Tag Archives: Old Market Passageway

Doug Strain

June 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nestled in the leafy upper levels of the Old Market Passageway, tucked in the conjoining rooms of a former yoga studio, you’ll find the cozy abode of Aether & Epsom, a massage therapy studio and spa just a flight of stairs up from the bustle of Howard Street.

You may also encounter the studio’s founder, Doug Strain, either brewing a cup of tea at the end of the hall or engaged in a session with a client. Strain practices a variety of techniques, from deep-tissue massage to aromatherapy, with self-concocted distillates.

“I work with a large population in migraines,” Strain explains. “They’ve popped every pill and seen 500 neurologists, tried every CT scan, and I’ve been able to get a lot of them off of medication. They’re so frustrated and desperate to find something, anything, that will help them, and being able to be that resource for them—that’s pretty cool.”

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Strain found himself disillusioned with nursing practice after four years of CNA work, and decided to pursue massage therapy where he could still pay homage to his science roots and “work proactively with people’s pain, not just in damage control.” Strain’s practices subscribe chiefly to neuromuscular massage, a deep-tissue technique that focuses on relieving the body’s pressure points to ease physical pain and tension. After adhering to Nebraska’s hefty requirement of 1,000 hours of massage therapy school, Strain’s decision to start his own business seemed like the natural conclusion.

“I have full control of my working environment, practice the way I want to in a way I know is best, and honestly, I can offer a private, quiet setting for someone to receive body work in,” Strain says. “You’re already getting treatment, that puts you in a vulnerable place; the quiet environment is just more comfortable for people.”

Beyond various massage techniques, Strain also self-studies aromatherapy, creating his own scents and detailing them in a therapeutic index. His secondary passion is making craft cocktails, where he uses the hydrosols, or herbal distillates, as additives for the drinks.

Doesn’t it get stressful, managing all those tasks?

“Because it’s just me here, I wear all the hats, which can be stressful,” Strain agrees. “When it comes to customers, it’s really cool because I interact with them on every level. I’m their receptionist when they come in; I’m their therapist; I’m their manager. It actually gives me the opportunity to develop a better customer relationship than the average business might.”

Another service Strain offers is the chance to relax while viewing original art. Right next door to Strain’s studio is the art studio of abstract painter Mary Ann Chaney. Chaney exhibits a collection of barn paintings in the hallway for clients to peruse while waiting for their massage appointments.

The synthesis between massage therapy and artwork is a natural one, it would seem. “You’re almost in a zone when you paint; I like that aspect of it, it’s like therapy,” Chaney says about her work. “I like painting abstract, not tight realism. They have to look kind of relaxed, but also controlled.”

She pauses, smiles, and adds, “Just like massage.” Encounter

Visit aetherandepsom.com for more information

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Public Art Primer

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Chris Wolfgang

One thing never in short supply in this city of ours is public art. Downtown Omaha in particular has a vast collection of pieces—some you’ve surely seen and some that are tucked away. Keep your eyes open this summer for these few pieces in particular and impress your friends with how much you know about public art downtown.

Pioneer Courage Park and Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness Park
14th & Capitol and all four corners of the 16th & Dodge intersection

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Both owned by First National Bank, these installations span the width of several blocks. Follow Blair Buswell’s and Edward Fraughton’s pioneers, covered wagons, oxen, horses, and mules through Pioneer Courage Park, watch as they scare off bison who run along 14th all the way to Kent Ullberg’s Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness at 16th where Canada geese (each weighing approximately 200 pounds) seem to fly around the intersection, through walls, buildings, even traffic light poles.

The Garden of the Zodiac
Old Market Passageway, 10th & Howard

On the second floor of the Old Market Passageway (itself a unique artistic and architectural element of Downtown Omaha) are several bronze heads mounted on stone bases. This Garden of the Zodiac was sculpted by Evas Aeppli and represents the 12 signs of the Zodiac. Aeppli also created the Fountain of Erinnyesdiac in the lower level of the Passageway across from the V. Mertz restaurant. These three abstract metal heads, which each spew water, represent the Furies: Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, all vengeful demi-goddesses of Greek mythology.

Nebraska Centennial Glass Mosaic
The outside of the Woodman building, 18th & Douglas

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Tom Bartek completed this work in 1967. The mosaic scenes depict Native Americans, pioneers, and Omaha being settled. In 2012, at the age of 80, Bartek released Retrospective, a collection of his works, in three galleries. You can learn more about the mural’s creation at omahamuralproject.org.

Fertile Ground
Eastern wall of the Energy Systems, Inc. building, 13th & Webster

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If you’ve been in the North Downtown area since 2009, you’ve seen Fertile Ground. This 70-foot-tall mural spans 328 feet wide—the length of a city block. It is the largest piece of public art ever installed in Omaha. It’s also the largest mural in the nation to have a single financial backer, the Peter Kiewit Foundation, which funded the piece as a gift to the people of Nebraska and the city of Omaha.

The Omaha Mural Project: Fertile Ground was coordinated by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, which selected Meg Saligman as the artist. Saligman compiled Omaha’s story—past, present, future—in a unique back-to-front approach. Instead of a typical left-to-right treatment, the chronology pushes past events to the background and brings more recent events into the foreground. The painting took a year to complete—June 2008 to June 2009.

The Road to Omaha
TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, 1200 Mike Fahey St.

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You may have seen this piece recently, either in person or on television. This bronze sculpture by artist John Lajba is often a focal point during the NCAA Men’s College World Series every June. The sculpture of baseball players was given to the city by local organizing committee College World Series of Omaha, Inc. The Road to Omaha was completed in 1999 and made the move from Rosenblatt Stadium to TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in 2011.

For more information about public art in Omaha, visit publicartomaha.org.