Tag Archives: UNO

Lookout! It’s a Launch Party Weekend

July 6, 2018 by

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Sunday, July 8: Naturally, the pick of the week is our July/August Launch Party for our latest Omaha Magazine (our food issue) and Encounter Magazine! Our second annual watermelon-eating contest is also going down, and it’s all happening at the Florence Mill Sunday Farmers Market. If you’ve never been, look forward to finding organic produce, local arts & crafts, seeing some farm animals (chickens and calves), and listening to some diverse music (flutes, folk guitar, and local rock band Daisy Distraction). There’s also an exhibition upstairs and maybe even a little fashion show in the works. (Check out Paige Modlin in the latest Encounter for a taste of what to expect.) The market begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m. We will be there all day! Please RSVP here and bring the kids out for some tasty watermelon eating!

Thursday, July 5 to Sunday, July 8: It’s your last chance to catch Shakespeare On The Green this weekend. On Thursday and Saturday you can experience the comedy of Much Ado About Nothing. If you’re in the mood for a little more drama, head down to the green on Friday and/or Sunday (depending on how much Shakespeare you’re craving) to watch the historic classic King John. Grab a blanket, a picnic basket, and maybe even a bottle of wine and settle in for a relaxing evening of cunningly zany fun. Find out all the happenings here

Friday, July 6: Fridays are for family this week at the Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs. So get out and Celebrate Summer with free admission for all from 5-7 p.m. (Donations are always welcome, though.) There will be crafts, games, and a sidewalk chalk party. Plus, if your kids (or, you know, you) have ever wanted to see a firetruck up close, this is your chance. Don’t worry about hangry showing up and ruining the fun. You can grab a very kid-friendly snack from the hot dog cart out front. Learn more about it right here

Saturday, July 7: Good food, good times, and great music—you’ll find all that at the Punk Rock BBQ at Lookout Lounge. This year’s lineup includes Jeff Rosenstock, Remo Drive, and Pseudo, plus too many incredible local bands to list. If you haven’t made it a point to get to Lookout for one of their punk rock shows, this one is a definite don’t-miss event. Get all that lightning rod, firecracker energy out in a nice, intimate mosh pit scene. Check here to find out if your favorite local instigators are in the lineup.

Saturday, July 7: If the noise, smell, and overall onslaught of real fireworks has you on edge, check out the Cosmic Fireworks—Astronomy Night at Indian Cave State Park this Saturday, hosted by Branched Oak Observatory. Enjoy the natural beauty (and silence) of the outdoors. This is a free, dark-sky astronomy event (no actual fireworks) for all ages. You will have the opportunity to observe dozens of galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters in the night sky, including the chance to see planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. Get your star-gazing on and learn more about this unique show here.

Where Pink Pigeons Fly

June 15, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Coming from a very artistic family, Gabi Quiroz’s parents always encouraged her creative endeavors. Her mother taught her to shade, her father used to draw, her grandmother quilts, and she has an aunt who draws and writes.

After being raised in such an environment, full of inspiration and creative energy, it’s no wonder Gabi became the artist she is today.

But her upbringing also fed another passion—animals. Growing up an only child, Quiroz was never lonely with all her animal siblings keeping her company.

“We started off with one dog and then it kind of became a zoo,” she says. “From there—fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, a cat, and another dog.”

After leaving the nest, Quiroz couldn’t imagine life without animals. Today, she has three cats, a miniature pinscher named Bella, and Wilbur, a potbelly pig, who will be 3 years old this May.

Quiroz loves all animals, but especially pigeons. That admiration is evidenced by the name of her business, Pink Pigeon Studio.

“I’ve always admired pigeons for how beautiful they are, but they’re always commonly referred to as rats that can fly,” she says. “Pink Pigeon is about recognizing the beauty in something that isn’t usually considered beautiful.”

Finding beauty in the unusual is evident in her work. Quiroz begins her creative process looking up the symbolism she wants to convey in multiple references, and then constructs the scene to take her source pictures for the piece she’s creating in a series, which normally consists of 10 pieces.  

From there, she works in her two primary disciplines—oil paints and colored pencils—to develop works of symbolic imagery and figurative study. Her pencil drawings are intricate and hyperrealistic while her paintings tend to be more fluid, yet both are always rooted in nature.

Life and death symbolism is ever-present in Quiroz’s pieces. She considers herself a spiritual person and believes in the afterlife. In her current series, she’s using local flora, such as peonies and poppies, along with animals bones found in the Midwest.

At her Hot Shops studio, you’ll find Quiroz pouring her inspiration into her creations while drinking coffee and, depending on the day, listening to an audiobook, music, or watching a movie she’s seen a million times. She loves the challenge of making something out of nothing, but admits being an artist is hard.In the next couple of years, her goals are producing four pieces a month and having her work show in regional and national galleries. Quiroz also one day aspires to teach art on the collegiate level, and ultimately, she wants to have a stand-alone studio and a couple acres of land for a farmstead of her own, with lots of animals.“If I were to work just when I felt inspired, this would be a hobby for me,” she says. “The artist stereotype that we lah-tee-dah all day and create something is wrong because most of the time, it’s not like that.”On those especially trying days, she brings Wilbur to the studio and stops for cuddle breaks.


See more of the artist’s work at gabriellequiroz.com.

This article appears in the May/June 2018 edition of Encounter.

It’s a Sexy Weekend of Mud Play, Beer Bellies, and Art

May 17, 2018 by

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Saturday, May 19: Play like a kid again (and bring the real kids, of course) at Fontenelle Forest’s Mud Day this Saturday, a partnership with the Henry Doorly Zoo designed to make you forget your adult-world worries. You can go for a barefoot hike, dig in the dirt, build a mud castle, make some tracks, and even do a little mud painting. No matter what you decide on doing, just be sure to have fun. And don’t do too much adult overthinking. There will be a cleanup station available as well, though you may want to bring along a towel or two. Also, (in case you didn’t know) you can rent a family membership to Fontenelle Forest for the day from your local library in Omaha, Bellevue, or Council Bluffs! Keep track of all the fun you can have at Fontenelle here.

