a Seat, about the preservation and demolition of historic movie theaters throughout America. It began as a film about the impending demolition of Fields’ first love, the majestic Indian Hills Theater—now a parking lot near 84th and Dodge streets.

JimFields1“Going to the Indian Hills in the mid-`60s to `70s made a big impact on me,” says Fields. “Reserved seats, ultra-wide screen, souvenir programs. When I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70mm, it was the first time I had seen a film as opposed to a movie. I saw it over and over. It’s my favorite.”

Back then, Fields says the public expected films to be made in Hollywood, not Nebraska.

“You had to go to film school out there or in New York. The thought that someone could make low-budget movies in Nebraska seemed impossible. I went to Chicago in 1984 and didn’t even last a semester. I had no concept of how expensive it was going to be.”

Fields thought his dream was dead after a brutal Windy City eviction on Thanksgiving Day put him and his belongings on the street. He came back to Omaha, forlorn but resilient. A decade passed before he rekindled his dream in the late `90s.

“When digital video was invented, I got really excited,” Fields says. “I started doing research on it and went to a lot of workshops.”

At the world-famous Donna Reed Festival, Fields met and struck up a correspondence with Gary Graver, cinematographer on Orson Welles’ unfinished The Other Side of the Wind.

“He was a great resource,” Fields says. “You couldn’t research these things like today. There were no YouTube videos on making a film. He was very encouraging and gave me great advice.”

Fields’ 2004 documentary 416 (about Nebraska’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage) won Best Feature and the coveted Audience Award at the Central Nebraska Film Festival, Best Documentary of 2004 at Hardacre Film Festival, and was the Fargo Film Festival’s Second Place Documentary in 2005.

His other films include a comedy-drama called Flyover Country about a friendship between two college students, one straight and one gay, and how they are perceived. A definite release date for his latest film, Life After Ex, has not been announced.

Not bad for a man with deferred dreams of film school.

Visit objectif49films.com for more information.

Poetic Healing

June 1, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The poet Longfellow famously wrote, “Into each life some rain must fall.” By that logic, Omaha poet Traci Schacht has survived a series of torrential downpours.

At age 12, Schacht’s mentally ill mother left her negligent father, forcing Schacht to care for herself. That same year, she would turn her first trick and enter her first foster home.

“It was an easy way to make money, but I was too young to know what it all meant,” she says. “To me, it just meant food—chicken versus corn flakes. The cops picked me up and that’s when ‘home’ changed from home to group homes to foster homes.”

Though they’ve since reconciled, Schacht vividly recalls being rejected by her mother, who swiftly remarried and took in her siblings but told a troubled 13-year-old Schacht that she wasn’t welcome.

“My family didn’t want me. That’s when I changed, stopped caring, became violent,” says Schacht, who also escalated her experimentation with drugs. “I so badly wanted my mom to rescue me, to come hug me, tell me everything would be okay. I was so scared and alone.”

TraciSchacht1She was headed to lockup when Boys Town accepted her, moving Schacht in a better direction. After graduating she attended Nebraska Wesleyan, earning a theater degree.   

Next, Schacht moved around a lot—Chicago, Houston, San Francisco—but the places she’s been emotionally and intellectually are the most compelling parts of her story. For example, she traveled vast distances politically, from serving as V.P. of the college Young Republicans in Nebraska to fighting against the death penalty with “a bunch of Marxists” in San Francisco.

In 2007, back in Omaha, the storm continued. Schacht survived a horrible car wreck that crushed her legs, arm, and part of her neck. Her legs were saved but she had trouble walking. In 2010, Schacht requested and received a right leg below-knee amputation, hoping to resume some favorite activities like kayaking as a result. After a subsequent total knee replacement went wrong and infection set in, the leg was amputated above-knee.

“I just bawled. I didn’t want to be an above-knee amputee because it’s harder to walk and you can’t do everything. But eventually I got this cool, computerized leg,” Schacht says, hiking up a pant leg to proudly display the high-tech limb she got in 2013. “Now I’m walking, after years in a wheelchair. I’m
so thankful.”

Schacht’s also grateful for a fateful meeting with a medical van driver who, in the course of transporting her home from the hospital, changed her life.

“He offered to read me a poem he’d written,” says Schacht. “I thought, ‘Oh no, this is gonna be some cheesy poetry.’ But it was this awesome, political slam poetry I hadn’t heard before, and I loved it.”

