Tag Archives: Emily Moody

Omaha Creative Institute

September 18, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



September 1, 2015 by

This article appears in B2B Fall 2015.

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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