Tag Archives: Mark Chickinelli

Smashing Stereotypes

May 3, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Thriving Omaha artist Tyler Chickinelli wants to smash a couple of stereotypes—one, not all artists are pretentious and, two, they aren’t noninclusive. The idea that artists are elitist snobs who only welcome the upper echelon of creatives into their circles isn’t what Chickinelli has experienced in the local community. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“I can’t say it’s true everywhere, but in Omaha there are people doing things on every level—from do-it-yourself to professional grade shows,” Chickinelli says. “We have a very inclusive art scene here. I’m not even very good at being involved here, but you can definitely do it if you want.”

Chickinelli, who started taking art “slightly seriously” while a student at Millard West High School, grew up surrounded by it. His uncle, Mark Chickinelli, is an oil painter and illustrator, while his grandfather ran Omaha Antique and Job Plating, an antique refinishing and plating shop on 24th and Mason streets, which was founded by his great-grandfather.

Currently, the 28-year-old Chickinelli is preparing for an art show in Hanover, Germany, where he will show off his penchant for geometric shapes before flying back for a local show.

“What captivates me about geometric shapes is the virtually endless possibility of combinations—in color, shape, size, what you can turn them into, what canvas or surface to use,” he explains. “They are found all around us, all the time. I think they just resonated with me at some point and I’ve been twisting them every way I can since. It’s definitely not all I want to do, though. I have some very different things stylistically for myself on the horizon.”

One of those things is an art show he is working on in collaboration with Drew Newlin of Skate for Change.

“We are curating a show together with Skate For Change consisting of 12 skateboards, which will be designed by 12 different artists,” he says. “We are then going to distribute the boards to 12 skaters. I will just wait until it happens so people can see it, but I am stoked about it.”

While Chickinelli has only painted a few skateboards, he’s still fascinated by the concept of them—not just as a mode of transportation or something you can do tricks on but also the disposable graphics that come along with them.

“I love the idea of art on skateboards,” he says. “It’s always so fascinating and super stylized, perfectly smooth. It also gets destroyed. I really like the idea of making something that just gets scratched into oblivion because someone else enjoys it so much.”

At this stage in Chickinelli’s burgeoning career, he’s clearly grateful to be part of such a supportive and endlessly creative community. Chickinelli embraces an all-inclusive attitude towards his fellow creatives, again, bashing the stereotype that artists are self-righteous and self-absorbed. 

“There are so many people doing different kinds of creative things here,” he says. “Whether it’s traditional, craftsmen, culinary, or musically, there is no shortage of creativity in town in a lot of different areas. Sometimes I joke that almost everyone I know is an artist or a musician, and it’s not too far off really. They are playing shows in basements and in traditional venues, touring big and small, displaying in galleries, and opening up businesses. It’s a really cool thing to see everyone just doing their own thing, but maintaining a community as well.”


Chickinelli’s artwork will be featured on Little Brazil’s upcoming album. Check out more of this artist’s work at tylerchickinelli.daportfolio.com.

This article appears in the May/June 2018 edition of Encounter.

Polishing a Legacy

December 10, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

America’s long love affair with the automobile is perhaps best told in stories of fathers and sons. The 1932 Chevrolet Cabriolet convertible featured in this installment of “How I Roll’ has for a half century been at the center of one such father/son vignette.

“My dad collected and restored many, many cars,” says Mark Chickinelli, “but he always said that this would be the very last car he would ever do. It was that special to him. He was willing to wait for decades to fulfill that promise. Sadly, he was only half right on his prediction.”

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A debilitating stroke three years ago ended the hands-on stage of Val Chickinelli’s restoration hobby. Known for leading Omaha Plating Co. for 50 years on the corner of 24th and Leavenworth streets, Val had purchased the vehicle known as a “Baby Cadillac” in the early ’60s. Punctuating the point that he was a patient man, restoration began only in 1999. A fire later destroyed many of the car’s key components as fate did its best to thwart what would become a son’s race against time in fulfilling a father’s wish.

After his dad’s stroke, Mark stepped in and also enlisted his father’s longtime collaborator, Bob Chalek, perhaps the area’s foremost authority when it comes to work on classic Chevrolets, Pontiacs, and Oldsmobiles. Chalek had more than a craftsman’s love for the iconic car for he had once, oddly enough, owned this very same beauty back in the 1950s.

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“I grew up in my dad’s businesses,” says Mark. “Ever since I was 8, he had me doing odd jobs, and that often meant moving any number of his 100 vintage cars. We moved this car more times than I can remember. It was disassembled and in boxes, and we moved it from storage place to storage place, but it was like it was always there waiting for us.”

Restoring automobiles, to the Chickinelli family, is an endeavor elevated to high art, something that is second nature to Mark. He is a fine art painter who has done work for such clients as Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Val passed away in August, only shortly after the restoration was complete.

“He only got to see it in pictures before he died,” Mark says, caressing the graceful curve of the car’s fender. “My dad will never ride in this car, but I think he’d be very pleased. It’s everything he ever dreamed it could be. It’s now a part of his legacy.”