Schacht befriended the driver, who convinced her to try writing poetry. He saw skill in her work and encouraged her to perform the piece at Verbal Gumbo, a monthly open mic welcoming “various artistic expressions.”

“[My poem] was met with such wonderful warmth, and they said I should do another,” says Schacht. “So I did another, and then another, and another, and have continued since.”

Schacht’s discovery of her talent at performing rhythmic, defiant, evocative slam poetry added great joy to her life, but she still wrestled with personal demons. Schacht, a Gemini, says she has two sides, one wanting to perform and another bent on withdrawal. She plotted suicide and eventually had a PTSD break—a bottom from which to rise.

“It all hit me at once and I just broke, and actually, that was a wonderful thing. I took the chance to finally stop and assess everything I’d experienced,” says Schacht, who credits good friends for crucial support.     

“Omaha saved my life. Literally. The community here saved my life,” she says.

That life-saving support inspired Schacht to help others. She coaches Bryan and Northwest High Schools’ teams for the youth poetry festival “Louder Than a Bomb” and has worked with Poetry Out Loud Nebraska and Project Everlast, a group for former foster youth. She’s training to be an amputee peer support counselor and mental health first responder. Schacht is also finishing a book of poetry, tentatively titled Tequila, Twerking, and Other Things a One-legged Poet Should Never Do, and establishing a healing through poetry group.

“I’m blessed to use poetry for healing and to share that with others,” says Schacht. “I needed to heal myself from everything I’ve experienced in my life.”

Routinely taunted in childhood as “ugly girl,” Schacht performs lots of body-positive poetry.

“I worked really hard for this body and so did a lot of other people, so I want to be really proud of it,” she says.

Through her poetry and service to others, Schacht has found confidence and value in her accomplishments. She’s finally discovered that, as Longfellow also wrote, “Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.”

“It’s meaningful when people come up in tears telling me my words helped them. It’s a gift. When that healing happens and you can share that with others it’s amazing, and that’s what I’m about now,” she says. “I’m learning to let that help center myself and to realize that is success.”

Beansmith

October 23, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Beansmith Coffee Roasters’ immaculate bar still feels brand-new—it just opened this past spring—but its original wood floors, exposed brick, and some of the design details resonate of a much earlier era. The Old Market building Beansmith occupies at 1213 Harney Street dates to 1880,  says owner Chris Smith. He’s the Smith in the cafe’s name, but another Smith was the building’s namesake.

“Its first owner was George Warren Smith, and it was known as the Smith Building. So we thought it was pretty appropriate that Beansmith should be one of its tenants,” Smith says. “We feel really honored to be part of the heritage of the building.”

The history of Beansmith itself starts 30 years ago, when Smith’s degree in electrical engineering helped pique his curiosity about coffee.

“Engineers in general are curious as to why things work the way they do,” he says. “That ultimately brought me to the point where I wanted to own and operate my own coffee roaster. I had more ability to source exactly what I thought would be great, and those elements—why coffee could taste much better and what’s making that happen—brought me to where I am now.”

Smith’s original foray into entrepreneurship was a drinking water company, which led to providing water for coffee machines, which brought forth the idea of a coffee wholesale business. Smith still operates the La Vista roasting facility he launched in 2006.

“That was a good place to start because it allowed me to see how a variety of different shops and stores operated. It also allowed me to see what worked and what maybe could be better and it allowed me to see how people were reacting to the coffee,” he says. “I had been to Kansas City, Minneapolis, and of course larger cities like San Francisco and Chicago; the coffee scenes in those cities were vibrant…I thought to myself, ‘Gosh, Omaha doesn’t have anything like this—why not?’ So as I became more proficient in roasting and experiencing all these locations and takes on coffee, I really started to develop my vision for what we could do here in this area.”

A coffee bar was the natural evolution of that vision, Smith says. “I realized that for us to really have better controllability of our own brand and who we are, ultimately we needed to be serving people our own coffee. We have some great relationships with a variety of shops that serve our coffee and we want to continue that, but we also felt like the best voice for our own coffee was us actually serving it and presenting it to those people interested in specialty coffee.”

Eventually, Smith hopes Beansmith leads Omaha in becoming known to specialty coffee enthusiasts everywhere.

“We can not only just educate, but share what we know about our coffees…I do see more community coffee shops beginning to spark up that are on that same trek in terms of trying to up their game in terms of quality and knowledgeability,” he says. “I think that’s really good for Omaha because that means Omaha is in for the treat of a thriving specialty coffee community.”

Beansmith1