Tag Archives: Omaha

The Ham Ma’am

July 20, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For Ella Weber, her career as a professional artist began where all the greats get their start—bathing in a tub filled with 40 gallons of sprinkles. 

After working in a frozen yogurt shop, she was inspired by the toppings to capture artificial happiness in a video as part of her graduate thesis project. The final close-up shots show sprinkles moving around her body like mesmerizing multicolored waves. She’s practically swimming in a sea of rainbow sugar. Then, suddenly, Weber shoves fistful after fistful of sprinkles in her mouth and proceeds to regurgitate them. This is performance art that’s not for the faint of heart…or stomach.  

“There is a fairly large amount of work being made in the Omaha echo chamber that’s void of anything I would consider stimulating or surprising. Then there’s Ella Weber,” says Joel Damon, curator and founder of Project Project, a local independent art space. “She’s a breath of fresh air covered in Black Forest ham and beige vinyl siding.”

That’s right, this girl has a thing for ham. She’s a foodie, but not in the typical sense. Don’t look at her Instagram for shots of chic eats or expect Weber to whip up Chopped-inspired dishes for dinner. Instead, she uses food as a medium in videos and sculptural installations to explore the relationship between consumerism, sexuality, and religion. 

“I use food because I’m always thinking of it symbolically,” Weber says. “I hope my work makes viewers hungry for questioning and looking at life a different way.”

With a pastor father, Weber spent much of her childhood on the move, living in towns so small it was practically required for her to play sports so there were enough girls to form a team. Then, her family relocated to a suburb of Chicago where she discovered a great art program and sports teams that required players to have actual athletic skills. Just like that, it was hello to creativity and bye-bye to basketball. 

Her inner jock still compelled her to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and become part of Husker nation. As a freshman, she knew she wanted to cheer on the Big Red but wasn’t sure what path to take with art. 

“Before college, I had no clue I needed to open my eyes. I didn’t even know or understand what printmaking was,” Weber says. “I thought of it as ancient graphic design.” 

Ultimately, Weber specialized in printmaking for both undergrad and her University of Kansas graduate degree. In the two years since schooling, however, her career has been more about lunchmeat than lithography.

To save money, she moved into her parents’ West Omaha home, living a suburban life and working behind the Hy-Vee deli counter between artistic residencies. She looks at this idyllic version of Nebraska’s good life as research. 

“I was this depressed meat person, but then I had a change of heart,” Weber says. “I began to think of the deli job as a studio. When I clocked in, it was time to make art.”

What followed were more than 6,000 videos and selfies with slices of ham, some dressed up with smiley faces, of course. A bond with an oven-roasted chicken was also formed. Part performance art and part friendship, she decided to take home this chicken after it had slipped from the slicer onto the floor. Instead of just throwing it away, she showed her bird bud six months of Nebraska nice living. When it was time to part (because, after half a year, meat doesn’t smell so neat), a service was even held in Memorial Park for the chicken.

“I don’t know how she does it, but Ella makes sliced meat look like macro-porn and vintage high-end wallpaper. It’s completely bonkers in the best way,” Damon says. 

She’s just recently finished her seventh residency, teaching video and animation classes in Utica, New York. While there, she also curated a solo show where her suburbia/deli-land research came into play. During it, she showed a video that spliced images of neighborhood walks with a meat slicer, all to demonstrate the banality and repetition of everyday life.

“I’m trying to enable the viewer to see and connect with the absurdities and beauty that surrounds us all,” Weber says. “If your eyes are open to the everyday, you can find humor and hidden meaning in the most mundane and ordinary things—like sliced ham.”

Now home from New York, Weber has a lot on her plate. This summer, she’ll have an exhibition at The Union for Contemporary Art, followed by adjunct teaching of drawing classes for the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the fall. 

When she does find some free time, Weber expects it’ll be eaten up by work on a semi-autobiographical book, titled The Deli Diaries, and potentially more Hy-Vee “research.” 

“Me and the deli, it’s like a bad romantic relationship where my friends will kill me if I go back,” Weber says. “But I might need to refresh my memory, digest it all, and then I’ll be ready to write about deeper things than just ham.”


Visit ellaweber.com for the artist’s personal website. Her exhibition, Sounds Good, will run from July 20 to Aug. 25 at the Union for Contemporary Art. Learn more at u-ca.org.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. 

We All Scream for Ice Cream

July 18, 2018 by
Photography by provided

Growing up in the second half of an earlier millennia, the lilting jingle-jangle chimes of an ice cream truck was my soundtrack to summer. The common Fudgsicle had the power to induce a Pavlovian response in any young child. Buying a red, white, and blue Bomb Pop was an act of patriotism. The chocolaty/nutty Drumstick was considered the pinnacle of atomic age engineering. But ice cream no longer comes right to our doorstep as much as it once did, so let’s point you to where you’ll find the most tempting opportunities for a hurts-so-good brain freeze treat. 

Zesto

– 610 N. 12th St. (inside Blatt Beer & Table)
– 8608 N. 30th St.
– 7130 N. 102nd Circle
– 1317 S. 204th St. (Elkhorn)

Generations of college baseball fans have made the pilgrimage to Omaha for the NCAA College World Series, and no sojourn to TD Ameritrade Park would be complete without a visit to the mecca that is Zesto. The seasonal location that operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the one so often name-dropped by ESPN announcers, is co-located with Beer Blatt & Table just a Texas League single from the ballpark, but be sure to also check out the other locations, especially the frozen-in-time, throwback shop on North 30th Street.

eCreamery

– 5001 Underwood Ave.

