Tag Archives: Metro Community College

Healing Arts

November 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

Twice a month, Troy Muller visits the Douglas County Correctional Center to run an art class for incarcerated veterans.

Tattoos are the theme of Muller’s first class in September. He lays out elaborate drawings of dragons, skulls, crosses, and tribal designs for the 20 or so participants. The assignment is for inmates to trace a design then add their own embellishments.

U.S. Army veteran and inmate Isaac Whitney plans on tracing a cross, drawing some dog tags over it, and adding “R.I.P. Sgt. Beste” engraved on a tag.

Bradley Beste was killed by an improvised explosive device in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006. Whitney says Beste and other sergeants helped show him the ropes when he first deployed to Iraq.

“I’d only been a soldier for five months, and now I’m in the worst place in Iraq,” Whitney recalls. “Those guys really understood.”

In Ramadi, Whitney says he was caught in a few IED explosions. A few people in his platoon were killed. When Whitney returned home in 2007 after his second tour, he knew something was wrong. He was angry. He didn’t want to go to sleep. And he constantly wanted to go back to Iraq.

“It just starts to wear on the mind. I started drinking pretty heavily. Then, when I got out of the Army, that’s when I turned to drugs, and I started to get into trouble,” Whitney says.

With his short hair and his fast-but-measured method of speaking (his father, Rory, is a pastor), you could mistake Whitney for a motivational speaker or a marketing associate. But he’s not. He’s in jail, awaiting trial. If convicted, he could face more than 20 years for repeated drug and burglary charges.

Military veterans and inmates at the Douglas County Correctional Center. New Century Art Guild classes are free to veterans in jail and in the community at large.

These art classes, taught through New Century Art Guild, help him cope with his post-traumatic stress disorder. Whitney says the nonprofit organization has opened his eyes to the arts and helped him sleep. It has also reacquainted him with other veterans.

“To do this with other veterans, first and foremost, it builds that bond again,” Whitney says.

Jim O’Keefe, president of New Century Art Guild, explains that many incarcerated veterans have stories similar to Whitney’s.

“They’re brittle. They shatter easily. They jump at noises. They’re like a stem on a wine glass. You squeeze it a little too hard, and all of a sudden, it breaks in your hand,” O’Keefe says.

The Douglas County Correctional Center classes are just part of the guild’s many community initiatives. Some of the program’s most acclaimed artists have experienced similar difficulty acclimating back to civilian life.

After coming back from a deployment in Iraq that included working at the detention facility Camp Bucca, artist and photographer Roberta “Bert” Leaverton struggled with the idea of going to the Veterans Affairs hospital for help with her PTSD.

“I still have two arms and two legs, but I’m jacked up here,” Leaverton says as she points to her temple.

It took choking a coworker in 2004 to change that.

She was in tight quarters (by a copy machine). A coworker walked past her unexpectedly. Papers went flying.

“I wasn’t even in the moment. I just remember putting my hands around his neck, and trying to take him down. And then I stood there, and I cried,” Leaverton says. “And he’s like ‘God, I know I’m ugly, but I didn’t think I was that ugly.’”

No charges were filed against Leaverton for the incident. Since then, Leaverton has been treated for PTSD. She’s also developed a panache for detailing miniature military figures and photographing them. Her work has been showcased in San Francisco as well as the Bemis Center in Omaha. In August, her work was displayed at the Mule Barn at Metropolitan Community College as part of an exhibit that featured artists from the New Century Art Guild.

The nonprofit’s mission is to train veterans in art as well as business. A vital aspect of the guild’s services is to help veterans cope with PTSD through art. This is done through classes, peer-to-peer training, and by visiting inmates who have served in the military.

A wall inside the Douglas County Correctional Center.

A naval commander who served in Vietnam, O’Keefe was a nuclear safety and security officer before retiring in 1994 to start up a few software companies. With his silverish hair, trim mustache, and an affinity for sailor talk, O’Keefe is a near ideal vision of how you’d picture a Navy admiral. In 2013, he decided to sit in on a class taught by Troy Muller, the guild’s art director.

