Tag Archives: Luke Armstrong

Providing Uncommon Creatives a Common Community

February 14, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Luke Armstrong is in the midst of completing a facelift. Fair warning: he’s never worked under the knife, favors knit cardigans to scrubs, and has no expertise in the medical field whatsoever.

A botched procedure, this is not. Instead of erasing wrinkles and chiseling cheekbones, Armstrong is restructuring Cali Commons to become the starting point of a local renaissance. In January 2018, the organization’s antiquated midtown building ceased being a pseudo-gallery and co-working office, and shifted focus to become a base for artists, makers, and performers looking for a collaborative creation space. Think of it like a club for grownups, only way cooler.

“Cali Commons is now a marketplace for people who want to pursue multiple things and test ideas with other talented artists and entrepreneurs,” Armstrong says. “It’s about growing a common network and helping one another find some fulfillment.”

The corner of California and 40th streets is not new to Omaha creatives. It’s been a home for them since Armstrong and his roommate, Molly Nicklin, bought what was once a grocery store and turned it into a co-working office in 2013. Like any good artist, inspiration struck and it was time to switch up the organization’s business model.

This new and improved Cali Commons boasts access to shared spaces for events, cutting-edge technology that includes everything from live-streaming cameras to editing and marketing software, and a staff of agents who will help sell and promote work. Ideally, Armstrong hopes to recruit 40 to 50 members, asking they pay a $90 monthly fee for membership.

“The greatest benefit of being a member is working in a community of like-minded creatives who aren’t necessarily in the same field but share an interest in collaborating and assisting with other members’ projects,” says Christopher Vaughn Couse, local visual artist and member of Cali Commons.

To build this network of burgeoning creators, Armstrong started a year ago by recruiting those he has met while operating Cali Commons as a gallery. Next, he and his staff began employing grassroots marketing tactics, passing out literature espousing the benefits of membership. In an effort to contact key demographics, the organization plans to attend networking events to reach more business-minded creatives, such as graphic designers or software developers. 

Together, the 40 to 50 members will form the Uncommon Core, a group that works together to launch engaging products, services, and experiences while growing their own income. Each member has a reserved spot on a shared gallery wall at Cali Commons, where they can display work, ideas, or innovative merchandise.  

“My hope is this experiment proves that an engaged group is more valuable than any individual working on their own,” Armstrong says. “If it proves successful, maybe this is something that can be replicated elsewhere.”

Another benefit for members is the interior of the building has been designed to aid in holding myriad events, from skill-development classes and lectures to pop-up art shops. Cali Commons also hosts collaborative and competitive art nights once or twice a month.

“Members have access to events, material resources, everything they need to do something new,” Armstrong says. “Sometimes people just need permission to explore multiple things, and here, you’ll get that.”

Visit calicommons.com for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Cali Commons

April 8, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was never in the plan for Luke Armstrong and Molly Nicklin to own a co-working space. But when they had a chance to buy an old grocery store at 40th and California, the midtown co-working space Cali Commons was born.

“We had a house near Benson,” Armstrong says, “and we rented a space in Benson because we both do some performance painting.” But the cost was prohibitive. “We started looking around, and we found this building and moved in upstairs.”

The pair floated around other ideas for what to do with the excess space. They’d already decided to put an art gallery in the basement and allotted space for Luke’s office and other project RenMind, a web application company.

“We always wanted to be around creative people and entrepreneurs,” Armstrong says. “I like to make new businesses all the time. It was kind of a natural progression.”

The plans for Cali Commons include having new artwork every month as well as providing a place for art shows and other events. Armstrong and Nicklin also wanted to provide a space that won’t break the bank that’s close to a lot of young professionals. As of January, three people are renting out personal office space, and a few others rent out “seats” in the open area dubbed the co-working space. But the duo is hoping for around 10 or so to gather in the co-working space.

“I’ve always loved this building, for years, and when I saw there was an opportunity to get an office here, I jumped at the chance,” says Ryan Behrens, a social services contractor. “It helps me focus a lot more than working from home, so I think it’s well worth the price of the rent.”

Another aspiration for the co-working space is to host movie nights, yoga classes, or other fun things to help build relationships with everyone using the space.

“We wanted a place that would bring in the kinds of people we wanted to be around,” Armstrong says. He suggests that since they spend so much time in the office, why not make it fun?

The space is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. generally, but Armstrong and Nicklin don’t expect people to stick around the whole time. In fact, some renters work only in the mornings or only in the afternoons. The space is available for renters to pop in whenever is convenient. The only stipulation is that the co-working space is not available when an art show or other event is utilizing the open area.

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