Tag Archives: Omaha Creative Institute

Sustainable and Authentic

July 3, 2018 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Andrew Saladino could work anywhere in the United States, but he fell in love with, and in, Omaha.

The executive director of the Omaha Creative Institute feels pride for his adopted hometown, and he is invested in unifying, fostering, and growing Omaha’s artistic community.

OCI provides professional development, grants, connections, and advocacy for artists. The nonprofit operates out of a small office kitty-corner to the former Bohemian Cafe on 13th Street.

The 29-year-old is not who you would typically imagine leading such an effort. Saladino grew up in Bedford, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.

After planning to be a musician, he caught the acting bug and ended up studying theater education at the University of New Hampshire. He landed an internship at The Rose between his junior and senior years, spending his time teaching children’s theater in Omaha.

“I taught all summer long,” Saladino says. “I basically didn’t leave the building.”

The Rose invited him back for a yearlong fellowship program, and he was a teaching artist for another two years at the theater. He met his future wife, Omaha native Jennifer Ettinger, at The Rose after she was hired for the next fellowship.

Saladino followed her to graduate school in New York City for almost two years, but being in such an “exhausting city” made him eager to get back to this “big and small” town.

“I was the one pushing to come back to Omaha,” he says. “This is a great city…I’ve never been in a city that was so active in making itself better.” He was especially attracted to the up-and-coming arts scene, and enjoys spending time at the Bemis Center, KANEKO, the Old Market galleries, and Benson First Fridays.

They moved back in 2015, and he worked at the American Red Cross before landing at OCI.

Watie White, a local artist and OCI board member who was involved in Saladino’s hiring, says the institute needed someone young and talented, “eager for a place to not just call home but a place to really get to grow.” Saladino fit the bill.

“He didn’t come in knowing everything,” White says. “He came in eager to learn everything.”

Since taking over as executive director, Saladino has focused on growing OCI’s programs and the service it provides for artists working in the community. His primary work is long-term strategy, sustainability, fundraising, and the nonprofit’s finances.

One area where Saladino has focused his efforts is growing OCI’s grant program, building off an initial grant funded by donations from an Omaha Gives! campaign to create an established program with funding committed to keep making awards.

OCI currently has a twice-a-year grant cycle, giving four unrestricted artist grants of $3,500 each, with one earmarked for a working parent and one for a new American immigrant or refugee; two public project grants of $5,000 each; and $6,000 in emergency grants, given on an as-needed basis within 48 hours.

Angie Seykora, an artist living and working in Omaha, received one of the 2018 unrestricted grants. She says that she used the money to pay for an assistant, an art history graduate who relocated from New York for a few months to gain experience in a studio environment.

With the assistant’s help, Seykora says she was able to speed up production of her artwork and have more time to refine her pieces.

“It is giving artists an opportunity to make their practice a little more sustainable,” Seykora says. “This grant program has allowed me to organically make my work.”

Promoting more sustainable, authentic careers for working artists is what OCI seeks to do each day. Under Saladino’s leadership, the nonprofit will continue to value artists’ careers in Omaha and provide support for their contribution to the community’s culture.


Visit omahacreativeinstitute.org for more information.

This article was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. 

Andrew Saladino

Horses, Mavericks, and Pitbulls—It’s an Animal of a Weekend

April 12, 2018 by

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Pick of the Week—Thursday, April 12 to Sunday, April 15: The International Omaha (Horse show) is back! If you go, be sure to attend the InIt2WinIt, featuring local ladies Brooke and Karen Cudmore. Don’t have a ticket? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of free fun at the Horse Discovery Zone and in the tailgate lounge. The daytime competitions are also free. No time for horsing around, though. Get all the details you’ll need here.

Friday, April 13: “What happens when art behaves badly?” If this is a question you’ve asked yourself but have yet to discover the answer to, then you should get to I Like Your Work: Art & Etiquette Opening Reception at the Omaha Creative Institute. Interdisciplinary artist Sarah Hummel Jones is bringing together artists from Brooklyn, Montreal, and Omaha who challenge art world etiquette. Joel Damon will give a performative lecture on that topic. Learn more here.

Saturday, April 14th: The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s student newspaper,  The Gateway, will host its first-ever fundraising Run the Press 5k fun run/walk at Memorial Park this Saturday. The Gateway has been the university’s source for news and opinion for students, faculty, and alumni since 1913 and we want to ensure they keep going. So Omaha Magazine is proudly sponsoring this event in the hopes they keep growing and guiding UNO students in the communications fields. Please register here to help us keep a good thing going.