“It was a particularly lame one,” O’Keefe says referring to the class, which included not only veterans but children and bored teenagers.

The group was a powder keg of tension. Muller set out about 60 drums. The first ones to jump in on the action were the little kids. Then the teenagers started to participate. Eventually, some of the veterans started to get in on the drumming.

“The shit level in that room just dropped right down to the floor,” O’Keefe says. “I looked around and said, ‘There is something to this.’”

The art classes offered by New Century Art Guild are free to veterans. The guild also hosts exhibitions and workshops. As a Better Business Bureau-accredited charity, the guild offers free business advice to veterans who are hoping to turn their art into a career.

Participants in the guild are divided into three levels. The first level are the hundreds of veterans who go to the art classes. The second level is the instructors who can teach or run workshops. Finally, the third level is a small group of professional-level artists.

Whether using art or other means, the need to address veterans’ mental health concerns has become a pressing social concern. A report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that in 2014, an average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day. About 65 percent of those committing suicide were above the age of 50.

“From the government’s point of view, if they treat you medically and send you off with all the right pills, they’ve done their job as far as they’re concerned. But what’s not taken care of is how they [veterans] fill their time and their sense of purpose,” O’Keefe says.

O’Keefe says he’s seen veterans rearrange their schedules to come to classes.

“We kind of think there’s enough juice in your head to do one of two things. You can do art, or you can kill yourself. But there’s not enough to do both,” O’Keefe says.

Back at their exhibition at Metro Community College, O’Keefe takes a moment to sit down on the floor, resting briefly. He then nonchalantly pulls out both of his hearing aids—a cost of being on a naval carrier for years. In late 2016, O’Keefe was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite the diagnosis, he still presides as president of the guild, and accepts no money for the position.

“I’m done with chemo. My graduation picture didn’t turn out so good,” O’Keefe says, before getting up to continue looking at the paintings produced by veterans his guild has helped.

Visit newcenturyartguild.org for more information about the New Century Art Guild.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Magazine.

An incarcerated veteran designs a fan.

The Old Market Business Association

March 25, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Potential business owners often dream of being independent and making their own decisions. Businesses in Omaha’s Old Market district have that freedom.

“We’re not in a mall where one management company organizes us,” says Troy Davis, the group’s president. Davis has owned Curb Appeal Salon & Spa at 10th and Jackson streets for 17 years.

At the same time, the business owners are not isolated. The common thread between these independent companies is the Old Market Business Association (OMBA).

The OMBA has neither office nor staff. But the nonprofit does have 50 members who meet monthly and share information about what’s going on in the historical business district. There are two member categories. An active member must have a business located at either side of 10th to 14th streets and Leavenworth to Farnam streets. Businesses outside the area can join as associate members.

Troy Davis

Troy Davis

They’ve got each other’s backs. In January, when a fire destroyed M’s Pub and devastated nearby businesses, the OMBA immediately jumped into action. Member David Kerr of The Tavern started a crowd funding page for the displaced employees within 12 hours of the disaster. Members called an emergency meeting and discussed how they would help.

“We’ve always been a tight-knit group, but it really shows in times of tragedy,” says Davis. “The whole Old Market community came together for the businesses, their employees, residents, and everybody who was touched by the tragedy.”

Shoplifters in the Old Market also face a band of brothers and sisters. “Within minutes, the police department notifies the Old Market Business Association, and we immediately notify members,” says Davis.

Sharing information at the group’s monthly meetings are representatives from the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau, MECA, the Downtown Improvement District, and the City of Omaha. Representatives from major events, such as concerts or conferences, also attend.

“We learn what groups are coming to Omaha, where they are staying, the demographics and how many [people], so we can be better equipped to take care of those people,” says Davis.

Another major member benefit is the website—oldmarket.com—which collected more than 170,000 visits last year. The website is a perk for members who can advertise their business and promote specials.