Zesto may get lots of love from ESPN, but Dundee’s eCreamery has been heralded by…well, just about everyone else. From all the big morning shows to the New York Times to Shark Tank to such celebrity clients as Oprah, Taylor Swift, and Sir Paul McCartney, eCreamery is a darling of the ice cream world. Think you have what it takes to design your own blend? Give it a shot, but just know you’ll be up against some pretty stiff competition, including flavors from their collaboration with celebrity chef  Emeril Lagasse.

Neveria y Paleteria La Michoacana

– 4002 S. 24th St.
– 4924 S. 24th St.

Do monarch butterflies like ice cream? If so, they’d flock to South Omaha’s Neveria y Paleteria La Michoacana. That’s where they’d find the same sweet nectar flavors as those of their winter grounds in the Mexican state of Michoacán, the shop’s namesake. In flavors from guava to passion fruit to piña colada—even exotic tamarind—only the freshest real fruits are used in these delicacies that are also distributed through Guerrero Grocery and about 20 convenience stores across a broad southern swath of the city.

Jones Bros. Cupcakes

– Aksarben Village, 2121 S. 67th St.
– Westroads Mall, 10000 California St.
– 2615 S. 180th St.

August’s Maha Music Festival will rattle the glass of the windows across the street at Jones Bros. Cupcakes in Aksarben Village, but all will be serene inside, thanks to the calming, Zen-like powers of a scoop of ice cream floating in a Bursting Boba Tea, a popular summer selection from the folks who have made three appearances—and taken home one win—on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Or try one of their couture shakes and malts. Maybe the Salted Caramel Explosion with its combination of chocolate-covered potato chips, sweet and salty cupcake, and salted caramel brownie?

 

Petrow’s

– 5914 Center St.

Petrow’s isn’t your granddad’s ice…no, wait…Petrow’s is, in fact, your grandad’s ice cream. And your great-grandad’s. While the iconic family restaurant has occupied the same plot of land on the corner of 60th and Center streets since 1950, the Petrow name is associated with a continuous stream of Nebraska ice cream history that can be traced all the way back to the Fremont Candy Kitchen, which was established in 1903. Not many places can boast a 115-year-old recipe, but maybe that’s why their famed, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink clown sundae remains popular to this day.

Eileen’s Colossal Cookies

– 1024 S. 74th Plaza
– 210 S. 16th St.
(inside Brandeis Building)

One of the few places on our list that does not make its own ice cream, Eileen’s is still worthy of a mention for their amazing ice cream sandwiches. With usually something like nine flavors of ice cream and about 13 flavors of cookies from which to choose, the possibilities for tasty combinations in building your own ice cream sandwich are almost endless. (Available only at the two locations listed above.)

Freezing

– Aksarben Village, 1918 S. 67th St.

Watching the crew work at Omaha’s newest ice cream place is part middle school science fair and part Japanese steakhouse acrobatics. To create their Thai rolled ice cream, a viscous glob of semi-liquid ingredients is plopped onto a frozen disc the size of a pizza pan. The mix sets up as it is chopped, kneaded, and otherwise manhandled before being smoothed out into a crepe-thin layer that freezes in a matter of moments. Using a deft hand and what looks to be a broad-bladed drywall knife, the ice cream is then gently scraped off the disc in a way that forms perfectly coiled spirals of Thai yumminess.

Dolci

– Old Market, 1003 Howard St.

Dolci gets a nod for sheer ingenuity. Check out their fanciful Spaghetti and Sweet Balls sundae, where vanilla soft serve is extruded through a ricer to form a bowl of ice cream noodles. Add a few oatmeal peanut butter meatballs and a marinara of strawberry sauce topped with a grated, white chocolate topping in lieu of Parmesan cheese. Surely one of the Old Market’s funkier concoctions.

Ted & Wally’s

– Old Market, 1120 Jackson St.
– Benson, 6023 Maple St.

With a recipe that includes 20 percent butterfat, Ted & Wally’s, a local pioneer in upscale ice cream, lays claim to being the area’s only “super premium” product as defined by industry standards. And it’s all churned out in century-old White Mountain freezing machines. Both businesses operate out of equally antique, converted filling stations. The original location is an Old Market fixture, and the newer shop in the beard-and-beer borough of Benson has served to expand the reach of one of the city’s favorite brands.

Helados Santa Fe

– 4807 S. 24th St.

The only thing more colorful than the annual Cinco de Mayo parade that passes its front door is the collection of popsicles in the huge freezer case that welcomes you to Helados Santa Fe in the heart of South Omaha. In an array of hues straight out of Andy Warhol’s color palette from his Marilyn Monroe series, you’ll find such ice cream curiosities as cheese, Mexican bread, and avocado. And ice cream infused with hot chili peppers? Yeah, it’s a thing.

Coneflower Creamery

– Blackstone District, 3921 Farnam St.

The “Farm to Cone” tagline says it all at the shop in the resurgent, hot-hot-hot Blackstone District. Using a network of local partners from fruit and vegetable growers to dairies, coffee roasters, and locally made root beer—even the sprinkles are made in-house—Coneflower Creamery is committed to supporting local producers while delivering only the freshest of ingredients in a menu that changes with the growing seasons. A chef-driven philosophy is behind the quest for flavors not normally associated with ice cream. Basil? Saffron? Ginger? Turmeric? Yes, please!

