Tag Archives: Iowa State University

One Piece at a Time

January 7, 2018 by
Photography by Keith Binder

As tattoos become increasingly normalized, it’s clear they’re no longer for burly bikers or hardened criminals alone. They’re popping up on soccer moms, young professionals, and people of all social classes. The stigma that once surrounded body art has lifted, making it much more acceptable than it was in the past. Omaha-based tattoo artist Patrick Oleson has watched the shift firsthand — even over the last few years. He’s tattooed all walks of life and finds it impossible to box them into one neat little package.

“Past generations may have a specific stereotype in mind when they imagine a ‘tattooed person,’” Oleson explains. “This no doubt stems from the early popularity of tattoos with Navy men, bikers, and prisoners. I’ve tattooed people from many different careers paths and social classes. Most of my larger multi-session work goes on young professionals.”

Self-expression and high caliber body art will never go out of style, he adds. “Society is rapidly changing its prejudice towards people with tattoos in a very positive way,” Oleson says.

Born in Anaheim Hills, California, the 35-year-old Oleson relocated to Okoboji, Iowa, where he enjoyed the sandy lake beaches and well-known tourist spots such as Arnolds Park Amusement Park for most of his formative years. Like other hopeless romantics, Oleson chased his future wife to Omaha where he’s been for the past four years.

“It seems that all the big things in life happen due to the people you choose to share them with,” he says. “Two of my best high school friends started tattooing in Omaha before I did. I moved to Omaha to pursue the woman I later married. When I got to Omaha, coincidentally I had multiple tattoo opportunities, so it all fell into place.”

Oleson apprenticed at Omega Point Tattoo Studio, and now has his own spot at the shop, but he’s always had an appreciation for the physical beauty of art on skin. He used to spend all of his vacation time in Omaha visiting friends and getting his own ink. Over the years, he’s learned there’s more to tattoos than some people realize.

“I have a better understanding of how tattoos are not only skin deep,” he says. “People also use them for self-identity, sentimentality, and their own definition of aesthetics.”

Omega Point Tattoo Studio, which he describes as “an art studio collective of serious artists who have the technical skills to apply amazing museum quality art to skin,” has provided him some incredible opportunities, especially when it comes to new technology.

“Since I started in 2013, we now have tattoo machines that run faster and smoother, and disposable needle cartridges that are safer to handle,” he explains. “I once used tracing paper and a pencil. Now, I use a self-built PC to create my designs and an iPad to trace my stencils. Technology has enhanced my tattoo game tremendously, and I’m excited about future advancements.”

One of Oleson’s specialities is photo hyperrealism, a technique intended to resemble a high-resolution photograph. It’s also one of the most challenging and inventive types of tattoos he creates.

“I welcome the challenge of photo hyperrealism,” he says. “I love capturing every subtle shift in tone and hue. When you get all the little details right, you end up with a 3D tattoo that pops off the skin. A good example of this is my Heath Ledger Joker piece. I wanted to find a frame of The Dark Knight that has never been tattooed before. I watched the Blu-ray movie, captured a unique HD screenshot and overlaid my own dynamic changes. I presented it to the client, who was
beyond thrilled.”

Armed with a background in traditional fine art from Iowa State University, Oleson and his desire to hone his craft coupled with his innate artistic ability makes him endlessly dedicated to his work. In fact, he admits he’s “obsessive,” and is currently focused on the academic side of art. >

< “I’m studying anatomy, color, and light theory, and becoming fluent in more digital art programs,” he says. “I’m continually adding more ‘tools’ to my ‘bag.’ I will do whatever it takes to get the right starting reference. I have used many of my own photographs in my tattoo work. I took the reference pictures for the husky dog, gorilla, sternum skull, and ‘peek-a-boo’ tattoos you see in my portfolio. For my flower-skull piece, I actually hand plucked every flower into a skull model just so I could take the photo for the reference.”