The group’s largest and best-known event is the annual “Old Market Trick or Treat.” Held the Sunday before Halloween, the event is a partnership with Metro Area Transit, Metro Community College, the Literacy Council, and a private donor. It provides children a safe place to trick or treat.  A unique event-within-the-event is “Books Are A Treat.” In October 2015, 12,000 new books—all from a private donor—were handed out to families.

Independent but united through the Old Market Business Association, the active businesses are an eclectic group ranging from galleries to restaurants. Contributing to this independence is the decision by property owners not to rent to franchises in the Old Market district, except those that are locally owned or businesses that started in Omaha.

“Unique, small, independently owned businesses are what makes the Old Market have the charm it has,” says Davis.

“That’s why the Old Market is cool. And the place to be.”

Visit oldmarket.com for more information.

Morgann Freeman

March 11, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Morgann Freeman vividly remembers the day she moved from being “the angry black girl” who got into many fights to the budding activist who believes she can battle societal ills better with her mind than her fists.

It’s etched in her brain. Freeman was a high school freshman in Bellevue when a fellow student called her “the ‘N’ word.” “I suffered a lot, but no one had ever dehumanized me that way,” she says.

Equipped with martial arts to defend herself from being bullied, an altercation inevitably ensued. But instead of Freeman’s annual expulsion, an African-American dean brought down demerits and an empowering message: “He told me, ‘I understand why you reacted the way you did,’ ” Freeman recalls. “‘But you have to learn to walk away. You have a bigger purpose in life.’ Those words resounded.”

Freeman hoped for a fresh start at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She thought her ticket out of 18 years of hardship was to emulate the ideal of the TV show Scandal: black, powerful, successful, and rich. What she experienced instead was “countless sexual assaults…I was raped multiple times, there were physical assaults…I was stalked. All of that kept erasing any progress I made, because I didn’t really want to work to fix myself,” she says. Freeman flunked out of UNL in 2011, opening the floodgates to all that was locked in her soul.

“I just sat down and started writing,” Freeman says. “For the next week, I wrote whatever I felt, everything I had been through in my life. I realized for the first time, with all I’ve been through, I have a story. And my story might help other people.” Freeman always liked poetry, so she moved back to Omaha and put ink to her thoughts—a lot—about romance, sex, relationships, racism, sexism, feminism, and elitism. The topics grew in breadth and depth as Freeman explored how her arduous past was shaping ideas about the world around her. She studied at Metro Community College and UNO, where subjects such as institutional cruelty, social constructionism, and social oppression fueled her passion for how, “America is put together to keep people in their place.”

“If you’re a woman, you have your place,” Freeman says. “If you’re black, you have your place. If you don’t have as much money as the CEO, you have your place. We have a long way to go to change that.”

Freeman hopes her writings are controversial and mind-expanding enough to spark a conversation. She has been published in 13th Floor Magazine and blogs at socialotherness.wordpress.com and lifelovefreedom.wordpress.com. She hopes her consulting business can help companies large and small deal with issues of diversity and inclusion. All of it adds up to what Freeman envisions as a day when children in north Omaha and Bellevue, college students and professionals alike, won’t suffer the same injustices she has endured.

“I want to use my writing, my story, my business, my academic life—all of it together—to make a difference in the world,” Freeman says. “I believe real change is possible.”  Encounter

Visit socialotherness.wordpress.com and lifelovefreedom.wordpress.com for more information.


The Reality of the American Dream

March 25, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The apartment’s living room is warm. Blankets are on the couches, an old TV is playing cartoons, and 5-year-old Hana is mimicking the enthusiastic English of the monkey onscreen. Her grandmother, Zinab Abdelmote, watches from the couch, quiet and smiling.

Amna Hussein tells her daughter to lower the sound. “Zuza!” she calls her by nickname. Amna sets down a silver tray with one glass of juice. “From Egypt,” she says, gesturing to the delicate tray. Dinner, she says, is cooking.