Additional Metro Area Shops

– Dairy Chef  (3223 N. 204th St., Elkhorn)
– Dairy Twist  (2211 Lincoln Road, Bellevue)
– 80’s Snack Shack  (4733 Giles Road, Bellevue)
– Tastee Treet  (13996 Wabash Ave., Council Bluffs)
– Christy Creme  (2853 N. Broadway, Council Bluffs)
– Doozies  (321 Comanche St., Council Bluffs)

Have we neglected any local ice cream shops? Let us know on social media at @omahamagazine. 


This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Encounter Destinations

Illustration by Derek Joy

AKSARBEN VILLAGE

Maha Music Festival (Aug. 17-18 at Stinson Park) marks 10 years in 2018, but the all-day, all-night music cornucopia is anything but stale and wheezy. In fact, it’s fresher than ever—and getting Weezer, who will just be coming off their summer tour. The popular band that cut its chops in the 1990s headlines Saturday night. Also taking the stage will be Father John Misty, TV on the Radio, The Kills, and more than a dozen other acts.

mahamusicfestival.com/2018 

Meanwhile, just getting its start in Aksarben Village is the High Vibe Festival, now on its second year. Omaha’s premier yoga, music, and plant-based food festival happens on Saturday, Aug. 11, and features a 5K run, live music, all-day yoga, conscious workshops, and “good vibes.”

highvibefestival.com 

BENSON

It’s back—but you’ll have to go yourself to see if it’s better than ever. We’re talking about Benson Days, the annual get down in downtown B-town set this year for July 28 and 29. The family-friendly summer festival will feature a pancake breakfast, parade, dozens of vendors, art, live music, children’s activities, and more. And back after a year off is The Indie: Scale the Benson Alps, a 5K/10K road race that takes runners past some of Benson’s hot spots. Perhaps best of all, you can feel good giving your green for all that fun—Benson Days proceeds support neighborhood projects.

bensondays.com 

BLACKSTONE

Know any Nebraska bars certified as a tequileria? If you said Mula in the Blackstone District (40th & Farnam streets), give yourself a pat on the back. Give yourself another if you know what a tequileria is. According to their website, such certification means at least 80 percent of a bar’s staff has studied the history, production, and regulation of tequila—from harvesting the agave plant in Jalisco fields to its fermentation and distillation. That means tequila tastiness for patrons in Old and New World styles. The dedication to perfection extends to Mula’s “street style” menu for lunch and dinner.

mulaomaha.com 

CAPITOL

Got an hour? Good. Use it to get to know your body—or really, everybody’s body—at the nationally touring exhibition Our Body: The Universe Within. The exhibit runs through
July 31 at 225 N. 12th St. Visitors get a look at the inner workings of human anatomy by presentation of actual human specimens, anatomical displays, reproductions of historic anatomical artwork, and more. If you’ve got the guts, you also have the opportunity to touch a human heart, kidney, liver, and brain. The self-guided tour is $15 per person, with discounts for
seniors, students, children, and military personnel.

ourbodyomaha.com  

DUNDEE

Like live music? What about a beer garden? Running? Food? Fun? Then the 18th annual Dundee Day is calling your name. This year’s Dundee Day is set for Saturday, Aug. 25, and begins with the traditional pancake breakfast, early morning Rundee 5K (undies encouraged), and a parade. There’s also an art fair, the Dundee Bank Street Olympics for kids, music from local bands, and a Memorial Park beer garden. Plenty of chow and vendors will be on hand, along with a farmers market.

dundee-memorialpark.org 

MIDTOWN

If no news is good news, does that mean some news is bad news? Not at Midtown Crossing, where there’s been lots of news. The good news is there’s a new place to please your palate, 5168 Brewing Taproom, now open at 3201 Farnam St. (Suite No. 6107). There’s a full lunch and dinner menu to complement 5168’s brews, long popular at the outfit’s original location in Lincoln.

5168brewing.com  

Other good news comes with the announcement of the lineup for Playing with Fire, Midtown’s free summer concert series. The 2018 lineup mixes local and international talent, rocking Turner Park with blues-rock, soul, funk, and R&B. The July 14 jam features five bands, including headliner Jack de Keyzer. On Aug. 25 another five bands kick it, with Paul Reddick Band bringing things to a crescendo.

playingwithfireomaha.net  

NODO

Typically, the Hot Shops Art Center has an open-door policy. The NoDo studio center is closed in June for repairs. But it’s open for business again beginning in July, with at least three events worthy of getting you down to 1301 Nicholas St.—the Mike Godek and Susan Woodford sculpture show, the Claire Caswell exhibit, and Interpretation, (a group show). Be patient, and you will be rewarded.

hotshopsartcenter.com 

OLD MARKET

Looking for something fresh to do in the Old Market? It doesn’t get much fresher than the Omaha Farmer’s Market. With roots going back nearly 100 years, its current incarnation is now celebrating its 25th year. They’ve been offering fresh, locally grown produce, baked goods, and flowers every year since 1994, doing so on 11th Street from Jackson to Howard streets, with nearly 100 vendors in attendance. Keep an eye out for new additions, including a biscuits-and-gravy booth. This market runs 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 13.