Even when he finds himself with a break from work, Oleson is thinking about improving his art — it’s essentially a job that’s never done.

“You know you love your job when you spend your free time in the same field as your career,” he says. “I’ve been learning 3D programs like ZBrush and KeyShot. Photo realism is amazing, but using rendering software to get photo-realistic results from a fictional object is next level stuff. I’m trying to be a pioneer in the tattoo industry.” 

Visit patrickoleson.com, omegapointtattoo.com, or instagram.com/patrickoleson to view more of the artist’s work.

This article appears in the January/February 2018 edition of the Encounter.

Two Homes, One Architect

August 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Scanning any architectural periodical or blog, there are endless examples of buildings with clean lines, simple spaces, and minimal material pallets. Contemporary architecture owes much of this ethos to the modernist architects of the mid-20th century.

Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe encapsulated the design philosophy with his famous quote: “less is more.” While turn-of-the-millennium McMansions of suburban Omaha represent the antithesis to the minimalism of midcentury modernism, the Omaha metro is home to several notable modernist residences designed by architect Neil Astle.

Two local homes designed by Astle came available on the market over the summer: the Flansburg Residence (located at 2205 S. 111th Circle) and the Ball Residence (located at 2525 S. 95th Circle).

Ball Residence (2525 S. 95th Circle)

Flansburg Residence (2205 S. 111th Circle)

Astle lived in Omaha between 1965 and 1981. During that time, he completed many award-winning architectural commissions, only a handful of which were homes. For his residential work, Astle said, “It is all part of refining a design in a complete way so that clients have few decisions to make—even about furnishings.” Dan Naegele, associate professor of architecture at Iowa State University, says, “They are more than houses. They are dwellings and are to be valued, cared for, basked in, and appreciated.”

Theoretically, Astle was challenging something greater with his suburban homes. Naegele explains that the architect “removed the garage from the house, allowing its presence as a separate entity to create a complex. The remote, innocuous, naturally clad garage, though convenient to the house, was not part of the house itself. It allowed for the house to be low, and to be stretched across the site, rather than piled up in one place.”

The Flansburg Residence, located in the Rockbrook neighborhood, is a 2,500-square-foot home completed in 1969. Nancy Flansburg Novak, senior designer and partner at Alley Poyner Macchietto, grew up in the home and recalls her parents commissioning Astle to build the structure. She says, “my newlywed parents [Steve and Mildred Flansburg] were looking at homes, drove past Neil’s house, and stopped to ask who the architect was. He said it was him.” After a short exchange, the Flansburgs became Astle’s first residential clients. They also became lifelong friends.

At the end of cul-de-sac, the split-level home sits surrounded by foliage. A carefully crafted foyer between the garage and home creates the first of many spectacular spaces. The patina of vertically clad western red cedar, a favorite material of Astle, fully wraps both units. According to Naegele, “[Astle’s] houses are all wood and because of this, they seem to exude authenticity.” This darker space sits in contrast to the light-filled living spaces.

Entering the front door, creamy wool carpet and gray slate blanket the first level, which contains the living room and kitchen. An angular ceiling, clad in horizontal knot-free cedar, fills the entertaining areas with natural light. While the space is incredibly simple, phenomenal woodworking details by Bill Hayes are still in place. Subtle surprises are omnipresent.

Astle once said, “I try to get into families’ needs and express them thoroughly.” Going up or down a half or full level in the Flansburg Residence, Astle’s design philosophy becomes clear. Flansburg Novak recalls the home being “her jungle gym,” with plenty of nooks and crannies for her and her siblings. “It always felt big and open,” she says.