Thursday, May 17: Start winding down a little early this weekend while learning about local food as you grab a drink and make some new friends. Head to No More Empty Cups for their Local Food Happy Hour w/ Cooper Farm Urban Ag Education Center with program coordinator and Extension educator John Porter. You may want to RSVP to this free event, as space on the beautiful NMEC patio is limited. Keep in mind donations are certainly welcome, so even if you can’t attend in person, you can still feel good about doing good by donating online here. Find out more about the space here and RSVP to the event here.

Friday, May 18: Experience the culmination of the Rad Women of Omaha service learning project at the Omaha Design Center. Curated by artist-in-residence Kim Darling, this collaboration was inspired by the book Rad American Women from A to Z, by Kate Schatz. The project developed at Blackburn Alternative Program (in collaboration with University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Speech-Language students, the UNO Writing Center, and the UNO Service Learning Academy). This show will feature artwork inspired by real women of Omaha, and includes both narrative and visual works. Learn more about the project and the event here.

Pick of the Week—Friday, May 18 to Saturday, May 19: Get to Elkhorn this weekend for the Main Street Studios Open House. This is a two-day event, so even if you can’t make it out on Friday, you have all day Saturday to check out the updates, new exhibits, live blues and jazz music, and of course, all the new artwork! Plus, if you’re going out on Saturday you can check out the “Alley Gallery.” Appetizers and (free!) beer and wine will be offered throughout, as well as some tasty apps. Get more info about the event and the space here.

Sunday, May 20: Drink beer and do some good this Sunday by attending Beer Bellies for Full Bellies at Jerry’s Bar in Benson. This event has it all: a silent auction, live raffle, drink specials, T-shirts, and button making! Best of all, your beer drinking habits will benefit the Food Bank of the Heartland. Plus, a Food Bank staffer will be on-site showing off the Kids Cruisin’ Kitchen and letting you know how your donations will benefit children in the Omaha community. Get all the details here.

 

Jennifer Castello

May 13, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Thirty-year-old Jennifer Castello lives by a simple philosophy: “Art is power.” As a writer, educator, and actor, the Omaha native has tapped into all areas of her deep imagination to carve out her path. She unequivocally believes creativity was put here to bring out a person’s voice, and that’s exactly what she’s doing.

“I think art has worked best when someone isn’t being listened to, then grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck, and through art that person says, ‘Shut up and look,’” she says. “When I’m teaching, it’s not about me. It’s about making sure that at the end of the session, residency, or workshop, the students are equipped to express themselves—be it in a story, in a song, or just in everyday life. Art is self-advocacy. Art is power. Art is resistance.”

Castello began her writing career at the ripe age of 4, when her grandmother discovered how often she was coming up with original stories.

“She pulled out a stack of papers, stapled them together, and told me to make a book,” she recalls. “The pride she took in the stories I told her made me feel like it was something special to be a writer. She was a teacher, and it was also through her and that pride that I realized I wanted to be a teacher, and make some other kid feel just as special as she made me feel.”

At 18 years old, Castello scored her first teaching job, participating in the Teacher Academy Project program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and eventually got her teaching license. Now, she freelances at a variety of local organizations, including the Omaha Community Playhouse. 

“I go out into schools and community spaces and engage students in creating something,” she explains. “If that’s creating a clever way to win a drama game, learning how to make their own characters with makeup on their faces, or write their very own script, that’s where my heart is. When I was a kid in Omaha, teachers reached out to me and taught me that my brain had a purpose and a worth, and I’m always trying to pay it forward.”

In terms of her acting, Castello credits her father.

“He signed me up for a class at the Emmy Gifford Theatre,” she says. “Then when the Emmy Gifford turned into The Rose, he made me audition for one of the main stage plays and I got in. It was a community for me to hold onto when things got rough, and I’ll forever be grateful for that community.“

As an author, the Central High School grad was compelled to write The Messiah of Howard Street when she was still an undergrad at DePaul University in Chicago. It was inspired by the colorful characters that have become a staple of the Old Market district.

“I had read My Antonia in my American English class,” she explains. “This wasn’t the first time I read it, I’d read it at Central High my junior year of high school. But comparing and contrasting a Chicago classroom to an Omaha classroom, I realized how fantasized Nebraska is in the minds of people who don’t live here. I mean, there are some obvious stereotypes we’ve all heard, but also the idea that there are rolling fields, and peace, and nature, and all that, it was just weird.”

Like so many other Central High teenagers, the Old Market was Castello’s meeting spot during adolescence. But over the years, she had many other experiences on and around Howard Street that helped shape her life.

“One of my first tastes of freedom was walking down to the Old Market and going to all the shops, getting Ted & Wally’s, and eating way too much spaghetti. Mom would take me to Little King before a dance recital, my best friends held my 18th birthday party as Zio’s, I sang and performed there, and I actually had my first date with my husband at Spaghetti Works.”

Armed with a Master of Science in secondary education from UNO and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine, she recently held a one-act festival, finished a semester-long scriptwriting residency at Central High, and has become a member of the Nebraska Arts Council teaching roster. In short, Castello stays busy.

“In undergrad, my professor warned me I might not be able to make a living in the arts,” she says. “But being a teaching artist and an arts educator has been something I truly enjoy. I really appreciate being able to do it every day. I get to help kids play pretend. That’s like…the dream.”


To learn more about Castello’s work, visit jennifercastello.com

This article appears in the May/June 2018 edition of Encounter.

A Window To The World

April 27, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This cozy residence in Omaha’s historic Dundee neighborhood might seem an unlikely place to find one of the world’s leading experts on Afghan geopolitics.

Yet it is here that Tom Gouttierre (and wife Marylu) have made their home for almost 44 years.

A sign of the homeowners’ international lifestyle hangs overhead in their entryway. The sign once hung outside their former home in Kabul, Afghanistan. It reads Sulhistan: Khaaneh Gouttierre in Persian script, which translates to “A Place of Peace: The House of Gouttierre.” (Tragically, their friend who scrawled the calligraphy was killed during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979.)

The Gouttierres’ residence is a showcase of their world travels, influenced heavily by their years in Afghanistan. Intricate, hand-woven rugs of all sizes cover the floors; there are more than two dozen on the first floor (with more than 50 throughout the house).