Saturday, April 14th: Spend the day with some DIY nerds at Omaha Zine Fest 2018. You won’t find a more enthusiastic group of creatives than those at this festival. With over 100 zine creators from around the Midwest and beyond, this is an excellent opportunity to pick their brains and find out how they do it. Besides the free knowledge you’ll gain, there will also be live screen printing, a tintype photo booth, and free coffee from Mug Life. Did we mention the tasty food available from Omaha’s Awesome Eggrolls and Fauxmaha? Get the full day’s rundown here.

Saturday, April 14th: Don’t let the weather deter you from doing good. Rain, snow, or shine, Pasta for Pits! (and All Breeds) is still a great cause to stuff yourself for. Hosted by Helping Hand for Animals, this delicious dinner will help raise funds and awareness for rescue dogs in need of homes and love. So get to Boulder Creek Amusement Park and show your support. There will also be a silent auction and home-baked goodies you can take with you if you’ve eaten too much to enjoy the mini dessert bar. Lend your helping hand by clicking here.

Saturday, April 14th to Sunday April 15th: It’s crafty time! Head to the Pioneer Craft, Antique, and Junk Show at the Mall of the Bluffs in the old Target to find some new additions for your collections. For two whole days, you can dig through handmade crafts, antiques, and repurposed junk until just the right piece jumps out at you. So cross the bridge and start your junk jaunting early. Head here for more details and to find out how you can get a discount on admission. 

Sunday, April 15th: While it might not feel like spring outside this weekend, you can still hear the sounds of spring when you head to Gardens—Flowers—Bugs Concert at the Omaha Conservatory of Music. Be sure to bring the whole family, as children under 12 get in free. Hosted by the Nebraska Wind Symphony, this concert is guaranteed to blow you away, so hold on to your kiddos. Spring into action and get your tickets here.

 

It’s Not All About You, St. Pat!

March 15, 2018 by

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Pick of the Week—Friday, March 16: A free performance of African Body, Soul, & MVMNT: A Window Into the Past is happening this Friday night at the Hi-Fi House. This project by Edem K. Garro of Edem Soul Music was chosen by the Omaha Creative Institute as the recipient of their Omaha Gives Back Grant. The performance traces “the journey of generations of African Americans from dehumanization and oppression to hope for a more equitable and inclusive present and future.” Don’t miss the chance to see it performed in an intimate space. While the event is free, you are encouraged to register for tickets here. Learn more about the performance and Edem Soul Music here.

Also, check out our upcoming story on Edem in the next issue of Encounter.

Thursday, March 15: If you haven’t heard the word yet, be sure to catch it tonight. The WORD – Herstory: Focus on HER is happening at The Opollo Music Hall in Benson. This round of The WORD Open Mic celebrates feminine energy. It’s a fusion of live, eclectic jazz and spoken word poetry, presented by artist Withlove, Felicia. The new Opollo will be its permanent home, every third Thursday of the month, from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Hear the word and check out this great new music venue. For more information on this show, click here. To find more Withlove, Felicia events, flow on over here.

Saturday, March 17: Sure, there are plenty of parties going on at the bars this weekend, so we’ll let you choose your poison there. But don’t start your drinking on an empty stomach. Get to the St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon at Lauritzen Gardens and enjoy some real greenery before hitting the patios and downing all those green beers. They’ll be serving up cabbage, corned beef, potatoes—the whole shebang. So get some stick-to-your-ribs Irish fare in you before heading out to get langered. Be sure to make reservations, though. Find out how here.

Saturday, March 17: Come see what Omaha’s all-female roller derby league can do this weekend. Don’t forget to wear green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and show your appreciation for those in uniform during the Omaha Rollergirls Green Out/Military Appreciation Night. Did we mention adult tickets are buy one, get one free for Military, Fire, Rescue, and Police? This jam starts at 6 p.m. at Ralston Arena. Get those tickets here now.

Sunday, March 18: Members of the Nebraska Writers Guild are coming together to read excerpts from an anthology they contributed to at The Bookworm Hosts Voices from the Plains Authors. Over 60 contemporary authors with various backgrounds from across Nebraska contributed to the book. The event starts at 1 p.m. and goes until 3 p.m. Pick up your copy of Voices from the Plains at The Bookworm (Omaha), Francie & Finch or Indigo Bridge (both in Lincoln), and several others. Get more information on the event here.

