Tag Archives: Omaha art community

Smashing Stereotypes

May 3, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

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.

Ooh Là Là

October 12, 2016 by

Vilaine Frange has planted her roots more than 88,000 Cornhusker football fields from home. But to this native of Besançon, France, the Cornhuskers—and football, for that matter—probably don’t mean a helluva lot. Pardon the Nebraska colloquialism.

Nearly 5,000 miles away, Frange has begun to make a name for herself in the Omaha art community as a celebrated illustrator. In 2014, she showcased an exhibit at the Side Door Lounge and has now created work for restaurants like V.Mertz while also designing event invitations. She may have traded wine fields for cornfields, but a fish out of the water she is not.

“You think of France as this beacon of art, but I’ve found the Omaha art community is more receptive and developed than my home city,” Frange says. “My exhibit at the Side Door was a fairytale that just seemed to kind of happen.”


Every fairytale has a beginning, and for Frange, her once-upon-a-time moment came by chance. Her friends asked her to create a poster for a music festival. She obliged, in part, because she was bored and looking for a new direction in life. Previous attempts to pursue degrees in literature, communications, and linguistics had all come up short. Soon after her first foray into art, though, she began filling her time more regularly with drawing and sketching.

“I started later in life and admittedly have no formal training,” Frange says. “This also means I have no blinders.”

Before moving to Omaha to live with her Nebraska-native boyfriend in November 2015, she developed her skills as an artist working at Superseñor, a screen-printing collective workshop. For the next seven years, when not creating art for local magazines and music venues, Frange filled her time (and wallet) making extra cash selling wine for cheap. 

This experience schlepping wine to college tourists inspired her to create a large mural of vino and liquor on the side of a decaying building, knowing it would be destroyed. While her art can be described as simple, yet pretty and pouring with color, she chooses to call it ephemeral—take and discard.

For V.Mertz’s summer Tiki & Tacos event, she designed a promotional image, one that’s sure to have disappeared from the viewer’s mind, perhaps even before the event was over. She also just finished a billboard for a French music venue, more art dressed-up as marketing that’s here then gone. For her 2014 exhibition at the Side Door, she created pieces that captured fleeting moments in time as a reminder that even art is not immortal.

“You think of France as this beacon of art, but I’ve found the Omaha art community is more receptive and developed than my home city”

-Vilaine Frange

“I like to make things that aren’t going to last,” Frange says.

Distance, borders, and even the Atlantic Ocean all mean little to Frange. The exhibition, titled “This Is Not A Myth,” was done while she stayed in Omaha for two weeks. Today, most of the works she completes still go back to clients in France. 

“There’s freedom in art,” Frange says. “I can do it when I want, how I want, where I want.”

Visit vilainefrange.com for more information.