omahafarmersmarket.com  

VINTON STREET

Chances are, the name Louis Marcuzzo doesn’t ring a bell. Chances are, Louie M’s Burger Lust does. Consider this entry us ringing the dinner bell—and breakfast and lunch bells—for the iconic Vinton Street restaurant that dates it roots to the catering service Marcuzzo began in 1980. Today they serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. The menu is extensive, showcasing, of course, burgers—nearly two dozen options are listed. But there are also starters, salads, and sandwiches, daily lunch specials, and a plethora of breakfast offerings guaranteed to start your day with a smile.

louiemsburgerlust.com 

24TH AND LAKE

All your future adventures in the 24th and Lake district should include a consideration of the past. And there’s no better place to do so than at the Great Plains Black History Museum at 2221 N. 24th St. For more than 40 years the museum has been preserving, celebrating, and educating visitors about the contributions and achievements of the region’s vibrant African-American heritage. Recent offerings include displays on the Tuskegee Airmen who called Nebraska home, a history of the Omaha chapter of the NAACP, and an exhibit on Nebraska football great Johnny Rodgers. More great looks into the past are coming…in the future.

gpblackhistorymuseum.org 


This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Encounter. 

Be Your Own Pit Boss

July 17, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up on a farm in northern Minnesota, barbecue enthusiast Gary Dunteman learned many skills. “When you’re a farm kid, you’ve got to be your own mechanic, you’ve got to be your own carpenter—you’ve got to learn how to do everything.” 

At 13, his dad taught him how to weld to fix machinery. Now his welding comes in handy as he tries out various techniques to create the perfect smoker.

Dunteman once built a 120-gallon smoker with a customized rotisserie rack out of an old air compressor tank from a service station. “People look at it and ask, ‘What is that?’” he says. “I can do 16 racks of ribs at one time.” 

He competes in statewide barbecue competitions on the team Hawgenz Heroz, and he gets a lot of looks when traveling to contests in his decommissioned ambulance. “I call her Rosalie,” he says. The ambulance used to serve the village of Rosalie, Nebraska. “Everybody should have an ambulance. An ambulance has a lot of storage room.” 

Dunteman, who works in packaging sales, first became interested in meat smoking when his former warehouse manager built a barrel smoker. “He brought it into work one day and made some ribs on it. I thought that was the most awesome thing that ever happened.” So Dunteman taught himself how to make his own smoker by watching “ugly drum smoker” videos on YouTube. 

Dunteman says his specialty air compressor smoker would be difficult for most grilling enthusiasts to make (due to the types of tools necessary). But he says that anyone can build their own barrel smoker. Dunteman built his in an afternoon and it cost him around $100 in materials. 

Steps: First, treat your barrel by “starting a big old fire” in it with wood and charcoal to season it. “You want to get it smoked up before you actually start cooking the meat in it.” He then took pieces from an old 21-inch Weber Grill. He repurposed the racks and used the bottom of the grill to make the lid. If you don’t have an old grill, you can purchase a smoker cover and a replacement cooking grate for the racks separately. 

To make the coal basket, he attached four carriage bolts to the bottom of the rack and then attached a 6-inch piece of expanded steel around it to make a basket. “I wrapped it around it and wired it to the rack.” He removed the handle from the side of the grill and put it on top of the smoker lid. He then drilled holes in the bottom of the barrel and attached caster wheels. 

He also put in a suspended water pan (a disposable aluminum dish) between the coal basket and the rack of meat. “The water simmers and keeps it moist and steams the meat as it’s getting smoked, so it doesn’t dry out the meat.” He recommends buying a smoker cover to protect from the rain. Dunteman says if taken care of, a barrel smoker will last a very long time, giving the user many years of savory memories.

Materials Needed 

  • 55-gallon refurbished steel barrel ($29.99 from Jones Barrel Co.) 
  • 4 caster wheels
  • Replacement cooking grate or a secondhand grate sourced from a 21-inch Weber Grill
  • Expanded sheet steel (12-by-24 inches)
  • 4 carriage bolts
  • Smoker cover
  • Disposable aluminum dish for water pan

Aside from the 55-gallon barrel, all of these parts can be purchased at local hardware stores.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Home.

Daylight Factory

July 16, 2018 by
Photography by contributed

Daylight may be the most prominent feature of the Rail and Commerce Building at 10th and Mason streets. The banks of windows on every floor—including the lower level—were designed in the style of a “daylight factory,” a multi-story concrete frame industrial building that proliferated in the early 20th century, and that’s how they were restored. 

The multitude of windows was not happenstance. “We recognized the daylight as a resource worth harvesting,” says Jon Crane, president of Boyd Jones, the company responsible for renovating the building. “You need an environment conducive to attracting, retaining, and hiring quality people. Environment matters.” 

Crane motions through the conference room window to the Boyd Jones’ open-space office area. “This is a very collaborative space, which is an important value of our company. This space is very open, yet not disruptive.”

The open floor plan was a feature of the original building. The first floor Boyd Jones office was once meant for mail trucks—they drove right through the center of the building, from the 10th Street bridge to what was then the 11th Street bridge. Downstairs, in what is now the Commerce Village, there was a track so railcars could go through. When the building opened in 1926, it received nearly all the mail for western Iowa and Nebraska. It served in that capacity until the 1970s, when the existing post office next door replaced it.