Lowbrow Pop Culture Maven

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If it wasn’t for Bugs Bunny, Ren and Stimpy, or Johnny Bravo, we may never have gotten to know Dan Crane, artist extraordinaire. One of Omaha’s rising contemporary creators, Crane credits his formative years watching Cartoon Network as much as his degree in printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute for his unique visual perspective.

“That pre-internet, pop culture aesthetic that animators were doing at the time was so particular. It never really left me,” Crane says.

Dan-Crane-1One look at his work and that’s astoundingly clear. A hybrid of commercial and fine art, his pieces range from fartsy to artsy: one of his printed t-shirts displays a butt in mid-squat, while large abstract paintings fill his studio with inviting neon-hues.

Equal parts kid-at-heart and all-grownup, Crane has built an impressive professional portfolio. He has lent his eye-popping visual perspective to the Omaha Creative Institute, and Scout Dry Goods & Trade, and has helped to establish B&G Tasty Foods’ creative brand.

“We try hard to have interesting and unique signage at B&G, and Dan has really helped with that immensely,” says Eddie Morin, restaurant owner. “The most important work he has done for us is designing our new mascots, Louis Meat and Louise Frenchee. We’re using those guys all over the place now.”

Crane recently completed a gig for Mula where he had been commissioned to design, and print t-shirts. The finished shirts feature a monster holding a basketball and a taco with peace signs for eyes. The characters might seem unnatural for a Mexican kitchen and tequileria, but they are representative of Crane’s kooky and bold signature style.

Dan-Crane-2When Crane’s not cooking up art for local eateries, he spends time at the Union for Contemporary Art. As a previous fellowship recipient, he has a small temporary studio at the Union. During his fellowship, which lasted from November 2015 through April 2016, he helped North Omaha school kids transfer their small drawings onto much larger pieces of plywood. The finished products were installed in Habitat for Humanity yards as pop-up public art.

“The Union is all about spreading positive social change through art,” Crane says. “Can I just say that I am so f***ing grateful for them?”

Yes, Crane’s language is commonly peppered with swear words. He’s also got a penchant for Atlanta trap music and once lived in an 1,800-square-foot Blackstone District storefront that was notorious for all-night raves. Nothing Crane does is by the book. And he’s just fine with that.

“The whole art with a capital ‘A’ thing really bugs me,” Crane says. “I’m not motivated to do something unless it’s super-approachable and can be related to on a real level.”

Crane often slips into episodes of nostalgia. Whether he is recalling childhood summers spent copying doodles inside libraries or the two weeks he served pad thai from a truck at Coachella (so he could quit the food industry and focus on art), he’s all about the journey. Not the destination.

“I still feel like I’m in my infancy stage as an artist,” Crane says. “I’m loving what I’m doing now and taking it one day, one project at a time.”

Visit therealweekendo.tumblr.com for more information. Omaha Magazine

Stranger in a Strange Land

December 30, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up in London, Stuart Chittenden found himself a bit obsessed with America: its historical complexities, its social turmoil, its pioneering spirit, its glitz and glamor. He read tons of American authors, luxuriating in the majesty of the open road as portrayed in works like John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. He watched Taxi and Mash.

Eventually, Chittenden moved to Omaha, married an American woman (fashion writer Amy Chittenden), and landed probably the most interesting job title ever: chief curiosity officer for David Day Associates. He’s a perennial TEDxOmaha presenter and something of a conversation artist. His consultancy, Squishtalks, offers conversation-based workshops for businesses, organizations, and individuals.

Chittenden’s recent project, “a couple of 830 mile long conversations,” marks his most significant offering to the cultural fabric of our state (so far).

“a couple of 830 mile long conversations” traverses the state’s vast geography to explore the ways in which landscape—physical, historical—informs a sense of community. The effort, one that received funding from Humanities Nebraska/Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Omaha Creative Institute, and several individuals, is part field recording, part personal quest to understand an unfamiliar place.

Last summer, Chittenden packed some pricey mobile audio-recording equipment—on loan from Clete Baker of Studio B—into an aging R.V. and rambled west down highways and gravel roads seeking to capture a representative sample of the voice of Nebraska as it exists in the moment.

By recording unscripted, spontaneous conversations in public (libraries, cafes, sidewalks) he began to discover the feeling of life in Gordon, Chadron, Norfolk, Alliance, Broken Bow, and other places formerly alien to him.    