While Astle had free reign on the home’s design, the tight budget necessitated creative design solutions that come off as effortless. The efficient floor plan unfolds with neatly tucked away bedrooms, storage areas, exterior patios, and library. On the lower level, the ceilings were raised to allow the home’s patriarch to practice table tennis—many of his trophies remain in the library. The Flansburg’s home went on to win several awards, including a 1969 Residential Design Merit Award with the Nebraska chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Less than two miles away on the edge of Towl Park, the Ball Residence extends many of Astle’s architectural tropes. Built in 1975 with the same cedar, owner Tami Doll (co-owner and vice president at Doll Distributing LLC) calls the home “a work of art.”

The 3,900-square-foot home features a detached garage, which contributes to the dramatic view of a courtyard where cedar and brick wrap the exterior and interior planes.


“When I walk in, there is a peacefulness about the home,” Doll says.

Upon entry, light fills the space, pulling full-scale picturesque views inside—suggesting continuity between human, architecture, and nature. Three bedrooms and entertaining spaces are neatly organized in an open floor plan and the same cedar covers much of the interior.

The original homeowners, Dale and Sylvia Ball, were quoted as saying, “The single most important decision in the whole process was selecting Neil as the architect.” Their instincts rang true when the home won the Honor Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Architecture in 1975, as well as being written about  in many national and international publications.

Recently featured in The New York Times (June 14) and academic literature, it is obvious that Astle’s work is significant, but as Doll notes, “I don’t think people realize homes like this are in Omaha.”

Astle’s works are “rare gifts to Nebraska,” Naegele says. These two residences—the Flansburg and Ball residences—offer a chance to reflect and remember how good his work was (and continues to be).

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Home. Learn more about Neil Astle’s work in the Omaha area in this article’s companion piece: “Neil Astle: Omaha’s Midcentury Modern Man”

Marisa Miakonda Cummings

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

I would like to begin by introducing myself. My English name is Marisa Cummings. My Omaha or Umoⁿhoⁿ name is Miakonda or Moon Power. I was given my Buffalo Tail Clan name by my great-grandmother, Edith Walker Springer. My father is the late Michael Cummings, or Stampeding Buffalo. My father’s mother is Eunice Walker Mohn, or Buffalo Tail Clan Woman. My grandmother’s parents are the late Charles Amos Walker, or White Chest, and the late Ida Springer Walker, or New Moon. I am an Omaha woman. I am a Buffalo Tail Clan woman of the Sky people. I am the oldest child of eight children. I am the mother of four children.

As I wrote the paragraph to introduce myself, I was mentally translating from Umoⁿhoⁿ to English. The Umoⁿhoⁿ language is a beautiful conduit of culture. Self introductions are very important in our community. One must know who they are to know where they are going in this life. Language allows us to express ourselves to one another as human beings, to talk to the Creator, and express ourselves through song and ceremony. As language is a conduit for expressing thoughts and feelings, and relaying cultural knowledge, it is essential that our Umoⁿhoⁿ language is revered and preserved for our future generations. We must preserve our language to talk to our Creator through our ceremonies as we were instructed to do in our language.

Marisa3My grandmother grew up hearing Umoⁿhoⁿ spoken as the primary language at home; it was her first language. She has told me about her parents waking well before sunrise and praying in Umoⁿhoⁿ in the kitchen. Her father, Charles Walker or Mongaska, was taken to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Carlisle was a military-style school founded in 1879 by Capt. Richard Pratt under the authority of the U.S. government with the founding principle that Native Americans were a vanishing race and their only hope for survival was assimilation to white mainstream culture. The first thing done was to cut off the children’s sacred hair. The second step was to make them stop speaking their traditional language and converse in English. My great-grandfather came back to the reservation after his stay at Carlisle and remained fluent in both Umoⁿhoⁿ and English. He served on our tribal council for over 25 years. My grandmother’s mother, Ida or Metexi, was sent to Genoa Indian Industrial School in Genoa, Nebraska. She also returned to the reservation and spoke fluent Umoⁿhoⁿ. Both of my great-grandparents survived assimilation and Indian boarding schools and retained their Umoⁿhoⁿ language in daily practice in and outside of their home.

