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.