“I had a sense of what Nebraska could be,” he says. “I’d seen photographs. I’d heard people describe their experiences growing up in smaller towns. I expected to be surprised by some of the beauty in different places, and maybe to find some places to be a little drab—this idea of rural communities sort of collapsing in on themselves.”

That’s pretty much what happened. Some communities emanated vibrancy; others seemed bleak. The prairie’s “very quiet but intimidating beauty” struck him as sublime, most evidently in the lakes and waterways. The Sand Hills, greatly exaggerated by friends and colleagues over the years, did not blow his mind.

“Overwhelmingly, I was warmly received,” he notes. “I was really impressed with the courage of many people to engage with someone who was obviously a stranger. Even those people that didn’t choose to join in the conversation, they were warm.”

Happily, the conversations he recorded dug deeper than weather and the Huskers. “I remember one gentleman, he was in a mobile electric wheelchair. I literally sat on the curb for 90 minutes and chatted with him.”

As for how landscape shapes a community’s self-perception, Chittenden noticed a marked shift the further west he went. The primary difference between eastern and western Nebraska, he contends, has to do with geography’s time-compression effect. The buttes, vast skies, and wagon ruts of western Nebraska seem to shrink the years, creating a visceral connection to history.

That’s not to say the pioneering spirit is dead in Omaha. It simply takes a different form here: the entrepreneurial mindset.

“In Omaha,” Chittenden says, “they don’t look for wagons. They look for Warren.”

Visit 830nebraska.com to listen to stories from the project.

StuartChittendenWeb2

Omaha Creative Institute

September 18, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Omaha Creative Institute (OCI) was founded in 2008, staff converted a used truck and horse trailer into a mobile art vehicle as a way to bring creativity to neighborhood festivals, parades, and other community events. Whether at Dundee Days or South Omaha’s Cinco de Mayo parade, OCI led workshops and provided sidewalk chalk to kids with the goal of making it possible for people from all walks of life to experience creativity firsthand.

Fast forward five years, and the organization moved far beyond the horse trailer. During summer 2013, OCI installed 10 pianos designed by local artists around town and invited people to play, listen to, or just view the musical instruments as interactive pieces of art. It also scheduled special events, including a performance by Ballet Nebraska and a sing-along organized by Joslyn Art Museum to bring added art experiences to the public. The project was such a success that Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards recognized OCI with its Best Public Art award for that year.

In March we caught up with Susan Thomas, who was in the last weeks of her tenure as executive director, and Emily Moody, just about to undertake hers, to gather insights into an organization that became an integral part of enriching communities throughout Omaha.

Thomas explains why there is a need for the institute, even in a city that already offers a fairly diverse selection of visual and performing arts. “There was a perceived gap in having art available to a broader community.

“Omaha Creative Institute was founded to make art more open and accessible to everyone,” she continues. “We are more about building an audience for the arts and getting people who don’t typically participate in the arts to support them. We connect with all kinds of people.”

One of the ways OCI links with the community is by collaborating with other organizations, especially those not typically associated with the arts. In 2012 it worked with Metro Transit for “Conversations on a Bus,” in which two photographers rode buses throughout the metro area, interviewing and photographing riders. It documented encounters and brought art directly to a community usually not involved with the city’s creative offerings. “It introduced art to a whole new population,” says Thomas.

Last year OCI introduced artists to a community with which they’re often not familiar: the business one. Artist INC Live Omaha provided professional development to 22 artists as a way to empower them to take control of their careers and earn a living from their art. “Even though this seems like a different mission, the program really comes full circle for Omaha Creative Institute,” observes Moody. “It builds a public arts audience by supporting the artists who create.”

As OCI moves forward, both women are excited with how the organization will continue bringing arts programming directly to the public. “We make wonderful connections in the community,” Thomas philosophized. “I think that’s one of our great strengths.”

Moody agrees. “Everyone can relate to the arts in some way. It’s so important. I’m very fortunate to play a part in that.”

Omaha-Creative-Institute

Co-Lab

September 1, 2015 by

This article appears in B2B Fall 2015.

It is an unassuming space, but if you have made your way to TD Ameritrade Park, Filmstreams, or Hot Shops, chances are you’ve passed one of the most vibrant offices in Omaha.