Tragedy struck when my grandmother was 10 years old. Her mother passed away and left eight orphaned children. Her father decided to send her, at age 14, to Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kansas. There was no more playing in the timber, no more collecting wild plums and gooseberries. She was alone. She said that she often wondered what she did wrong. Was her father angry with her? Why would he send her away? My grandmother graduated from Haskell and moved to Sioux City, Iowa, with the courage to start a life for herself.

My father was born in 1955. He was considered a “half-breed,” as his father was a white man. However, his grandfather, Charlie Walker, took pity on him and gave him the Umoⁿhoⁿ Buffalo Tail Clan name Te-Nuga-Na-Tide. My father was an incredible man. He received his master’s degree from Iowa State University and went to work for the corporate world. He always instilled in me the power of education and the importance of coming back to help the people with the education I received. I was raised to be of service and make a difference. My father also raised me like a first-born son. He made me tough, taught me to always speak up and use my voice, to be courageous and strategic. He told me that women have a strong place in leadership and that Native women will be at the front of the movement to bring back language and culture. He was very proud when I graduated with a degree from the University of Iowa.

Marisa1As a young woman, I was always interested in our language. I would ask my grandma and great-grandma to tell me stories. I would sit at their feet or at the kitchen table in my grandma’s trailer while I asked one question after another. I think she got tired of me at times. I still am always asking questions of my grandmother. How do I say this? Do you remember this? She is the matriarch of our family. I am blessed that my children can be close to her and experience her unconditional love and knowledge.

In 1978, the Indian Religious Freedoms Act was passed. Our ceremonies, songs, and dances were no longer illegal. We could legally pray in the manner the Creator intended for us to pray. Yet, so many of the songs, ceremonies, and teachings were no longer practiced. In my life journey, I have rediscovered my love of ceremony. I enjoy collecting and preparing medicine. I love that I have the ability to be a lifelong learner of culture and ceremony, but in order to make that true connection, I must relearn a language that is rooted in my DNA. I believe that we can relearn our sense of true self and heal both individually and collectively.

My children have been born in a generation where our ceremonies are being revived and practiced. My children have been exposed to ceremonies, songs, dance, and love of our way of life. As I embrace our ceremonies and language, I know that I am also healing those who went before me. As I heal, I give reverence to ancestors whose hearts broke when they saw English replace Umoⁿhoⁿ in their homes, those who watched alcohol replace ceremony, and those who witnessed government commodities replace our sacred foods. As we revive our sacred way of life, we renew and honor all of those who went before us.

Visit omaha-nsn.gov for more information. Omaha Magazine

The Robo Wonder-Kid

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Collin Kauth-­Fisher believes that nerds will win in the end. The self-described nerd and recent Millard West grad is accustomed to winning, especially when it comes to robotics.

The 18-year-old has won national accolades for his ability to sink baskets with robotic hands. “That’s not a human doing that, it’s different,” he says, explaining his excitement for robotics. Meanwhile, the next phase of his robotics career is already shaping up to be a slam dunk.

A fascination with technology was one of the most consistent parts of his childhood, amid frequent relocations for his father’s military career. Kauth-Fisher built structures and tinkered with technology, but his interest in robotics really bloomed at Millard West. He pursued robotics classes and joined the school’s robotics team, the Cat Trons, during his senior year. He was the team’s lead programmer. 

Millard West participates in a variety of robotics competitions, principally those that use VEX Robotics Design System. VEX produces metal robotics with attached motors, which are driven by a combination of remote-controlled sensors. The bots often look like miniature forklifts made of perforated steel parts, and are programmed to make computer-controlled movements.

In VEX robotics, students use their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math to build structures. The competitions are games that test engineering acumen. Kauth-Fisher and the Cat Trons competed with other high schools throughout the fall and spring semesters. They battled it out in qualifying rounds. Matches consisted of two teams in a ring that looked like a geekish version of WWE Wrestlemania.

