Tag Archives: installation

The Church of Tomorrow

August 30, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Dillon Gitano

Nicholas Wasserberger and Mark Steffan are almost, well, In Real Life meme generators. “We really feel that immersing people in an artificial environment, in a bubble, in a world, is amazing,” Wasserberger says. “We want to immerse them in a certain genre, a theme, so that everyone can have this experience, this nostalgia.”

Together, Wasserberger and Steffan are the Church of Tomorrow, an avant-garde party-planning duo responsible for themed events in Benson galleries and Downtown Omaha nightclubs. They’ve also collaborated with local band Icky Blossoms and North Sea Films for video styling, as well as local dance-party group GOO.

The Church specializes in themes of music and fashion from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. “With events at, like, [House of] Loom, we come up with the ideas and concepts and themes,” Steffan says. “We promote it. We decorate it. We set the theme, the mood. And then we discuss with the DJs what the music genre should be. We set up the environment.”

“There’s a lot of history and education that goes into it,” Wasserberger says of their event prep. For example, their inaugural David Bowie tribute party last October at House of Loom was a study in glam rock. “Other cities around the nation throw David Bowie parties,” Steffan points out, “which just brings Omaha to a greater connectivity with other cities’ night-life culture.”

“Nobody’s trying to be too cool. We can see how people find the humor in what we do. It looks completely outrageous, and we’re completely outrageous, and we can laugh about that.” – Mark Steffan

“Our New Romantic Party was based off of one club that ran in London for, like, six months,” Wasserberger says. Such ’80s London nightclubs started a trend of evenings dedicated to specific themes. “Boy George came from there,” Steffan says. “Duran Duran. Spandau Ballet. Changed music forever.”

Wasserberger and Steffan encourage party-goers to dress to the theme. “It’s Halloween all year-round,” Steffan says. Realizing that not everyone is up on the movements or music they select, they try to educate the masses ahead of time. In the weeks leading up to a party, they post links on Facebook Event pages to documentaries such as Paris Is Burning or songs like “All Tomorrow’s Parties” by The Velvet Underground.

“We want to let people in Omaha experience where the roots of music and youth movements and nightclubbing came from,” Wasserberger says.

Last January, the Sweatshop Gallery in Benson asked Church of Tomorrow to create “a full-on art installation” for their Afterbirth show during the neighborhood’s First Friday art crawl. “We went thrifting for about three or four weeks just picking up the ugliest stuff. Kids’ bed sheets, after-Christmas-sale tinsel,” Wasserberger says. “We put the sheets on the walls and spray-painted them with political symbols, grabbed every disco light we could find in Omaha.”

“They both have a very distinct style,” says Caitlin Little of Sweatshop Gallery, “and they were able in this instance to transform thought into feeling and experience. The events they put on are meant to challenge the normal, beat the boring, and provide an all-inclusive, full-force fun time.”

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“We wanted to present what our physical chapel would look like,” Steffan says. “This is basically our religion, these are things we like to do, and they’re sometimes a little more progressive.” They both are advocates of women’s and transgender rights and radical homosexuality.

To fully immerse people in their passions and ideals, the pair burned incense and filled the gallery with flashing lights, projections, and obscure disco music. “It was a sensory overload,” Wasserberger says.

Little agrees. “Afterbirth in particular was like going to a sleepover in their brains!”

About 200 people came, they estimate. “That’s probably an average crowd,” Steffan says. “We get more at Loom,” Wasserberger counters.

“Everybody that comes to our events, they’re the nicest people,” Steffan says. “Nobody’s trying to be too cool. We can see how people find the humor in what we do. It looks completely outrageous, and we’re completely outrageous, and we can laugh about that.”

If there’s money involved, the two split the profit 50-50. Their one-of-a-kind buttons help fund their parties, too. Steffan and Wasserberger wear them out on the town, and if someone admires one, “Oh, they’re $2,” Steffan says, “take one.” They also design the buttons that Icky Blossoms takes on tour. The pair splits cover charges among themselves and an event’s DJs. “We’re pretty savvy about thrifting,” Steffan says.