She’s experiencing her first full winter in Omaha. She arrived in February 2013, after a circuitous route from her home country of Sudan that spans several years. Six of those were spent in a refugee camp in Egypt. Though Amna lives in a small apartment with Hana, her mother, Zinab, and her younger sister Elham, three of her siblings are still in Egypt. Two sisters, Najwa and Suzan, live close by in Omaha. Two other siblings are in Libya, two are missing in Darfur, and the eldest is living in the U.K.


There were 16 of them once upon a time. Amna laughs at the shock the number incites. “How did she do it?” she asks, gesturing at Zinab.

Amna is obviously proud of her mother. She, Najwa, and Elham take turns watching out for Zinab throughout the day. Her heart is bad, she has kidney problems, and high blood pressure. Her current dream, Amna translates, is to learn English. “Her willingness to study has stayed with her to this moment.”

Zinab’s daughters living in Omaha are already deep into studies at Metro Community College: a few hours a day of ESL, per the requirement to receive temporary aid for needy families (TANF). Their knowledge quickly outgrew the English classes provided by Southern Sudan Community Association, where they still receive some case management.

“We’re comparable to Lutheran Family Services,” says Marni Newell, SSCA program coordinator. “Just a lot smaller.” Newell explains that as a federal resettlement facility, they have 90 days to offer in-depth information on a wide variety of complex topics: Medicaid, food stamps, banking, job searching, English classes, cultural orientation, and driver’s ed. Other assistance includes helping to apply for relatives’ resettlement, applying  >for citizenship, and demonstrating how to ride the bus.

Amna reflects on how much she’s learned just in the year she’s been in Omaha. She and Elham entered the U.S. through Miami. The use of Spanish everywhere in the airport threw her off. “I asked a caseworker, are we really in America?” Amna recalls. She can laugh about it now. After a stop in Washington, D.C., the sisters arrived in Omaha. “I was thinking…I have been to small villages before but…” She chuckles again.

But she says, “Omaha’s like a land of knowledge. A land of peace. It’s a friend to all refugees to find a right beginning for their life. To resettle correctly, this is the right beginning. Leave the dreams for a while. Then later on, you can go.”

Elham sets down a plate of beans with tomato paste and spices, some thin bread, and two slices of American cheese. Amna excuses herself to get Hana her dinner.

Elham’s English is only slightly less fluent than Amna’s, but the confidence is there.

“Refugees see America as a dream,” Elham says. “But when they start their life, they face real problems. Many become, like, lost. Because their families back in the refugee camp think they will send money. And people in refugee camps think life in America is very easy. You can find money and jobs anywhere. But since February [2013], I haven’t got a job. I’ve interviewed many, many places.”


It’s a difficult life—going to school, finding work. “Najwa,” Elham says, referring to her elder sister who lives with three grade-school children, “is father, mother…everything. Here, you have friends to help you with these things.” But if you’re new to the country, she says, who do you have? She shrugs. “You can’t get a car without a job. And you can’t have a job without a car.”

Amna returns, saying it’s time to have tea. Her conversation is gentler than Elham’s as she stands over the stove, but she mirrors her younger sister’s opinions.

For example, she’s learning how to drive, but money has a lot of other places to go first. “At the beginning when we came,” Amna explains, “the organization does it for us. But three months is not enough. After three months, they require us to find a job. Some people can’t start school for two years because they’re running here and there to support the family. Even now, for me to go to a job and to school, it’s a problem.”

Still, she says she hopes to start work at Walmart soon as a cashier. The goal is to study at Metro and work at the same time. Of course, daycare is a problem. Due to Hana’s September birthday, she missed the cut-off date for kindergarten. Transportation, as always, is a headache.

But studying is important. “Here, there is no limit to education,” Amna says. “No matter your age, we can study what we like. We’re greedy to learn as much as we can.” She and her sisters hold college degrees in a variety of fields, but “the technology that America has reached, we feel that we are behind. In technology, development, education…”

Amna, for example, has a bachelor’s in English and sociology from India, as well as a diploma in health and social care from the U.K. She’s thinking of eventually taking up nursing studies.