“Here is one carpet we always like to show off,” Gouttierre says, pointing to one red beauty on the floor of the solarium adjacent to their main living room. “This is probably a couple hundred years old. The thinner, the more valuable because they are so tightly woven—they will never wear out.”

Each rug holds a special memory. Smaller rugs were purchased when the newlyweds were poor Peace Corps teachers (1965-1967) and Gouttierre was a Fulbright scholar in Afghanistan (1969-1970). The larger and more expensive rugs came during Gouttierre’s tenure managing the Fulbright Program in Afghanistan (1971-1974).

All of the rugs are hand-woven treasures—some are now worth more than $10,0000—purchased for a fraction of their current value at neighborhood bazaars in the years preceding the Soviet occupation.

There are paintings of Kabul streetscapes on the wall that were gifts from Gouttierre’s Afghan students. Traditional wooden privacy screens hang on the white walls and provide additional decorative accents from the country.

Other mementos displayed throughout the house reference the scholar’s role in advising global political leaders: A bowl with the U.S. presidential seal hints at the time when Gouttierre advised the Reagan administration on American policy during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (and translated for visiting diplomats).

There is also a small collection of deep-blue lapis lazuli that came as gifts from the former king of Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai (the president of Afghanistan following the U.S. overthrow of Taliban rule until 2014). Karzai—Gouttierre’s friend from his years in Afghanistan—even stayed at their Omaha home when he made a special trip to Nebraska while visiting the U.S. on a diplomatic visit in 2005.

Then there is Marylu’s mortar and pestle collection displayed in the dining room and kitchen. Mortar and pestle utensils are common in cultures worldwide, and she sought them out during their frequent globetrotting excursions.

“When we went to Vietnam, I couldn’t speak Vietnamese, but I went [with her hand, she mimics the grinding of a mortar and pestle], and they go, “Aha!” and take me to find them,” she says, noting that her collection includes examples from remote Afghan villages, Iraq, Thailand, India, China, and beyond.

The couple came to Omaha in July 1974 straight from Afghanistan when Gouttierre was hired to initiate the Office of International Studies and assume leadership of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He held the dual dean-director roles until his retirement in 2015.

“We looked at around 30 houses in three days,” Marylu says of their initial rush to find a home upon first arriving in Omaha. Gouttierre remembers being advised to find a house west of 72nd Street. But he dreaded driving into the sunrise every morning and returning home with the sunset blazing in his eyes.

Built in 1923, the clinker-brick home (a now-uncommon style of brick home that uses overcooked, misshapen, or refuse bricks from kilns) was perfect for their needs. Walking distance from UNO campus, the residence is situated on a winding street uphill from Elmwood Park. Gouttierre thought it would be an easy walk to work, he loved the solarium with tile fountain and koi pond, and knew the original plaster-and-lath archways inside would fit with their Afghan décor.

But it was a fixer-upper decades in the making. Gouttierre’s first project was removing the green-colored heavy drapes and shag carpet. A horrific paint job also had to go. Pea-green paint covered the walls and caked the functional wood-burning fireplace.

“Pea green was the fourth color at least,” Gouttierre says. “As I recall, the layers went: canary yellow, Alice blue, shocking pink or rose, and then the pea green.”

His next project was removing the wall of the master bedroom closet so that they could have expanded storage in the second-floor hallway. Other projects included renovating the kitchen and finishing the basement (complete with a Detroit Tigers baseball-themed bathroom, sitting area, storage room, and laundry room).

Since retiring from UNO, Gouttierre has devoted his boundless energy to continued home improvements. A new project is always hovering on the horizon. “This is what I enjoy doing in my retirement,” he says.

Windows have been Gouttierre’s obsession for the past few years. Lambrecht Glass replaced 92 panes of leaded glass in a group of three street-facing windows while Joe Harwood Woodwork restored the original woodwork. Mark Lambrecht of Lambrecht Glass also crafted a custom leaded-glass window with green on bottom (for grass), blue on top (for sky), red on the right (for sunset), and yellow on the left (for sunrise).

Meanwhile, faithfully replicated the home’s 46 multi-pane windows with new, all-wood interior mullions separating new panes of double-glazed glass. The lower portions of the window frames are stationary, while the upper portions open with the crank of a lever (instead of the traditional double-hung windows that lift up or down). To finish off the window upgrade, an aluminum cladding perfectly matched the dark brickwork and protects the new windows. The window upgrade alone cost more than they originally paid for the home.

In early spring, they put the finishing touches on a new deck above the solarium (accessible from their bedroom). Steps to the deck feature hidden drawers to replace lost storage. The deck opens to a spectacular view of sunsets, UNO’s clocktower, Elmwood Park, and Memorial Park’s Fourth of July fireworks.

New projects on his to-do list: adding a fleur-de-lis to a crest on the fireplace, reworking the solarium fountain’s filtration system to keep fish indoors, and renovating the third floor with an updated bathroom and dormer that opens the home’s top level with more west-facing windows.

In the years since their three sons left home, there have been other changes. Despite Gouttierre’s strong personal connection to the sport of basketball—he had coached the Afghan national team during his stints overseas—the family basketball hoop disappeared from the driveway.

A few years before his retirement, the family’s grown children learned that their parents had put a downpayment on a townhouse near Westroads. “We just about had a revolution on our hands,” Marylu recalls with a laugh. “You can’t sell the house!” one of the boys protested over the phone, threatening to come back to Omaha to buy it. “Mom and Dad, have you really considered the pros and cons?” another son diplomatically questioned.

In the end, neither parent could part with their sentimental attachment to the home. It’s the sort of attachment shared by at least one of its previous residents.

“The original person who built this was named Bill [the architect] and Queenie Drake. They built it and went bankrupt. Never having lived in it, they sold to a family by the name of Summers. We met the Summers’ daughter and her sons on her 80th birthday in 1998. All she wanted to do was to come back and see her house where she lived from 1924 to ’44.”

After three subsequent homeowners with varying durations of occupancy, the property came to the Gouttierres.

“When we first got here, If you had asked me if we would have stayed in Omaha so long, the answer would have been, ‘No.’ But I loved my job and Omaha has just gotten better, ” he says.