CoLab3The fact that Co-Lab (short for Creative Collaborators) is not a traditional work space is certainly one of its best features. Located inside the Tip Top building at 15th and Cumming streets is a project dreamed up by Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, who happens to share the main floor of the building. Based in the heart of a once-isolated section of the city, Co-Lab’s funky, creative vibe is making waves. In fact, that vibe seeps into Omaha’s everyday, bringing about small changes pushing our city toward a more innovative future.

Home to 18 businesses plus Alley Poyner Macchietto, Co-Lab is free of walls and signage. It is also free from traditional office norms. For instance, you don’t just walk over to your neighbor’s space for a brainstorming session—you skateboard. At least you do if you’re Dave Nelson of SecretPenguin, a leading experiential branding agency. The best part is that the businesses surrounding SecretPenguin appreciate the break from tradition. “That’s the beautiful part about being around like-minded, good people and businesses,” Nelson says.

CoLab4

In addition to having pathways large enough to skateboard or bike through, the space also provides Co-Labbers with a kitchen, various conference rooms, bike storage, bathrooms, and a battleground (otherwise known as the ping-pong table). Walking in the main doors, clients and employees alike are greeted from the front desk while catching a view of the five-story open atrium basking in the glow of sunshine from the skylight. Workers can also access the fitness room and rooftop deck, sharing amenities with TipTop apartment residents, who use a separate entrance.

CoLab7

Businesses in Co-Lab, all creativity-related, range from entrepreneurs to start-ups to non-profits to small businesses. The art varies in form, but runs through the space like an electric current. At Zicafoose Textiles, Mary Zicafoose works steadily on her loom, creating gorgeous tapestries. 4Site Programming is where Joi Brown works as an independent consultant for performing arts centers across the nation. Heartland B-Cycle, a large-scale municipal bike sharing system, brings art in the form of economical convenience.

Holly Boyer, a founder of non-profit organization Mission Matters, explains that one of the best things about having an office at Co-Lab is feeling the innovative, positive energy from the moment you walk in the door. So while individuals may join Co-Lab with a business-minded focus or a more creative vibe, finding a yin to their yang is just a shout away.

CoLab6

“There is certainly a wonderful built-in support network that comes along with working in a collaborative environment,” quips Omaha Creative Institute Executive Director Emily Moody. “Everything from sharing ideas and finding ways to collaborate with an organization different than yours to sharing a stapler.”

At the heart of making it work, says Laura Alley of Alley Poyner, it’s simply playing well with others.

The skateboarding, ping-pong playing creatives do that well.

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CoLab1

Play Me, I’m Yours

August 23, 2013 by
Photography by Omaha Creative Institute

Rogue pianos.

Those are not two words one typically finds sharing space together. It’s Susan Thomas’ fault, really.

As executive director of Omaha Creative Institute, Thomas is thrilled that local businesses and creatives around town are jumping on the bandwagon (pun fully intended) of Play Me, I’m Yours. The public art exhibit consists of 10 pianos decorated and placed around the metro. The Omaha take on the international project encourages locals to play anything from Chopsticks to Beethoven’s 5th between now and Sun., Sep. 8, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

photo-9

Except.

There are more than 10 instruments now.

“There are three rogue pianos that I know of,” Thomas says. “People heard about the project and told me, ‘we want one in our area too!’” Already faced with the logistical challenge of finding 10 pianos, artists willing to decorate them, and locations to stage them, Thomas welcomed interested parties to find and decorate their own pianos to sort of piggy back on Play Me, I’m Yours.

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So if playing on an “authorized” piano at 2 a.m. in a public space isn’t rebellious enough for you, feel free to seek out one of the following:

  • The Sweatshop Gallery in Benson. This piano is the brainchild of Sweatshop Gallery founder Kim Reid Kuhn and artist Stephen Walsh.
  • Modern Arts Midtown at Midtown Crossing. Owner Larry Roots has selected a piano that will be painted in stages while it’s out in the spotlight.
  • Bruning Sculture at Hot Shops. Les Bruning has made a miniature grand piano out of metal. He’s put an electronic keyboard inside it, and it’s portable. “If someone’s having an event, he’s more than happy to take it there,” Thomas says.

“The great thing about this,” she adds, “is that it’s so multidisciplinary. People will say, oh, isn’t it about the art, isn’t it about the music, isn’t it about the people. Well, actually, it’s about all of that.”

For a complete list of the 10 locations planned by Omaha Creative Institute, visit streetpianos.com/omaha2013.