“We will study according to what the market needs,” Elham chimes in. “If I studied geography, maybe I’ll do nothing. You must start with what the market needs. That is first.”Amna sets down a glass of hot tea with a single clove for fragrance. “You can take it with you,” she says, nudging the mug. “You will come back. It’s fine.”

Another winter day, another trip to the small apartment. A variety of pastas and glasses of nonalcoholic liqueur cover the dining room table. The atmosphere is intimate. The headscarves have come off, and the talk becomes frank.

“I lost my job,” Amna confides. Her voice is still gentle but frustrated. The buses, she explains, can’t reliably get her to Walmart on time and home again.

“I must work,” she says. “Someplace where I can walk to.” She mentions a few places she’s thought of and is unfazed when told it would take an hour to get there. “It’s good exercise for me.”

But here, in the small, warm apartment, frustrations are put aside for a moment. Elham brings tea to the living room, and Amna produces a small bottle of homemade perfume. “For after dinner,” she explains. “To cover the scent.”

Arabic and English swirl around the room as six women chatter about anything and everything and nothing in Omaha, Nebraska.

Editor’s note: As of late January, both Amna and Elham have found employment.

The Break-Point Generation

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s not an uncommon tradition. The Roemmich family gathers every year for a reunion. It’s also not uncommon at such reunions to have boxes of black-and-white photos of family members no one can identify any more.

So Ron Roemmich decided to create a video cataloging all the family he and his siblings still could name—a historical record for the younger generations.

Just one problem. Ron didn’t know how to create this video.

Ron and his wife, Berdeen, signed up for a movie-making class at Metro Community College. Their class was taught by Laurie Brodeur, a semi-retired Millard teacher who now leads six technology courses in Metro’s continuing education curriculum.

Although Brodeur was “very gracious with senior citizens,” Ron admits to feeling behind the other eight or nine students—and like he was taking up a lot of Brodeur’s attention during the class period.

“I suppose the real confession is: We had her come back and help us after the class was over,” he says.

“We’re kind of the break-point generation. People 10 years younger than us are probably okay. But anybody over 60, I bet 50 percent know what they’re doing [with computers].” – Ron Roemmich

Having a project with a firm deadline made learning the program an imperative goal. “It was fun, but it would be desperately frustrating if you didn’t have a goal,” Ron says. And though they had 500 photos, “It was not gonna whip us.”

The Roemmiches were pleased with their final product. In fact, they made two more videos for a reunion of Ron’s doctoral classmates, making good use of their new movie-making skills.

Even so, Ron says, “We’ve explored I’d say 1 percent of what a computer can do for us.”

The Roemmiches do have a Facebook account but only check it when their kids tell them to. After checking their 100-200 e-mails per day, Berdeen says, “you don’t want to go on Facebook. You’re just tired.”

“We’re kind of the break-point generation,” Ron says. “People 10 years younger than us are probably okay. But anybody over 60, I bet 50 percent know what they’re doing—or would that be 20 percent? Not a lot.”

It doesn’t take much to fall behind in technology. “When it could have burst open for me,” Ron says, “would have been in the ’80s maybe. But my boss was afraid of computers, so he told the rest of us we should leave them alone. So we really got behind. And now we don’t even know the language.”

Along with computers are phones, televisions, and other electronic systems. Like the DVR the Roemmiches got for Christmas and don’t really understand how to use.

Asking people for help is the best way Berdeen knows to learn something new. That and practicing. “You just have to keep using it and trying different things,” she says.

Brodeur is one of those people the Roemmiches will ask for help. And she would agree with Berdeen: Practice and patience are key.

“Students can see their progression from one class to the next and enjoy being able to go home and try their skills and return to the next class in the series with questions.” – Emily Getzschman, marketing and media relations manager with Omaha Public Library

Among her Metro classes is a series of technology update courses for seniors (although non-seniors are of course also welcome). The first class is broad, covering things like the difference between a browser and a search engine; the many uses of Google; and introductions to some sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Hulu. It helps students become comfortable using the computer.