Gouttierre could have easily missed his life’s international calling had he followed in his family bakery business in Maumee, Ohio. He had even gained master baker credentials by age 18—before the travel bug bit and he joined the Peace Corps.

In his Omaha home, family heirlooms tucked throughout the foreign mementos make it seem like generations of the Gouttierre family have lived in this place. There’s the chair from his Belgian-immigrant grandfather (also a baker). There are the fireplace tools and the mantle mirror that belonged to his parents, and more surprises in every nook and cranny.

“We’ve had no designers in here,” Gouttierre says. “Everything in here is a reflection of something we did, something that was given to us, or someplace we’ve been.”


This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

 

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.

 

Virginia Kathryn

April 9, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Whether she’s talking about pedals or people, Virginia Kathryn Gallner’s enthusiasm for music is downright catching. 

As she sips her cup of tea, the conversation ranges from the spelling of her middle name (it’s Welsh, and her mom liked it) to Christmas presents. She tries to make her own gifts for friends and family, but “I never get them done in time,” she confesses.

The 21-year-old folk and blues musician grew up in Council Bluffs. She moved to Omaha when she started attending the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where she is double majoring in International Studies and Religious Studies and minoring in Ancient and Medieval Studies. She credits Council Bluffs for helping shape who she is and notes that it offers a small-town vibe without making her feel claustrophobic.

“I used to go to Lidgett’s Music every week just to hang out and learn about guitars, and explore the depths of Kanesville Kollectibles record store on the weekends.”

Gallner’s music career took root at the Council Bluffs Public Library while taking group lessons. After two classes, she was hooked. She started playing music on her parents’ upright piano in their dining room at a very young age, but once she picked up a guitar, the piano lost its allure.

“It’s funny, the first time I picked up a guitar, I immediately put it in my lap and tried to play it like a piano–which I do now, with lap steel guitar.” She says her mom bought her a cherry-red Stratocaster from Lidgett that she affectionately called “Hellboy.”

Gallner enjoys playing guitar in the Delta/Piedmont style, which sets her apart from most other local blues artists, who emulate the rowdier Texas style. However, she notes that a lot of the harmonies she uses aren’t found outside of folk music, and she’s also been known to sing jazz “torch” songs, which she explains is just a simple term for sentimental love songs.

All that practice and research has served her well, as she’s has been making an impact on the local music scene, even garnering a 2018 nomination for an Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award in the best blues musician category. 

During a recent show at The B Bar on Leavenworth, she performs several covers, including Tom Waits’ “Midnight Lullaby” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire,” among several older, more traditional tunes, including some Robert Johnson Delta blues.

Onstage, Gallner dresses in black with a few pops of color—including a shiny red rose on her short, black combat boots that match the flowers on her shirt.

While the house isn’t packed on this Thursday night, it’s clear that everyone is here to see her. Even the bartenders pay close attention as she starts playing, clapping enthusiastically as she finishes each song.

She plays several cover songs along with her own originals, including some from her upcoming album, which is yet to be named. Gallner has adopted “Virgina Kathryn” as the simplified stage name for musical work.

Her influences are evident by the songs she chooses to cover, but when asked who her biggest musical influence is, she gives a quick, straightforward response—Nick Drake.

“He was an incredible musician who passed away way too soon,” she says. In a testament to her admiration of the now well-known and widely-appreciated singer-songwriter, she has learned his entire catalog. “The harmonies, the choice of note placement, the timing…I’m finding it influences my arrangement styles as well.”

Gallner also finds a lot of creative energy to draw from right here in our local music scene.

“Kait Berreckman is such an inspiration to me as a songwriter. Her songs have such a unique style,” Gallner says. “She comes up with the most unexpected twists, they never go where you expect them to.”

“The Shineys have been really cool to work with…I’ve been on the same bill as them for a number of shows and seeing their interpretations of songs has been really inspiring,” she says. “It’s a more intricate art than a lot of people make it out to be.”

“Every translation is an interpretation, as we like to say in ancient history and translation,” she adds with a laugh. “The same applies to music…you’re making it your own.”

Gallner says there are many Omaha acts she admires, but she’s especially impressed by the women on the scene. She lists Becky Lowry, (who organizes Femmefest every year), Emily Cox, and X-Rated Women In Music (out of Lincoln) as just a few examples of women committed to growing the community.

Gallner also plays a role in this system, volunteering as an after-school instructor with Omaha Girls Rock, teaching women in American traditional music and musical experimentation. During the summer, she says she teaches guitar and acts as a band coach for the program.

“You see so many women supporting women, and that is really important to me,” she says.

Most importantly though, Gallner says playing music has given her opportunities to meet people with whom she might never have otherwise crossed paths.

“It has helped me give voice to a lot of stories that have lain dormant in my mind…in my imagination? Imagination, use that word,” she says with a laugh.

Gallner’s album release party will be at Reverb Lounge, on Thursday, June 14.

 

This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter

Basketball to Poetry, This Week Runs the Gamut

April 5, 2018 by

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Pick of the Week—Friday, April 6-Sunday, April 8: The weather may not be very spring-like this weekend, but it is that time. What better way to get ready for the flower season than by heading to the Ralston Arena Arts & Crafts Show? You’ll be able to shop hundreds of vendors from across the country, just in time to give your home a little extra oomph for the season. There will also be entertainment, food, drinks, and gift certificate drawings. If you’re worried about parking, don’t. There will be plenty of free parking, including shuttle service from Horsemen’s Park. Get tickets and all the details you’ll need here.

Thursday, April 5: Sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Writer’s Workshop and English department, tonight’s 700 Words Prose Slam is open to everyone in the community. The theme of this slam is the #MeToo movement. The event is hosted by 13th Floor Magazine and takes place at the soon-to-be-closed Apollon Art Space. The entry fee for participants is $5, but the event is free for those who want to come out and listen. Everyone and anyone is welcome to share their thoughts and experiences in relation to the #MeToo movement. There will be cash prizes for first, second, and third places. To learn more, please go here.