Vacant for most of the years since then, the Rail and Commerce Building was condemned to be torn down when Crane and his team found it. “It was a cold, dilapidated shell on the inside. But the building itself, the structure was very sound,” Crane says. “We restored the façade and we completely cleaned out the inside and made it new. It was a historical preservation project, so we worked with the Nebraska Historical Society and also the National Park Service. We were able to preserve a lot of the neat historical aspects of the building.”

Building a new edifice for Boyd Jones’ headquarters was only a fleeting thought for Crane.

“It’s very important to remember where you come from—to embrace the past, but adapt it to the future,” Crane says. “Change doesn’t have to mean destruction. It can mean evolution.”

The location in Little Italy attracted Crane. He guessed it would attract others as well. The lower level of the Rail and Commerce Building houses the roughly 20,000-square-foot Commerce Village coworking space. With 16 private suites and 50 desks, it offers a variety of systems for renters: closed-door offices, set desks, floater desks, or one-day drop-ins. 

For the planning of Commerce Village, Crane brought in Matt Dougherty, who had prior experience with collaborative workspaces. His eight spaces at the Ford Building at 10th and Dodge streets “went so fast it became clear there is a real need for this type of incubator space,” says Dougherty. In his insurance business, he’s seeing a sort of “small business renaissance”—a trend of wanting to work for yourself rather than someone else.

That fit just right with Boyd Jones. “One of the values of our company is entrepreneurship,” Crane says. “We wanted an office space that would attract entrepreneurs and start-up companies—a collaborative atmosphere for collaborative people.”  

That energy drew Verdis Group, according to managing partner Craig Moody. “We’re excited for the opportunity for partnering with other organizations here,” he says.  

The daylight was another huge draw. An unexpected benefit? “The trains going by,” Moody says, grinning. “Sometimes I feel like an 11-year-old boy.” 

Verdis Group promotes sustainability, so they were pleased to find the building was equipped with solar panels. There’s also ample bike parking, as well as private showers and changing rooms so employees can freshen up after pedaling to work—or using the Rail and Commerce Building’s own fitness center. 

Conference rooms; access to a printer, mail, and package services; and a stocked kitchenette round out the amenities. Crane explains, “We really want people to be comfortable, like you’re in your [home] office.”


Visit boydjones.biz or commercevillageomaha.com for more information. 

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

Virtually Necessary

July 15, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Virtual reality has worked its way into daily life at some Omaha-area architecture/engineering firms.

Also known as VR, virtual reality is a computer-generated reality viewed through a headset that situates small video screens about an inch from each eye, yielding a three-dimensional effect. 

“You’re completely blocking out the real world and making the virtual world basically what you see,” says Nathan Novak, a systems administrator with Leo A Daly Co.

Novak says his firm mainly uses VR for client presentations. Previously, presentations were accomplished using drawings.

“Everything would be flat—two-dimensional—just lines everywhere,” Novak says. That method made it difficult for clients to visualize projects.

A few years ago, Leo A Daly began using a building information modeling (BIM) program called Revit to produce three-dimensional representations of drawings.

“Instead of just lines, you place walls, and then you can place textures on the walls,” Novak says. “So now you can actually see that there’s a wall here, and the wall is going to be blue. You can see that there’s a door here, and you can see what the door material is made out of.”

BIM programs such as Revit help perform “clash detection”—ferreting out design problems prior to construction. 

“Once construction starts, any sort of change is much more expensive,” Novak says.

Creating a VR environment from a Revit model requires an additional step.

Raj Prasad, chief technology officer for HDR, says his firm uses Revit and similar tools to build 3-D models, then takes that information into products such as Unity (a gaming engine), Unreal Engine, or HTML5.

“Some combination of those is what we use to take the model that’s generated from Revit to create the VR experience,” Prasad says.

In many industries, VR is a prototyping tool, and that’s also true in architecture and engineering.

“The way we say it is, ‘We’d like to have our clients experience the end results before actually building it,” Prasad says. 

He says VR is catching on rapidly. “We are pretty actively leveraging virtual reality on our projects, in different phases.” Among those projects are bridges, transit centers, and hospitals.

Novak says Leo A Daly has used virtual reality for pumphouse designs, water pumps, and piping, among other projects.

“As long as we can build it within Revit, we can bring it over into virtual reality,” he says. “And we’re trying to expand it out even further into some of the other applications outside of Revit.”

VR also can be used in the quality assurance [QA] process.

“Did we model everything properly? Is there something that’s a mistake that we have to come back and fix?” Novak says. “The QA can be toward the end, but really we QA as we go.”

Making it easy for customers to experience VR environments is another factor that firms consider.

“You don’t have to be in an office to have a virtual reality experience. There’s ways you can experience that in anybody’s office, and that’s really the philosophy that we’ve adopted,” Prasad says. “We want to make sure that, if a client desires it and wants it, we can take it to them versus having them always having to come to us.”

One option HDR has used is to provide clients with a Google Cardboard—a simple cardboard frame with lenses that can be used with a mobile phone to experience VR.  

“I’ll call that the lower-end VR experience,” Prasad says.

Raj Prasad

Among higher-end headsets are the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, both of which have been used by Omaha-area firms.

Though use of VR is growing, it has limitations.