Exploring those sites is important, Brodeur says, because “you can use Google and YouTube to learn how to do almost anything on your computer.”

The second and third levels help set students up with Facebook accounts and learn more and more about using the program.

Brodeur loves to see her students have an “aha” moment and tries to always stress that no question is a stupid one. This is important, because adults rarely like to admit when they don’t know something. Overall, she says, it is a very positive experience because her students come eager to learn with optimistic attitudes.

Omaha Public Library also offers computer classes for beginners and older adults. OPL partners with AARP for a series that gives an introduction to computers, including training on Microsoft Word, e-mail, and the internet. Seniors who are not new to computers can take classes for specialized software to manipulate photos, create greeting cards, and learn how to use social media tools, like Facebook and Pinterest. Classes can even aid seniors who are unexpectedly re-entering the job market.

Emily Getzschman, marketing and media relations manager for OPL, says that the introductory classes offered in a series are very well-attended. “Students can see their progression from one class to the next and enjoy being able to go home and try their skills and return to the next class in the series with questions and to build on their new computer experiences,” Getzschman says.

Classes are free, with no limit on the number of times you can take them. And they’re offered every month.

Like at Metro, the library class instructors strive to make students feel supported, never stupid. Getzschman has heard students say the instructors “were patient and let the student work at a comfortable pace.”


A resource guide for seniors can be found at http://guides.omahalibrary.org/Seniors.

Q&A: Jason Decker

Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Elite Landscaping

As a kid, Omahan Jason Decker was known as the neighborhood yard boy. Today, as owner of Elite Landscaping, he still spends most of his days working outdoors, creating and installing beautiful landscapes and outdoor entertaining spaces for homeowners. “I can’t picture myself doing anything other than this.”

Q: When did you first discover your love for working in the outdoors? How did you get your start in landscaping?

A: Growing up in Armbrust Acres, I mowed 15 yards a week all through grade school and made good money for a young kid. At 15, I started working for a local lawn and landscape contractor. While I worked for my old boss, I read many books on landscaping and learned trial by fire. My parents were always my guinea pigs. They were my first pond, patio, landscape design, fire pit, lighting job, etc. School was never my thing. I just loved being outside, the hard work, seeing the fruits of my labor, and interacting with people.7_BackyardFirepit_Web

Q: What education and training do you have in landscape design? Who were your mentors?

A: I graduated from Millard North High School in 2001 and then attended Metro Community College for one-and-a-half years, taking classes in advanced landscape design and plant knowledge. For the most part, I am self-taught. My mentors were definitely my father, Bob, and mother, Rose, who instilled in me great ethics and morals and taught me at a young age that hard work pays off. My mom continues to support me in my business as the company’s office manager.


Q: What kind of projects does Elite Landscaping take on? Who are your customers?

A: Our main area of work is in outdoor patio and pool projects. We are the main installer for Lumbermen’s high-end clients, and Bell Pools and New Wave Pools are great companies we work well with, referring business to each other. I do all my own landscape project work—meeting with each client, designing and bidding each job, then watching over the job site through completion. We only do around 15-20 projects a summer, and we continually keep in touch with clients, keeping their properties in peak shape with maintenance annuals, potting, and service work, etc. My customers are generally very hard-working professionals—small business owners, doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, executives for local businesses. They love their homes and yards and want them to be one-of-a-kind retreats where they can spend time relaxing and getting away from the rigors of work and enjoying family time. Ninety percent of my work is referral-based, while a few jobs are generated by my website and my exhibit at the Omaha Home Show.IMG_8731_DxO_Web

Q: What part of landscaping do you enjoy the most? What inspires your designs?

A: The most creative and enjoyable part is the design process—I’ve come up with some very unique and challenging designs, and I have a great team of guys who are very skilled and able to execute our designs well. Traveling is what inspires me! I travel about every six weeks, and at least once a year out of the country—Rio de Janeiro, Thailand, Mexico, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Miami, Las Vegas…It gives me something to look forward to, and it refreshes the mind and body.