Thursday, April 5 to Thursday, April 12: It’s a tale as old as time, but there’s very little rhyming in this story. An older man marries a younger woman, jealousy, intrigue, and a sense of betrayal ensue. Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s propensity for moodiness abounds in Uncle Vanya, opening tonight at the Joslyn Castle, performed by the Brigit St. Brigit Theatre Company. Chekov is known for leaving his audience wondering, so don’t expect the proverbial happy ending. His elusiveness is part of what made him one of the pioneers of modern writing. Experience one of his best-known plays by getting your tickets here.

Friday, April 6: For some of us, our first exposure to the Harlem Globetrotters was during Saturday morning cartoons. Whether from their own cartoon (The Harlem Globetrotters), their  variety show (The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine), or as “guest stars” on The New Scooby-Doo Movies, chances are high you’ve heard of them Regardless of what shows you watched as a kid, unless you’ve been living off the grid for the last century you have at least hear the name. Tomorrow you have a chance to see them play. They will be throwing down and showing off at the CenturyLink Center at 7 p.m. Jump on over here to get your tickets now!

Saturday, April 7: Put on your dancing shoes and head to the University of Nebraska Omaha for their UNO Dance Marathon. The student-run committee raises funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals throughout the year, but this is their main event, the one all others have been leading up to. For this special day, the children from Omaha’s own Children’s Hospital will join the team of Mavericks for a dance marathon, 12 hours session! Help them meet and hopefully exceed their goals by donating now, then register to help them celebrate this Saturday. Tap here for more info.

Sunday, April 8: (Recurring event) Put the dancing shoes away, dig out your hiking boots, (if you haven’t already) and trek on over to Fontenelle Forest for the History Hike at Camp Wakonda this Sunday. Bring the whole family out to explore nature while expanding their knowledge of the area’s history. Judy Bell will be leading the hike, pointing out the sights while filling your heads with knowledge. Hikers will meet at Camp Wakonda, which spans 40 acres of wooded bluffs next to Fontenelle Forest, at 1 p.m. and will last approximately two hours. Get all the info you’ll need here.

 

Eliminating The Impossible

March 28, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Zhomontee Watson first took the stage when she was a sophomore in high school. Completely new to the world of acting, her first director chose her to play the lead in The Princess and the Pea. As a college senior, Watson found herself nominated for Best Actress in a musical in the 12th annual Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.

Watson netted the nomination (and a win)* in this year’s OEAAs with her performance as the lead character in Sister Act at Omaha Community Playhouse. She says she’s grateful, but it did catch her off guard. Her portrayal of Deloris Van Cartier was in September 2016—just before the cut-off date for OEAA qualifications.

“I did not expect this. Since it was over a year ago, I didn’t expect it to be part of the awards,” Watson says.

Sister Act, the musical comedy based on the 1992 film by the same name, follows Deloris Van Cartier on her journey into the Witness Protection Program after she sees a murder that she shouldn’t have. For her own safety, Deloris is sent to live in a holy convent. She struggles as she learns to adapt to her new life among the nuns.

“In this role I really had to connect to the words. There was no way you could sing those songs without connecting something to it,” Watson says.

Watson notes that most of her previous roles have been characters in established positions of power—such as a principal or mother figure—but Deloris Van Cartier was a different challenge for Watson to tackle. Completely removed from the security of her old life, Deloris must put her trust and safety into other people’s hands.

“I also got to have a sensitive and tender moment in the show where I had to connect with people who I love and who love me,” Watson says.

Sister Act displays a family-like bond between the nuns and Deloris, and Watson says that bond didn’t end when the curtain dropped. She says that her real-life connection to her fellow cast members helped bring her performance to life.

Director Kimberly Faith Hickman remembers Watson for her strong stage presence and work ethic. “She takes on the challenge and always accomplishes what you asked her to do, no matter how difficult it may be,” Hickman says. “You should never miss out on an opportunity to collaborate with Zhomontee.”

Acting has always been a passion for Watson. She doesn’t get compensated for her hours of devotion to the theater, but she does find acting to be an important outlet in her life.

“Acting definitely gave me a home away from home,” Watson says.

As someone who experienced some instability while growing up, acting was a way for Watson to find a support system and consistent group of people. Additionally, she’s found that acting puts her mind at ease.

“I can be myself with not being myself,” Watson says. “I get to dive into another character and leave my life at the door.”

In March, Watson is appearing in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of James and the Giant Peach. Like Sister Act, it is a musical directed by Hickman.

Watson plays the Earthworm in this beloved children’s story. Despite the role originally being intended for a man, she has taken on the challenge of portraying the character.

“She’s a risk-taker. I don’t know if she describes herself that way, but as someone who directs her I see her as a risk-taker,” Hickman says. “She asked if she could sing a part that wasn’t written for her gender and she was fantastic.”

Even through all her positive experiences in Omaha’s theater community, Watson does believe there’s room for improvement. Now, more than ever, she believes that conversations about inclusivity and diversity should be taking place.

While the OEAAs are taking steps to be more inclusive—such as changing their awards to be gender inclusive—there are other organizations that are failing to hit the mark.

“In our theater community now, it’s very important to know that inclusion is a thing and that it needs to remain a thing. It needs to become more a part of the narrative than it currently is,” Watson says.

She hopes that more theaters become proactive in finding diversity for their performances. There’s plenty of talent in Omaha’s minority communities, but theaters must create an inviting space. Watson says that they can’t just expect their theaters to develop a perfect cast—they have to actively seek and promote.

Additionally, she encourages those in the community to be accepting and understanding of newcomers. She believes that theaters can get stuck in a “comfort zone” that includes only casting a handful of frequent actors and actresses. By taking time to teach new thespians, Watson believes that Omaha’s already-impressive theater community can soar to new heights.

Her educational goals don’t stop with the stage. Her final year of undergraduate studies has taken up plenty of Watson’s free time, but she’s still managing to put the hours in for rehearsal and performance. Her current plan is to graduate in May and apply for UNO’s graduate counseling program.

“Grad school is a whole different ball game, so I’ll see how time management factors in, but I definitely don’t plan on stopping,” Watson says. “If I can squeeze in a show or two then I will.”

*Article updated after the OEAA winner announcements. 

This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter.