“At this point, it doesn’t replace using your computer and Revit and that sort of thing to do our modeling,” Novak says. “I believe that’s something that will be coming in a few years, but it’s not possible yet.

He says that, although available headsets are high definition, their resolution isn’t enough to replace computer monitors.

“When you look through the headset at the display, most people are going to notice that you can actually see the individual pixels. That’s called the ‘screen-door effect,’” he says. The effect makes text  very difficult to read.

“I think we’re still a few years away from being able to switch from coming in, and sitting down at a desk, and looking at monitors all day to coming in, and putting on a headset, and going into VR, and doing your work,” Novak says. 

Does Novak think the use of VR will increase over time?

“Absolutely.”

What does Prasad see as the future of VR?  “The best way to answer that, is, think Star Trek or Star Wars.”

Prasad noted that when Star Trek appeared in the mid-1960s, its technology seemed far-fetched. 

“People were like, ‘This stuff is hundreds of years down the road.’ And here we are,” he says. “This is reality.”

Within the next five to 10 years, he foresees VR being used in all project phases, and as a way to keep workers safer by accomplishing some hazardous tasks virtually, such as bridge inspection.

“If I’m looking out 10 [years] and then beyond, I would say we’re going down the path of holographs and holograms,” Prasad says. “Imagine, if you will, that you take a VR experience and send it directly to a 3-D printer.”

Examples could include a bridge pylon or a wall in a water treatment plant.

“Once the client and the chief engineer approve it, that goes to a 3-D printer. Now you’re taking modular development that—kind of like a Lego, almost—you can pull it all together. And hallelujah, you’ve got a bridge or a water-treatment plant.”

“The future, as you can imagine, it’s awesome,” Prasad says. “It’s fun, it’s wickedly cool.”


Visit hdrinc.com and leoadaly.com for more information.

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

Nathan Novak

Ironman Chef Paul Braunschweiler

July 13, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Chef Paul Braunschweiler of Brushi started cooking when he was 6 years old, living in Switzerland with his family. 

Although Braunschweiler claims he wasn’t “sporty” growing up, he did enjoy participating in track up until he enrolled in culinary school and became too busy for extracurricular activities. Now an official Ironman with three completed Ironman triathlons under his belt and numerous other races to his credit, Braunschweiler admits that “being in tune” with his body’s dietary needs has helped his race performance. 

“Your body tells you what it needs,” he says. “You have to listen to your body.” He doesn’t follow a strict protocol when it comes to his day-to-day eating, nor does he switch things up pre- or post-race. What he eats largely depends on what he feels like eating. Luckily for Braunschweiler, he has the well-stocked kitchen at Brushi at his disposal. “I can eat what I want. I can just walk around and open the fridge,” he says, gesturing toward the busy Brushi kitchen. 

Though many racers swear by “carb-loading” right before a race, Braunschweiler sticks with what his body craves. “I eat what I want; I don’t change my diet at race time a lot.” When asked what a typical day-before-a-race meal might look like for him, he replies, “We get fresh fish from Hawaii every week, so that’s what I’d eat. I eat a lot of salmon.” As for his pre-race nourishment, “I don’t eat a lot before a race—maybe a sports drink and a banana.” Post-race, his go-to meal is “a big bowl of salad with lots of marinated salmon and cucumbers and avocados.” He says his body does crave protein after a race, so if he doesn’t feel like salmon he might have some beef or other meat protein. 

Does eating whatever he wants work for Braunschweiler as an athlete? Yes—although his penchant for fresh, nutrient-rich food likely helps. Giving in to cravings won’t work for all racers. But it works for Braunschweiler because he enjoys healthy foods and occasionally allows for splurges so he doesn’t feel deprived. “Allow yourself to splurge a little bit,” he advises fellow racers. “We can do this because we are so active.”

He wasn’t always so active. It wasn’t until after his divorce that he delved into the racing world. “I needed to do something for myself after my divorce,” he says. “I saw people rollerblading and running at Lake Zorinsky, and I decided to start running again. I signed up for the Des Moines Marathon and liked it—I did pretty well even though it’s a little hilly.”

Braunschweiler has progressed from “doing pretty well” to consistently winning in his age division at every race in which he competes. At nearly 67 years old, he’s diversified his racing because “marathons are hard on the body.” Triathlons are his race of choice nowadays. His advice to other racers is, “You have to make time to train. You can achieve so much with your will.”  


Visit raceomaha.com for more information about the Omaha Triathlon. Visit brushiomaha.com for chef Paul Braunschweiler’s restaurant in Omaha.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of 60Plus in Omaha. 

Big Daddy

July 12, 2018 by
Photography by Dave Weaver, Debra S. Kaplan (provided)

Regular readers of Encounter may wonder what’s going on here. We don’t really do an editor’s letter in this publication. We like to let the stories, artwork, and photography speak for themselves and leave the interpretation up to you, the reader. 

However, this issue is special. As many of you know, we lost our fearless leader, Eric Stoakes, this past February. He had only been back at Omaha Publications for a little over a year, but in that time he helped shape and redefine Encounter into what you hold in your hands now. Edgy, earnest, honest, and always pushing the envelope, it was his dream publication—his dream job. He said as much to his friends and coworkers and we’re glad he was able to find his true niche after decades in this industry.  

In this issue, we pay homage to Big Daddy—our creative and spiritual leader, our conscience, our heart. 