Kauth-Fisher, specifically, worked in the CREATE group, an advanced robotics challenge in which students are encouraged to test their engineering and design skills using any system they want, such as LEGO or VEX. This means that, while a standard VEX competition only allows the students to build a robot from kit supplies, students working with the CREATE group are allowed to enhance their inventions.

This creativity helped the Cat Trons succeed in their quest. They advanced from local and regional competitions to the CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship, a three-day event held April 7-9 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs. They competed against approximately 200 teams, including teams from as far as New York and as nearby as Omaha North.

The Cat Trons excelled. The object of the game was for the robots to shoot foam balls into a net. Millard West was the only team to complete the mission. They were crowned the tournament champion of the open division and also won national honors.

Kauth-Fisher’s interest grew into a summer job. This past summer, during an internship at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he helped graduate students build a portable location tracking system. “I don’t consider it work,” he says during the summer before his freshman year at Iowa State University, where he will study computer engineering.

Just as Kauth-Fisher created a robot with an arm that picks up foam balls, he hopes to create robotic arms for others (possibly in the form of prosthetics).

He believes that robots will play a crucial role in the future, especially in his future.

To learn more, visit nebraskarobotics.com. Omaha Magazine

CollinKauthFisher

Teresa Gleason

March 29, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Naming your public relations business after a close relative of the weasel family is a dicey
move for a startup. But not if you know the backstory.

Teresa Gleason and her husband, Tim McMahan (creator of the long-running music blog Lazy-i), were driving around Benson trying to figure out a name for her new PR company. McMahan suggested Polecat, the beloved, defunct Omaha band. The name stuck.

“Public relations people, a lot of times, are thought of as weasels,” Gleason says. (Polecat, incidentally, is also another term for a skunk.)

“But both weasels and public relations people are necessary to keep the world going around. I kind of like the symmetry of that.”

Wearing a grey knit stocking cap and a camouflage Lutmer Construction hoodie on an inhumanely cold Saturday in January, Gleason surveyed her Benson office. It didn’t take long.

“I’m literally in an 11 by 14 box,” Gleason says.

As Gleason spoke, a calm stream of water came out through a pipe, and flowed to a drain near her office couch.

“Every time someone runs the kitchen faucet, it drains there,” Gleason observes.

“It’s just all part of the quirky charm of Benson.”

Gleason described Polecat as a “one-shingle communications agency” that focuses on content creation and promotion for small businesses and non-profit companies. Her office is also home to her art gallery.

After graduating from Iowa State with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in journalism and mass communications, Gleason worked for small daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Iowa. Like most start-up employees, Gleason had to fit many roles as a reporter—covering sports one day, then covering city council and board meetings the next.

Gleason moved to Omaha in 1995. Her original plan was to live here for a year, then move on. She got a job as a writer and editor for the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Three years later, she joined the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she later became director of communications.

In 2006, she joined the non-profit organization Omaha by Design, where she was communications manager. In addition to writing grants and generating media releases, Gleason organized grassroots projects. Connie Spellman, former executive director of Omaha by Design, says Gleason’s defining project was her work with the $2 million sidewalk expansion project in Benson.

“Her general ability to communicate has always been something I admired and respected,” Spellman says.

Spellman retired in June 2015. Gleason says Spellman’s retirement played role in her decision to start her own business.

Gleason was drawn to Benson for its wealth of creative-minded neighbors and business owners.

“People up here are interesting, quirky, out-there…they’re not afraid to try stuff on their own,” Gleason says.

Gleason opened an art gallery within her business to give local artists a venue to display their work. In March, artist Jennifer Radil will present “You Are Here: Paintings on Paper and Wood.” Radil’s work draws heavy inspiration from landscapes, topographical maps, and wildlife.

“I really love artists,” Gleason says. “The way they think, and the way they process things, and the way they’re just not afraid.”

Visit polecatcommunications.com to learn more about the company and the gallery.

TeresaGleason2