House of Loom co-owner Brent Crampton agrees. “Their DIY method of throwing a party is raw yet fabulously tacky,” he says. “Meaning, I’ll give them $100 for decorations, and they’ll make the place look like a thousand bucks.” He adds that, quite simply, the Church of Tomorrow is his favorite promoter to work with. “They come up with some of the off-the-wall, almost forgotten corners of culture to celebrate.”

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Crampton points out that the pair not only designs and decorates an event, they clean up after it as well. “At the end of the night when everyone just wants to get paid and go home, they’ll stick around and help the staff clean. It’s quite amazing.”

“Everything we do, we do sober,” Wasserberger says. “Which surprises a lot of people. If we were sloppy at a party, come 1:30 in the morning, we would not still be on the dance floor keeping everyone there.”

Steffan has been clean and sober for two and a half years. “And in the last two and a half years, I’ve been the most creative I’ve ever been.”

Wasserberger will occasionally have a drink. “Never when I’m working,” he clarifies, “because you don’t need it. The true freaks are always sober. Like Boy George. Sober now.”

Steffan has plans to promote Church of Tomorrow events in New York after he settles in from his move in May to be with partner Joey Koneko. “And then when he comes back for visits, we’ll do more together here,” Wasserberger says, such as the second David Bowie Tribute this Oct. 5 at House of Loom. He also hints that he already has things set up to do on his own with Sweatshop Gallery and Loom.

Party Animal Style

Style is (obviously) a huge part of life for Wasserberger and Steffan. Their inspirations include such flamboyant names as Boy George, David Bowie, Vivienne Westwood, Isabella Blow, Leigh Bowery, and Anna Biaggi. “Otherwise, our style is just wear what you want,” Wasserberger says. He points to his shirt that he bought for a dollar, but his pants are Versace, no matter that he found them at Goodwill. “As long as you feel good, you’re going to look it.”

“I think that’s what it all basically comes down to,” Steffan says. “Our bodies are the medium for our art.”

“Sometimes we look really shallow, but there’s philosophy behind this,” Wasserberger says. “We know fashion history. If you make fun of us for wearing skirts, we’ll tell you that skirts were invented by men for men.”

Steffan and Wassberger at their David Bowie tribute party

Steffan and Wassberger at their David Bowie tribute party

Fortunately, Omaha has amazing thrifting, and Steffan and Wasserberger know where to find it all: The Salvation Army, Second Chance, Shop Around the Corner. “I don’t invest in fine art or other collectibles,” Steffan says. “Purchasing clothes, that’s my collection. There’s only a few things I’d pay a lot of money for, but it has to be really special.”

“If we pay $3 for most of our wardrobe,” Wasserberger explains, “then we can afford that one special item.”

Their experiments extend to hair as well. Wasserberger’s lavender hair is a result of Steffan’s experimentation with toner and fabric dyes. “Constant evolution is key,” Steffan says. “When you get stuck in the same old routine, that’s when you start feeling trapped.”

“It blows our minds when other people are like, that’s so foreign,” Wasserberger says. “Why should it be? Everyone should be constantly changing. It’s a really positive thing.”

Installing an Outdoor Fireplace

August 29, 2013 by

One of the fastest growing backyard trends is an outdoor fireplace. When deciding to install your own, one of your first choices is to select the fuel type. Will it be a wood-burning unit, or are you looking for the convenience of gas? If you decide on wood fuel, make sure to pick a fireplace location with proper clearances for good draft and check your local building codes to make sure you are in compliance.  If you select a gas-burning fireplace, managing the smoke and draft are not issues. Keep in mind you will need a gas source, whether it’s propane or natural, and there may be some plumbing and possibly some trenching required to get the gas line to the fireplace unit.