A Timeline of Chinese in Omaha

March 18, 2018 by , and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Chinese migration to Omaha began, indirectly, during the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. The “Old Gold Mountain” (i.e., the Chinese term for California) attracted a flood of unskilled laborers known as coolies. Nationwide, the Chinese population grew by leaps and bounds: from 758 (in 1850) to 35,565 (in 1860) to 104,468 (in 1880), according to U.S. Census data on the country’s foreign-born population.

Facing open hostility in the goldfields, many went to work in agriculture, mining, fisheries, started laundry or restaurant businesses, or joined construction of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. The railway industry dispersed Chinese migrants throughout the American interior. With Union Pacific’s headquarters in Omaha, it’s likely that the railroad helped populate Omaha’s own early Chinatown. But documentation of Union Pacific’s role in attracting the city’s earliest Chinese residents remains scarce.

“We don’t have archival records of Union Pacific bringing Chinese labor to Omaha, but we’ve seen this pattern throughout cities and towns of the American West,” says Patricia LaBounty, curator of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs. LaBounty spoke with Omaha Magazine while preparing a research presentation focused on the contribution of Chinese labor to Union Pacific.

Among the earliest documentation is an illustration of Chinese railroad laborers crossing the frozen Missouri River with Omaha’s sparse skyline in the background—including the old territorial capitol, now the site of Central High School (printed in the Jan. 22, 1870, edition of Harper’s Weekly). 

Mounting opposition to Chinese immigrant labor led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which halted immigration and banned citizenship. Many American Chinatowns dwindled and disappeared in subsequent years, with Chinese-American communities remaining staunchly Cantonese-speaking due to the early immigration from China’s southern regions. Post-World War II waves of Chinese immigrants predominantly spoke Mandarin, the language of mainland China and Taiwan.

The second wave of Chinese immigrants arriving in Omaha—and the U.S. in general—consisted of Chinese Nationalists and their families coming overseas after civil war split the Republic of China (Taiwan) from the communist People’s Republic of China.

A third wave of immigration followed normalization of U.S. diplomatic ties with Beijing during Richard Nixon’s presidency. This group included highly educated professionals, scientists, doctors, and students from the People’s Republic of China.

At the dawn of the 21st century, the number of students coming to U.S. universities (evident at the University of Nebraska system, Creighton, and Bellevue University) has steadily grown. Meanwhile, what could be considered a fourth wave of Chinese migration to North America has taken the form of wealthy Chinese looking to the U.S. for property and stock market investments.


May 10, 1869

Promontory, Utah—The driving of a ceremonial golden spike signals the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Chinese labor played a critical role in completing the eastbound Central Pacific that met with Union Pacific.

Jan. 22, 1870

Harper’s Weekly prints “Chinese Coolies Crossing the Missouri River” with Omaha pictured in the illustration. The article claims 250 Chinese laborers passed through Omaha to build a railroad in Texas.

Early documentation of Chinese labor passing through Omaha

1872/1873

The 1872/1873 Omaha City Directory lists Chinese laundries for the first time. There are two: “Yingalongjingjohn & Yingyang” between Farnam and Harney on 10th Street, and “Hong Lee” on Harney between 14th and 15th streets.

June 4, 1874

The Omaha Daily Bee reports on the burial of “Ting-a-ling” at Prospect Hill Cemetery, noted as the city’s first Chinese burial. His death is attributed to “too much ironing and ice cream.” The article explains that his remains will be exhumed after two years to be returned to China for final burial in accordance with traditional custom. The article also notes that the local Chinese population consists of 12 men and one woman.

1880

Omaha has 14 Chinese residents.*

1882

The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur.

May 6, 1892

The national Methodist Episcopal Conference is held in Omaha. A speaker condemns the Chinese Exclusion Act for jeopardizing U.S. missionary work in China, denounces the U.S. president and Congress, and argues “that the Chinese had the same right to be here as other foreigners, notably the Irish” (according to the New York Times on May 7, 1892).

1890

Omaha has 91* or 93 Chinese residents.**

Feb. 15, 1893

Dr. Gee Wo Chan goes to the Supreme Court of Nebraska for practicing medicine without a license. He will lose his case, but his traditional Chinese medicine practice continues. At the peak of his business, he operates storefront clinics in Omaha, Milwaukee, and Chicago. The Omaha Daily Bee frequently publishes full-page ads promoting that Dr. C. Gee Wo “the greatest doctor that China ever produced is in your city.” His 1892 marriage to a Caucasian woman in Chicago was reported in the Omaha Daily Bee. His life story will be featured in a free online book, Chinese Medicine in Post-Frontier America: A Tale of Three Chinese-American Doctors (published in 2016).

Dr. C. Gee Woh ad in June 7, 1891 Omaha Daily Bee

Aug. 31, 1894

An article in the Omaha Daily Bee covers a revolutionary meeting of 150 Chinese “from Denver, Cheyenne, Sioux City, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and other surrounding towns within a radius of 200 miles,” who meet to discuss overthrowing the Qing Dynasty. Chinese revolutionaries draw support from overseas Chinese communities around the world. Years later, China’s Revolution of 1911 will overturn the country’s last dynasty and set in motion the establishment of the Republic of China.

1895

The 1895 Omaha City Directory lists at least 21 Chinese-owned laundries (featuring names that appear to be Chinese).

Oct. 23, 1898

The Omaha World-Herald reports that 438 men, women, and children—including artists, performers, and cooks—were brought to the United States from China to help with the Chinese village at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha. The expo allowed them to bypass the Chinese Exclusion Act restrictions. The newspaper alleges human trafficking and claims that women were sold into slavery or prostitution.

1900

Omaha has 94* or 103 residents.**

Aug. 19, 1900

The Illustrated Bee publishes an article titled “Chinese in Omaha—Some Prominent Men,” which claims a Sunday school has offered English language education to Chinese youth since September 1885. Laundry is the chief occupation of local Chinese residents, and cleaners tuck “good luck mottoes” into fresh linens. Opium smoking is on the decline (allegedly the only crime in an otherwise “peaceable, quiet, and law-abiding” community). A sort of Chinese credit union offers loans to the immigrants at exorbitant rates. Joe Wah Lee is named as the community’s best English interpreter, the wealthiest local Chinese person, and the shrewd owner of Bon Ton Restaurant. Leo Mun, head of Quong Wah Co. is named the community’s most educated in Chinese but lacking in English skills.“Henry” Hong Sling is noted as affiliated with the community but based in Chicago where he is a railroad passenger agent.

