Tag Archives: Safe Space Nebraska

Radical Inclusion

April 10, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For the uninitiated, zines are small, handmade magazines typically made from standard printer paper folded, cut, and stapled together. Variations of the form exist, and subjects are limited only by interest: journalism, politics, art, activism, poetry, fan fiction, DIY, superheroes. Anything cool, hip, instructive, subversive, or enlightening is fit to print.

No matter how you slice the printer paper, Omaha Zine Fest is cool and getting cooler by the year. How cool? Cool enough for Vice Magazine to include OZF as the Nebraska entry in their series “50 States of Art.” Founded in 2016 by Andrea Kszystyniak, Daphne Calhoun, and Kaitlin McDermott, OZF has grown. The March 2017 fest at The Union for Contemporary Art drew hundreds of artists and fans from the Omaha metro and across the Midwest to buy, sell, trade, share, and learn.

Kszystyniak is a Rhode Island native who studied journalism at the University of Missouri and moved to Omaha in 2013. Her personal philosophy is radical inclusion. Her interest in zines started because she was, like many artists, a discipline case.

“I was grounded a lot as a kid, so I was often trapped at home and forced to amuse myself,” Kszystyniak says. “I spent a lot of time engaging with people online and really growing my understanding of art and DIY culture that way.”

A voracious consumer of music and music journalism, Kszystyniak was influenced by the feminist punk Riot Grrrl scene of the ’90s.

“Zines were a huge part of that culture, so I really grew to love them as a medium that way,” Kszystyniak says. “I used to play around on this now-defunct mail art forum called nervousness.org when I was a younger teen. The website encouraged you to collaboratively make and share work with people across the globe. A huge part of that forum was exchanging art, zines, collages…whatever.”

Daphne Calhoun came to Omaha from Grand Island to study social work and public health. For her, zines are great because anyone can get involved.

“You don’t have to have a resume,” Calhoun says. “You can make anything you want to do: DIY, poetry, science fiction, fantasy. The sky is the limit.”

Calhoun worked previously at Valiant Studios, an art and music studio for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“One of my favorite zine memories is compiling an art zine with them. Accessibility is the only thing that matters to me, and zines are such an accessible medium,” says Calhoun who once got her grandmother to make a short zine about interdimensional space aliens. “You don’t need to be an expert or have any expensive equipment. All you need is paper and some scissors and anyone can make a zine.”

In the spirit of radical inclusion and accessibility, Omaha Zine Fest has a safer spaces policy to provide for an open-minded, nonthreatening, and respectful environment where participants learn from one another. It is the essence of the festival, according to Kszystyniak.

“The everyday person needs an outlet to speak out against injustice or even just to teach others things,” Kszystyniak says. “Our No. 1 goal is to make sure everyone comes in and is comfortable and feels safe spending time in a creative community with everyone else there. Our priority is always accessibility, safety, and radical inclusion. It’s really the reason we started the fest in the first place: to make sure everyone has a place at the table.”

Visit omahazinefest.org for more information. The 2018 Omaha Zinefest is April 14 (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) at The Union for Contemporary Arts.

From top: Andrea Kszystyniak and Daphne Calhoun

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Brent Crampton & the House of Loom

August 19, 2016 by
Photography by Amy Lynn Photography

The concept was pure, simple, true. A come-as-you-are, judge-free zone. But billing a “safe space” in Omaha’s nightlife scene comes with a great deal of responsibility. House of Loom co-owner Brent Crampton understands this responsibility from experience.

Crampton, 32, fathered Loom 10 years ago. Initially started as a pop-up dance party, Loom circulated through some of the city’s most prestigious venues, operating under the values of inclusivity, unity, creativity, and respectability.

BrentCrampton2“In that era, we were known as a space open to all different types of people that might not normally interact,” Crampton explains in a recent interview. “A space for them to go and be accepted.”

Crampton is a calm, soft-spoken man, full of purpose and persistence. He is keen to talk about Loom’s infancy and how it evolved into a popular brick-and-mortar nightspot on South 10th Street. A place where anyone can relax and fully express themselves without fear of being judged or harassed on account of sex, race, gender identity, religious views, age, or physical or mental ability.

Running a “safe space” is about sharing and creating, trying to build something better. It is not just a nightclub or bar, but a place that connects people on a higher level and facilitates meaningful discussions.

Music is not just a backdrop, Crampton says.

“Music is very much at the forefront, and the events we do take the focus, but the vehicle that we use, to do our best to create a harmonious environment, is rooted in safe
space principle.”

Unintentionally, Crampton, who also serves as the director of management talent and booking, has brought Omaha to the forefront of several larger discussions on what our city could do to make it a more inviting and welcoming place for all.

Crampton collaborated with countless arts and community organizations to help make Omaha a more culturally progressive city. In fact, he sits on the board of Safe Space Nebraska, a grassroots, local non-profit that formed as a response to the need to simply enjoy a good night out, free of assault or harassment.

People are becoming more aware of harassment issues, Crampton says, and realizing they should have a support system to counter harassment when it happens.

He recently took part in a Huffington Post live webcast discussion about safe spaces and why they’re essential to nightlife. He has also met with other local bar owners to discuss how their businesses could become more inclusive and safe for all to enjoy.

Crampton is optimistic about creating an environment filled with like-minds—an optimism that many bar owners quickly replace with the very real practicalities of running a dimly lit bar with loud music and unwelcomed alcohol-induced conversations. Women’s bottoms are grabbed. Harassment happens.

It’s a pervasive issue, Crampton says. One that shouldn’t be ignored.

“Responsibility,” Crampton says. “We need to be conscious of that and how to respond as bar owners.”

Everyone is hyper-aware of the value of space. Safety implies privacy, but even with a strict door policy, in bars, the variables are much less controllable.

Crampton has established a code of conduct and stuck to it. As patrons visit, they’re encouraged to respect the House of Loom values. In fact, the nightspot is one of the first Omaha bars to initiate a zero-tolerance policy for any form of harassment, Crampton says. If patrons feel unsafe, they are encouraged to notify staff immediately in order to remove the person responsible for the harassment. The incident is then documented in a report.

The House of Loom’s code has inspired many, igniting a current of social rebellion in Omaha’s nightlife scene. But as with all paradigm shifts, people must understand the new way of thinking before change happens on a larger scale.

Crampton continues to strive for an inclusive and safe community. He considers it his passion project.

“Positive response. It empowers people,” he says. “Collectively we can change nightlife culture.” 

Visit www.houseofloom.com for more information.