Once you’ve decided your fuel type and fireplace location, you’ll need to determine what it will be made of. The two basic types of construction are custom masonry and prefabricated. The benefits of masonry construction are that it will most likely last a long time and will produce more heat, if that is a priority. The prefab units are built as a metal shell with a metal chimney and often have a firebrick liner, replicating the look of a masonry fireplace. Because there is less mass, they may not produce as much heat. On the plus side, a prefab fireplace allows for a faster, easier installation.

Most outdoor fireplaces are finished with a stone or brick veneer. There are many varieties in terms of size, shape, and color to choose from, so coordinating your fireplace look with your home’s style or color is easy. Whatever outdoor fireplace you choose, you are sure to have some memorable times sitting around the fire with friends and family!

To see a selection of options for your outdoor fireplace, visit the Lumbermen’s showroom at 13709 Industrial Rd. in Omaha. For more information, visit lumbermens.biz.

Phil Hawkins’ Geometric Prisms

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Phil Hawkins’ unique worldview is on display in the flowing lines and organic contours of his art. It’s a philosophy that even comes through in the simple choice of materials he uses to bring his ideas to life.

The 30-year-old artist’s subtly colored drawings and paintings are filled with intersecting lines and two- and three-dimensional shapes that leap off the page. His sculptures and installations, crafted from PVC, wood, and cardboard, are patterns of geometric prisms meticulously built from pieces Hawkins cuts. He either hand-paints or covers the pieces with reflective and holographic foils that seem to burst off of each form.

The majority of Hawkins’ sculptures and installations currently use rough materials, like corrugated cardboard, as a primary medium. While most people would throw similar pieces of cardboard away without a second thought, Hawkins chooses to give these materials new life. Even within his downtown basement studio, he exhibits his symbiotic relationship with the resources around him, with the creation of several functional dividing screens he handmade from old doors, carpet remnants, poles, and Velcro.

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“The way I feel about my surroundings and life in general and the environment—how everything is connected in the world—I feel like that shows through some of my work,” Hawkins says.

Consider his 18-x-7-foot installation wall of shimmering diamonds pieced together from small triangles he cut from cardboard and painted. This is a reflection of personal space and environment. And his paintings—incorporating intersecting lines, contours, and layered two- and three-dimensional shapes—are influenced by the world he sees. “I feel like it all has a circulation. It all functions together. It all has a relationship that means something a little deeper than what it looks. Looking between the lines and trying to see what’s really going on, past all the complicated structures and lines of symmetry: It might be geometric and might be a style, but there’s a little bit more of a life form to it,” Hawkins says.

Hawkins, an Omaha native, earned an associate’s degree in graphic arts from Metropolitan Community College and a bachelor’s degree in arts management from Bellevue University. He went on to complete an internship under artist and co-founder of Hot Shops Art Center, Leslie Bruning. His method, however, is self-discovered and self-taught.

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His unique style of art was cultivated from his exploration of the contemporary art world and his personal need to satiate his own curiosity. “When it comes to where ideas start for me, a geometric approach is very natural. I just see all of that. It comes out of me as something I’m interested in seeing more of on a scale that I have not seen elsewhere.”

Over the past three years, Hawkins has honed in on his particular brand of art, and since then, he says, his life has changed greatly. “I’ve found my own style, which I think makes sense to me and is very pure.”

Those that know Hawkins closely agree that his energy exudes from his work, including his mentor of three years, Bruning. “I’d say Phil takes a humble approach to his art, and it works well with his personality,” Bruning says. “When a person works within their personality, they’re so much more progressive in what they do. If you are true to your nature, you can be an artist forever.”

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Hawkins says he doesn’t see himself doing anything else and plans on being in Omaha for a long time. “I’m learning how art can apply to the people in the community, and I couldn’t be happier with how that’s turned out.” He mentions his excitement over an upcoming project with the Creighton Lied Center with their center for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

“I want my art to have a message people can take away or inspire them, or it can even be a conversation and alter or change their mood. A successful piece of art can have a conversation when the artist isn’t there. I think when someone talks about your work, that’s success in itself.”