1910

Omaha has 53 Chinese residents.*

January 1912

Gin Chin opens the Mandarin Cafe at 1409 Douglas St.

Nov. 22, 1916

The Omaha World-Herald reports on the opening of a “new hall” for the Omaha Chinese Merchants Association at the first known site of the On Leong Tong (111 N. 12th St.). Leo Wing is president and Chue Fing Sue is secretary. The report claims there are 150 Chinese living in Omaha.

The former home of the On Leong Tong, photographed in 2018

1920

Omaha has 126 Chinese residents.*

Sept. 16, 1920

Gin Chin opens the King Fong Cafe near 16th and Harney streets.

Photo from the September/October 2007 edition of Encounter Magazine

1930

Omaha has 147 Chinese residents.*

1931

Following the Stock Market Crash of 1929, a city directory is not printed in 1930. The 1931 Omaha City Directory lists at least eight Chinese laundromats remaining in Omaha (six are included under a “Chinese Laundry” category, two are listed as hand-laundries). Omaha has 147 Chinese residents.* “When the Depression came in, there was no more business,” says Jeanette Chin, wife of Carl Chin (Gin Chin’s son). “If families could save some money, they could go back (to China) and live like royalty.” She came to Omaha in 1942 from a prominent family in New York City’s Chinatown. Local Omaha papers claimed her 1942 marriage to Carl was the city’s “last arranged marriage.”

July 16, 1938

The Omaha World-Herald reports on firecrackers and festivities involved in the dedication of the relocated On Leong Tong at 1518 Cass St. The article notes that the tong is raising funds for China’s fight against Japan in the war effort.

1940

Omaha has 69 Chinese residents (44 native-born and 25 foreign-born).***

1944

The year after the Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed (1943) during World War II, Gen. Albert Wedemeyer takes command of U.S. forces in China, relieving Joseph Stillwell. Wedemeyer was born in Omaha in 1897. He was likely familiar with Omaha’s ethnic Chinese community as he attended Creighton Preparatory School (when the school was located near downtown on the Creighton University). In 1919 he went to West Point Academy. Upon graduation, he was assigned to Tientsin, China, where he learned to speak Mandarin and gained a deeper understanding of China’s turbulent political climate with the consolidation efforts by the Nationalists and the rise of the Communist movement.

1946

The 1946 Omaha City Directory lists one business under the category “Laundries—Chinese” (Louie Chas at 209 S. 13th St.), and the name disappears in the next year’s directory. The Chinese laundry category vanishes from record in subsequent city directories.

1950

Omaha has 106 Chinese residents.*

1960

Omaha has 130 Chinese residents.****

1970

Omaha has 186 Chinese residents.****

1978

Joe Kuo and his wife, Alice, open the Great Wall Restaurant at 72nd and Farnam streets. The restaurant’s success will spawn other Great Wall restaurants downtown (at 11th and Farnam streets), near 84th and Center streets, at Oak View Mall, and in Council Bluffs. Kuo had graduated from Fort Hays State University in Kansas with a mathematics degree in 1972, but with a new family decided against doctoral studies to enter business as a restaurateur in New York City and Chicago before coming to Omaha. The Kuos were founding members of a Christian fellowship of Omaha Chinese (established in 1977), which started as a bible study group (officially renamed the “Omaha Christian Chinese Fellowship” in 1980, and again renamed as “Omaha Chinese Christian Church” in 1986). Kuo’s restaurants host bible study gatherings. The church’s founding minister, Pastor Job Lee, is married to Joe’s elder sister (Grace). The church fellowship serves as a center for Chinese language and culture education. The Kuo family will sponsor local Chinese cultural events, leading to the creation of the Metropolitan Omaha Chinese American Association.

1980

Omaha has 374 Chinese residents.****

The Omaha Chinese Christian Fellowship rents space at First Presbyterian Church. A few years later, in 1983, the fellowship will relocate to First Christian Church on 66th and Dodge streets.

Mid-1980s

The Metropolitan Omaha Chinese American Association forms with the goal of bringing all Chinese immigrants and American-born Chinese together, regardless of regional origins or political affiliation. The organization’s board includes Dennis Chin (a Bellevue Public School educator and Gin Chin’s grandson), his wife Betty Chin (a research organizer at Creighton and UNMC), and UNL engineering professor Bing Chen, among others. The association will eventually discontinue as political tensions mount and the community shifts to a predominantly mainland Chinese orientation.

From left: Dennis Chin, Betty Chin, and Bing Chen (at the Nebraska Chinese Association in 2018)

1985

The Metropolitan Omaha Chinese American Association’s Chinese New Year celebration moves to UNO’s Milo Bail Student Center for a Chinese meal cooked by UNO chefs under the watchful eye of Joe Kuo followed by music, acrobatics, and dance performances at the Strauss Performing Arts Center. During its years of operation, the group also participates in the Omaha Ethnic Festival at the Civic Auditorium and hosts Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and Dragon Boat Festival gatherings.

1990

The Omaha Chinese Christian Church purchases its own building at 81st and Blondo streets.
Omaha has 553 Chinese residents.****

1990s-2000s

Mainland Chinese in Omaha are believed to organize local community events, including Lunar New Year gatherings. (Individuals known to be involved did not respond to Omaha Magazine’s request for comment.)

2000

Omaha has 1,155 Chinese residents.****
In 2000, UNMC begins a formal faculty exchange program with Shanghai University. It is the first time the Chinese government has “awarded and funded a faculty exchange program between a Chinese medical school and [a] U.S. medical school.” In subsequent years, UNMC’s exchange programs with Chinese medical institutions continue to develop. By the year 2018, UNMC’s Asia Pacific Rim Development Program will have established partnerships with more than a dozen Chinese medical schools.

2005

Creighton philosophy professor Jinmei Yuan begins annual student trips to China, supported by the Rev. John Schlegel (president of the university) and Soong Ching-Ling Foundation in China.  