The Lime Punch fashion spread was his idea, his way of celebrating the colorful future of fashion. He had a whole storyline planned out in his head, though he never wrote it down (as was often the case, he enjoyed having his surprises). 

We’ve done our best to stay true to the ideas he did discuss, and we think he would approve. 

You may also have noticed the absence of our special farty unicorn kitty as of late. Derek Joy, our extraordinary designer, has replaced kitty with a simple illustration of red glasses, in honor of the ones Eric would often coordinate his own outfits around. (Kitty’s head will still be floating around, though.)

The future of Encounter now depends on us. Not just the staff here at the magazine, but also with you. We will keep bringing you stories of the up-and-coming artists, musicians, and creative visionaries who are reshaping Omaha’s cultural landscape. We ask that you keep giving us your feedback and send us your story ideas. Seriously. The weirder the better. 

Eric wanted to help develop and engage the artistic community of Omaha. It was his life’s passion. And while it may have been cut short, the work he did was important. His impact on many in the arts community is not easily measured, but I’ve encountered many who say they wouldn’t be where they are today had he not pushed them out of their comfort zones. 

So we will continue his work—creating, developing, and sometimes pushing people out of their comfort zones. 

Stay tuned. And stay weird. 

Tara Spencer, Associate editor of Encounter


This letter was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Encounter. 

A Real-Life Fairy Tale

July 11, 2018 by
Photography by Joshua Redwine

Once upon a time, in an outdated suburban kitchen, there was a newly empty-nester mother who dreamed of the most amazing La Cornue range with a large multifunction oven, seven unique cooking modes, and five powerful brass gas burners. As in every fairy tale, one quick phone call to her fairy godmother (at Fritz + Lloyd Interiors) and that new range became the leading design detail in the story of a “down-to-the-studs” whole home renovation. 

Leaving the land of golden oak (floors, trim, and cabinets), with separate living areas and very few windows, the design team set out to open and brighten the space as much as possible. Windows were added for more natural light, walls were painted light neutrals, white cabinets were installed, and the beautiful oak flooring was refinished and stained darker to add a pop of contrast. The design team worked with Nate’s Custom Renovations as the general contractor on the project.

Before

The kitchen working area was doubled by repurposing the dinette space, which was no longer in use with the children out of the home. Full-height, painted Shaker-style cabinets now line the perimeter of the room to hold all the dream appliances, including a Miele glass-front speed oven that doubles as a microwave. The dark cherry island more than doubled in size and allows for two counter-height stools, a perfect perch for weekday evening dinners as well as great storage. 

Over the gorgeous French range (the homeowners’ dream come true) is a custom metallic finished hood. The diamond-shaped mosaic backsplash with raised edges makes for a regal but classic look in white.  

Adding final touches of satin nickel hardware and mercury-glass pendants make this cook’s kitchen shine as the heart of the home. 

Through the now-opened walls, one easily feels part of the dining, living, and sitting spaces—perfect for entertaining friends and large family gatherings. Two windows were added to match an existing window to give the appearance that this was the original design of this 1980s house. The dining room, originally cramped, was relocated closer to the kitchen and fireplace to make a lovely setting for dinner parties and family occasions. Thin-cut ledgestone repeats itself on the fireplace and in the kitchen to add texture and a little sparkle with the quartzite composites.  

The guest powder room made a dramatic change, like donning a formal ballgown, with new large-scale patterned wallpaper to make a bold statement for a small space. The entry closet lost the standard bifold doors of yesteryear in exchange for an open bench design with coat hooks, cubbies, and velvet monogrammed pillows. 

If a kitchen overhaul and first floor renovation weren’t enough, this princess tackled her master suite and guest bath, making a grand reveal on the second story. The master bath was fitted with a furniture style vanity, decorative framed mirror and sconces, and a clawfoot tub for the nightly bather. The full-height bath surround was custom designed, and tiles were laid one by one. The neighboring guest bath turned into an updated modern bath with a dark-stained vanity, gray stone-look tile, a 1/2-by-12-inch pencil mosaic shower floor sloping to a custom-fit linear drain, and pinstripes in the shower wall. 

And so, after four months of living in the dungeon (OK, the finished basement), this couple’s pumpkin became a shiny new carriage and there was rejoicing in all the lands. Fritz + Lloyd Interiors was happy to help them work through revamping their dream home, updating it with all of the best finishes, making it uniquely them, and giving them everything they needed to live happily ever after


MEET THE DESIGNER

Becky Rea Fritz + Lloyd Interiors NCIDQ, ASID

Becky Rea, of Fritz + Lloyd Interiors, creates sleek and sophisticated modern looks across the Midwest. With 18 years of experience, she and her team will help in any stage of a project—new build or renovation.


Visit fritzandlloyd.com for more information about the interior designer’s firm.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Home. 

Whispering Roots Takes Root

July 10, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Highlander Village on North 30th Street between Lake and Cuming is a dramatic new development meant to revitalize the depressed neighborhood surrounding it. The center of this community (planned by 75 North Revitalization Corp.) is the Accelerator. The 65,000 square foot, Z-shaped building serves as a Creighton University and Metropolitan Community College-led health-education hub. An event venue and a ground floor coffee shop will be joined by established eateries and entrepreneurial startups. 

