Tag Archives: Skate for Change

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.

Secret Penguin’s Dave Nelson

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Seven years of touring full-time as a sponsored skateboarder leaves you with A) a lot of skateboarding product from your sponsors and B) a definite magnetism for skater kids looking to channel their energy.

“Skateboarders have an addictive personality,” confesses Dave Nelson, a former skateboarder for Untitled Skateboards and the owner of Downtown Omaha brand strategy and design firm Secret Penguin. “That’s all they think about…skating. They’re consuming, passionate people.” So when fellow skateboarder Mike Smith asked if he’d like to be on the board of a new nonprofit called Skate For Change, “I was like, yes, instantly. Completely excited about it.”

In his TEDxOmaha presentation last October, Smith explained that a closing skate park had offered him its ramps while he was working with homeless teenagers in Lincoln (TEDxOmaha is a local conference inspired by world-renowned TED events, dedicated to spreading world-changing ideas). Taking the opportunity and running with it, Smith started Bay 198, an indoor skate park in a Lincoln mall. “It answered a missing point,” Nelson says. “The kids needed a place that was genuine and safe.”

In the meantime, Smith had been skating through Lincoln on his lunch break, handing out socks and bottled water to the downtown homeless. Friends started joining him, then kids, then energy-drink maker Red Bull even stepped in with a launch party for the park and effort. “I’m just watching all of these skate kids pour their lives and their hearts and their souls into helping people,” Smith said at TEDxOmaha. “Feeding people.”

“He said when I gave him that board and took time to talk and skate with him, it made him realize that there are good people out there that do care about others.”

Secret Penguin handled the branding of the new incarnation of the skate park (now simply called The Bay) at 20th and Y streets in Lincoln. The Bay’s new park is made out of cement and bricks, “so it would feel more like the street,” Nelson explains. Most indoor skate parks are made of wood.

An indoor skate park for Omaha similar to Lincoln’s The Bay isn’t far from Nelson’s thoughts, but for now his typical haunt is Roberts Skate Park at 78th and Cass streets. He’s there about three times a week, meeting new people and trying new tricks.

“A few months ago,” he recalls, “I ran into this kid that I’d met at Roberts maybe 10 years ago.” The young man told Nelson that on that day, his parents were gone on yet another bender. His friends knew no one was home, so they broke into his house and stole all his stuff. The boy decided he was going to kill himself but first, one last skate at Roberts Park. He met Nelson there, who gave him one of the boards from his sponsors and talked with him. “He said when I gave him that board and took time to talk and skate with him, it made him realize that there are good people out there that do care about others,” Nelson remembers. “He said that was the first time he can remember feeling like someone cared. And that skateboard was a representation of hope to him throughout the years.”

On Saturdays, Nelson meets interested skaters at either the Mastercraft building, 13th & Nicholas, or in front of The Slowdown for Omaha’s own version of Skate For Change. “We’ll go hand the stuff out to whomever,” he says, referring to the donations of bottled water or socks received at the Secret Penguin office or purchased with donations forwarded from Smith. “Kids just get behind something like this.”

“We don’t need money,” he says, “just supplies.” Anyone wanting to donate water, socks, canned tuna, or hygiene kits can drop them off at the Secret Penguin office in the Mastercraft building.