Q: How do you enjoy your spare time?

Spending it with my girlfriend, Christie. She is the first woman who’s ever been able to get me away from work in the summer, our busiest time of year. We enjoy going to movies, sitting on the outdoor patio with friends for drinks, and dining out at Pitch Pizzeria, J’s on Jackson, M’s Pub, Roja, among others. We also like going downtown, and the Benson area is always fun. I also like to golf or just hang out with my bulldog, Diesel, and watch sporting events.

For a photo gallery of past projects or more info on Elite Landscaping, visit elitelandscapingomaha.com.

Tana Quincy

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The phrase “I really don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t paint,” is a bit modest coming from Tana Quincy. Faced with the prospect of truly not being able to paint thanks to chronic muscle pain, this Omaha artist found out what she could do. As a result, she’s putting the finishing touches on her next body of work, Tents, which will show at Maud Boutique on 33rd and California through December.

It will be the first show since 2010 for the adjunct art instructor, who teaches figurative painting and drawing at Metro Community College, UNO, the Joslyn Art Museum, and Kent Bellows Studio. While her previous show, SODZO, at the Bemis Underground focused clearly on the human body with her small paintings of plaster anatomy casts, Quincy makes a subtler but intensely personal nod to the frailty of humanity with Tents.

The tiny cardboard tents, the oil paintings, and photographs of the miniatures—all encourage viewers to consider their own temporal, almost nomadic, existence. “We’re here in this temporal place, in these temporary structures. What’s your attitude; what’s your focus?” Quincy asks.

“After a few years of not being able to paint, I just really, really wanted to paint. So I learned to [hold] my paintbrush in my mouth.”

Her own focus is that she must make art. Somehow. Always.

While pursuing her MFA at the New York Academy of Art in 2008, she hit a roadblock. “I was sick,” Quincy recalls. “I didn’t know what was wrong. I’d get really tired.” She continued to work as a professional muralist after graduation but eventually injured both of her arms. “Holding a brush was painful.” She supported herself with babysitting and nurtured a need to do something with art. “I couldn’t paint. And that’s a pretty big obstacle for a painter,” she says. “I ended up making these little sculptures because I could tear paper and tape.”

She would spend perhaps 20 minutes a day creating tents from teaboxes she saved and has since created photographs and paintings of the tiny domiciles.

Wait. Paintings? So the pain is gone?

20121016_bs_0237 copy

Quincy’s next body of work, Tents, will show at Maud Boutique in December.

“I didn’t tell you a detail of my painting process,” Quincy admits. “After a few years of not being able to paint, I just really, really wanted to paint. So I learned to [hold] my paintbrush in my mouth. All these are paintings with my mouth.”

During the first stages of making Tents, Quincy would listen to NPR. “There were all these stories of these people who had overcome insurmountable obstacles,” she remembers. “[I heard] story after story of people overcoming these physical or mental handicaps. And then just being a painter, I’m thinking how can I paint? If I can’t use my arms, what can I do?”

“I feel like I’m ready to share it, and I feel a responsibility to share it.”

Trial and error have brought the artist to her current solution: Nailing a hole in a clean cork, Quincy puts her brush into the cork and clenches it between her teeth. “My teeth were getting sore because of biting on the wood,” she says. “The cork absorbs the movement of the brush, too. It’s my home remedy. It’s very genius,” she adds with a laugh.

Typically, Quincy keeps her unusual painting method quiet. “I don’t want it to be about that. I don’t want it to be a circus.” But after coaxing from people who know her and her work, she’s decided to talk about it in her artist statement and show the entire collection of Tents from start to finish. “The process is very important, too. I feel like I’m ready to share it, and I feel a responsibility to share it.”

Lynn Mills, the owner of Maud Boutique where Tents is showing, said she’s been very excited to host Quincy’s work. “I found it amazing how she worked through her emotional process through her art. It resonated with me as a woman,” Mills says. The boutique opened last August with a mission to educate people about the talent of the community with a shop in the front for local clothing designers and a gallery in the back for local artists.