But what most grabs the eye is the Accelerator’s futuristic-looking urban agriculture facility for nonprofit tenant Whispering Roots. A see-through greenhouse sits majestically atop floors dedicated to education and production—all centered on aquaculture, aquaponics, and hydroponic growing. As Whispering Roots founder and executive director Greg Fripp explains, nearly everything at the $4.2 million, 18,000-square-foot green site is designed for the next generation. Like the rest of Highlander, he says the custom design and construction, plus elevated location, are meant to raise people’s expectations in a high-poverty environment.

Slated to open by late summer, the facility is built on years of seeds sown by Fripp and company in inner-city public schools and neighborhoods. Whispering Roots teaches students how to build and maintain aquaculture systems that grow fish—tilapia or steelhead trout—for consumption. Fish waste is used to fertilize crops grown in the same system. The closed system’s water is naturally cleaned and recirculated. Floating raft crop, drip irrigation, and raised bed techniques are taught. 

The new digs will allow Whispering Roots to expand learning opportunities for youth and adults around organic agriculture, healthy cooking, and nutrition. It will refer participants in need of human and social services to on-site partners.

“We focus on growing, feeding, and educating,” Fripp says. “We’re touching different aspects of the community to address where the gaps are. By working with different folks and actually being out in the community and listening to the feedback—what’s working, what’s not working—it allowed us to design a facility that meets the needs of the community.”

Fripp says residents of the community have said they need more locally produced food, hands-on experiential learning, and STEM education, “and that’s what we do.”

To help address the community’s lack of access to fresh, local healthy food, Whispering Roots will sell the fish and vegetable crops it harvests on-site at farmers markets and select stores and to neighboring Accelerator food purveyors. 

Fripp sees this as just the start.

“The model is what matters—the techniques and how we build them and improve them in underserved communities—and then taking that model and replicating it at whatever scale makes sense for a community,” he says. “Where a lot of people make mistakes is they try to force a model and scale in a community that’s not ready to deal with it. The community’s overwhelmed.”

Fripp’s interest in urban ag and aquaculture goes back 20-plus years, to high school. After a U.S. Navy logistics career, he worked in the corporate world. He left an executive human resources position at TD Ameritrade in Omaha to follow his real passion full time.

He founded Whispering Roots in his home garage and basement lab with his own savings, and in less than a decade it’s now supported by major philanthropic players such as the Sherwood, Weitz Family, and Suzanne and Walter Scott foundations.

Funders bought into his vision, allowing it to ramp-up from micro to mega level. In learning to build and operate aquaculture systems, grow, harvest, package, market, and sell food, students will acquire portable skills.

Whispering Roots already has a presence as far away as Haiti and Madagascar and as near as Iowa and Missouri. It’s currently building a facility in Macy, Nebraska.

On the planning table is a full-scale commercial production facility that would supply food in quantity and create jobs.

“We not only want to replicate what we’re doing here but also to do economic development by developing this pipeline of kids and adults from the community who can then work in or run those facilities,” Fripp says.

Fripp and his team are much in demand as consultants.

“We’ve become subject matter experts for other communities that would like to do the same around the country. We have people calling from Kansas City, Minneapolis, wondering how we’re pulling this off in Omaha,” he says, adding that the model is what’s interesting to them. It challenges the way people view urban agriculture, hands-on experiential learning, and STEM in underserved and impoverished communities.

“We’ve been able to navigate government and policies and work on the community side, in schools, and to figure out how all these pieces work together,” he says.

From concept to completion, he says, “One of the biggest challenges is helping people understand the vision because it’s so new. When I started my organization in 2011 and said we’re going to put fish and plants in classrooms to teach kids about science, people thought that was crazy. They said, ‘It’s never going to work, kids aren’t going to be interested.’ Now our problem is we don’t have enough bandwidth to handle all the requests we get from the schools. But when I started, no one believed this was even possible.” 

Even after capturing the attention of kids—who started winning science fairs—and making converts of educators, he says, “In talking about where we were going to build our new facility, we had people questioning why we wanted to go into the inner city and offering us free land to build in rural areas. But the goal was to do it in an underserved community to prove it’s possible to go into the toughest areas, build this thing, and show it can work. That’s not easy because you run into a lot of roadblocks. There’s a lot of preconceived notions about what education looks like in an underserved community, what people will tolerate, what will work. What we’re trying to do is change that view.”

On a recent tour of the new Omaha facility, a woman who resides nearby told Fripp, “I’m glad that you are here. This is close to my heart. It needed to be here. This is such a beautiful and good thing that the community will protect you.”

“That feedback,” he says, “tells me we’re on the right path. The key is that you are a part of the community so that people feel like they have ownership—this is their resource. That’s what we want. We want that community base. If it’s just a community place and there’s no connect, people don’t care. They’re like, ‘That’s not ours anyway.’ But if it’s community-based, then, ‘It’s ours.’”

Part of that buy-in, he says, is “trying to build our own pathway and network of students who then become the experts who teach and train.” The goal is creating self-sufficiency so that communities can feed themselves. 

Having an African-American at the head of it all is a powerful symbol.

“When intersecting with the African-American community, students need to see people who look like them doing this work,” Fripp says. “Then they can internalize it by saying, ‘Me, too.’ They need to know this is a goal that is achievable.”


Visit whisperingroots.org for more information

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. 

Greg Fripp teaches aquaculture, aquaponics, and hydroponic skills to the next generation.