Not Home Alone

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As the largest generation in American history, often referred to as the post-war “Baby Boomers,” begins to reach and pass their 60th birthdays, the sheer size of the population is predicted to overwhelm the current facilities intended to meet the needs for assistive care and skilled care. That fact, along with many seniors’ desire to remain in their familiar, comfortable family home, have prompted many Americans to turn to companies and resources that can help them stay in their homes safely, happily, and productively and at a reduced expense.

The “Aging in Place’ trend has gained steam in recent years, and is expected to continue to grow in popularity in the next decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined “Aging in Place” as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

Finding quality providers of at-home products and services is one of the most important aspects in preparing a successful plan for aging in place. Omaha has a wide selection of service providers, caregivers, and equipment providers who can work with the individual or the family to make aging at home a viable option.

Matt Nyberg, owner of Home Care Assistance of Omaha, says that while the majority of “Baby Boomers” haven’t yet reached the point of requiring home-care products and services, his company is preparing for the deluge of demand ahead. His firm provides seniors with non-medical, hands-on assistance with activities of daily living, bathing, and transferring, with what he says is an innovation in the business. Each client has an RN (registered nurse) who assesses needs, manages services, and attends doctors’ appointments, if requested. The RN then communicates with the family (with the client’s permission) in order to keep the family up-to-date on the client’s condition.

Laurie Dondelinger, marketing director at Kohll’s Home Care in Omaha, recently took this writer on a tour of their 10,000-square-foot showroom, which contains hundreds, perhaps thousands, of assistive devices from canes to stairway lifts to walk-in tubs to ceiling lift tracks which literally lift a disabled person out of bed and motor them anywhere in the home where the ceiling track has been installed. Kohll’s has in-house contractors who can install assistive devices as well as remodel a home to accommodate such devices.

Dondelinger tells of a satisfied client who installed a stairway lift in his three-story house. He is so thrilled with the ease in moving from floor to floor that he feels as if he now lives in a ranch-style home, and he’s no longer faced with having to sell his beautiful home on the river where he has lived for many years.

Bob Sackett, owner of Complete Access in La Vista, got into the home-accessibility business because of a personal crisis facing a family member 25 years ago. He is now a licensed elevator sales and installation provider specializing in modular ramps, stairway lifts and elevators, for the home serving customers in western Iowa and central and eastern Nebraska. His company sells both new and previously owned products, allowing him to meet the needs of even tight budgets. Like so many in the stay-at-home business, Sackett has a true fervor about his business, which he says is not only cost-effective in keeping people in their own homes, but also improves clients’ quality of life.

However, Sackett says that, in his initial assessment, he looks and listens to learn whether or not the person can survive happily at home. If his accessibility services could result in a person living 24 hours alone with no human interaction, then he isn’t interested in the business opportunity because then he would not be providing a high quality-of-life service.

Spirit Homecare is a newcomer to the Omaha home-assistance market, providing skilled hands-on care such as administering medications and treatments per doctor’s orders, as well as non-medical services via homemakers and companions, including meal preparation, transportation services, and light housekeeping. They also provide supervised hands-on assistance with personal care needs, help with prescribed exercises and medical equipment, and much more. Up to 24-hour care and live-in companion services are available as well.

Spirit Homecare is part of St. Jude Healthcare, a company that provides services in Wisconsin, Nebraska, California, Arizona and Kansas. Although non-medical assistance is not reimbursable by Medicare, sometimes Medicaid and private long-term care insurance does provide reimbursement. Tom Moreland, CEO of St. Jude Healthcare, says that his company is the only one in the Midwest that provides services in a manner consistent with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services.

The above providers are but a tip of the iceberg of services, providers, and products available to assist with aging in place. It cannot be emphasized too much that if one wants a future at home, one should begin the planning as soon as possible.