2007

Omaha-born filmmaker Alexander Payne is part of a group that buys King Fong Cafe from the Huey family that has managed the restaurant in the years following Gin Chin’s passing. Also in 2007, the Confucius Institute (which operates around the world teaching Chinese as a second language) opens at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; the institute will become a key sponsor for holiday celebrations with the UNL chapter of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association, Lincoln Chinese Cultural Association, the Asian Community Center in Lincoln, and the Omaha Chinese Cultural Association/Nebraska Chinese Association.

2008

In 2008, Creighton’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions establishes a three-month Rehabilitation International Summer Program. By 2014, the university will establish the China Honors Interprofessional Program for medical students and health care professionals in China. Partner schools will include 10 universities across China (along with universities in five other countries).

May 2008

The Omaha Chinese Culture Association establishes in the wake of China’s tragic 2008 Sichuan earthquakes. In China, more than 69,000 are confirmed dead and 5 million people are displaced. Bellevue University’s director of global partnerships in Asia, Julie Verebely, was born in the area devastated by the quake. Verebely knew her home was affected, but she didn’t know how badly. She couldn’t contact any friends or family in the province. “She called me up and said, ‘We need to do something. It’s my hometown,’” recalls Linda Steele, who works with Verebely at Bellevue. With a core group of more than 30 Chinese-Americans and Chinese expats, they arrange several fundraisers that accumulate more than $30,000. During their fundraising efforts, Ping Ye (a systems analyst at HDR) suggests to fellow volunteers that they organize as a continuing Chinese association. Ye is the Omaha Chinese Culture Association’s first president, followed by Mae Keith, and then Steele. John Zhang is the association’s first chairman of the board, followed by Hong Zheng.

Linda Steele

2009

The Omaha Chinese Christian Church moves to its current location at 4618 S. 139th St.

2010

Omaha has 1,437 Chinese residents.****

Feb. 3, 2009

The first Lunar New Year Gala is hosted by the Omaha Chinese Cultural Association at Christ Community Church. Locations will change in later years: Millard North High School in 2010, Burke High School in 2011-2012, Westside High School in 2013, Westside Middle School in 2015-2017, and Burke again in 2018.

April 2009

In April, an Omaha delegation visits Yantai (in Shandong province) at the invitation of the mayor of the northeastern Chinese city. In October, Yantai officials will visit Omaha to sign a letter of intent to become “sister cities.” In June 2010, Omaha’s Mayor Jim Suttle will visit Yantai, China, in a trip to establish Omaha and Yantai as “sister cities.”

Oct. 3, 2009

The Omaha Chinese Cultural Association hosts the first annual Mid-Autumn Chinese Cultural Festival at Zorinsky Lake to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

June 4, 2011

The Omaha Chinese Cultural Association hosts its first annual Dragon Boat Festival on a Missouri River cruise.

2012

Bellevue University establishes a partnership with Guangzhou College of Commerce in 2012. The first group of Chinese students will arrive in 2015. Also in 2012, the UNO College of Business Administration begins annual study trips to China.

August 2012

During a visit to China, Nebraska’s Gov. Dave Heineman announces the state will open a trade office in China.

2013

The UNO College of Business Administration hosts a China Conference focused on US-China economic relations and business partnerships. The conference continues for a second year in 2014.

March 18, 2013

Ceremonies in Nebraska and Shanghai are held to announce the opening of the Nebraska Center China in Shanghai. Upon taking office in 2015, Gov. Pete Ricketts continues to foster China-Nebraska trade relations with trade trips in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The Omaha Chamber also participates in overseas trips to China on an annual basis.

May 2014

An estimated 1,000 Chinese investors visit Omaha for the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting. In China, the “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett is known as “the God of Stock Investing.” The number of Chinese visitors to Omaha during the shareholder meeting will continue to grow every year. An estimated 2,000-3,000 Chinese investors will visit Omaha for the shareholder meeting in 2016.

2015

The Nebraska Chinese Association replaces the Omaha Chinese Cultural Association under the leadership of local Omaha businessman Hong Zheng (owner of the Asian Market) and its president Linda Steele (an adjunct professor Bellevue University).

Hong Zheng

April 2016

Lion Dancers help the Nebraska Chinese Association celebrate the grand opening of the Nebraska Chinese Center in the site of a former church at 8206 Blondo St. The center offers language classes, cooking classes, a farmers’ market, tai chi exercise programs, and other cultural events.

2016

King Fong Cafe closes “temporarily.”

May 2017

The annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting continues to draw more Chinese visitors every year. Buses take Chinese tour groups to Warren Buffett’s home in Dundee for photographs. In 2017, Linda Steele estimates that there are 3,000-4,000 Chinese visitors. A gala dinner hosted by the Nebraska Chinese Association introduces overseas investors and local businesses. Steele expects 5,000 Chinese visitors for the Berkshire meeting in 2018.

June 14, 2017

Forty boxes of beef arrive in China from Greater Omaha Packing Co. The Omaha-headquartered business has emerged as an industry leader in reopening U.S. beef exports to China. It is the first shipment of U.S. beef to China since 2003 (following a mad cow scare that halted imports).

November 2017

The National Register of Historic Places recognizes the historic status of the On Leong Tong at 1518 Cass St.

2018

In the 2017/2018 academic year, Bellevue University has 258 overseas Chinese students; UNMC has 96 students from mainland China; UNO has 124 overseas Chinese students; Creighton has 36.

March 3, 2018

The 10th anniversary of the Lunar New Year Gala hosted by the Nebraska Chinese Association/Omaha Chinese Cultural Association takes place at Burke High School. Of the approximately 200 volunteers organizing the gala, 100 are overseas Chinese students. The association’s members include close to 800 people.

Nebraska Chinese Association board members from left: Grant Wu, Hong Zheng, May Yap, Jun White, Linda Steele, Li Li, Sarah Luo, Qiuming Zhu, Ping Ye, Jenny McAtee

*Source: U.S. Census data provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society

**Source: An Almanac of Nebraska: Nationality, Ethnic, and Racial Groups (published in 1975)

***Source: U.S. Census data provided by the Nebraska Library Commission

****Source: U.S. Census data provided by University of Nebraska-Omaha Center for Public Affairs Research


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

See other Omaha-Chinese content from the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine: