Tag Archives: UNO

The Weekend of Hearts

February 14, 2019 by

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Thursday, Feb. 14: Sexploration is a week of fun, educational events related to sexual health. While the week is almost over, it’s not too late to participate. Today, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can visit with representatives from Get Checked OmahaOmaha Girls Rock, and NAMI Omaha. STI testing is available from 2-4 p.m. Tonight you can attend Sexploration Fest at OutrSpaces, where you can dance to music, listen to poetry, and view the art exhibit. Tomorrow, catch a lecture from sociology instructor Dr. Jenny Heineman. Find all the info here, and please RSVP here.

Thursday, Feb. 14: The Valentine’s is for Lovers Dance Party is happening tonight at Hotel Deco. But the name is a bit misleading. You don’t have to be lovers to dance the night away—especially when there’s no cover! With an interactive photo booth, prizes, and music from Omaha-famous DJ Shif-D, this party is the perfect way to celebrate the day of hearts and shake off some winter ick. Bring your lover, bring your friend, or bring yourself—just be ready to dance your heart out. Get the details here.

Friday, Feb. 15: Finish the week at Hi-Fi House with a First Listen of DEMOS: If It Wasn’t For You, the latest album from Omaha’s own Skylar “Scky Rei” Reed. Reed is also the frontman of BXTH (read more about them here). This is his first solo album in seven years. It explores Rei’s upbringing and the pride he has for his family, while paying homage to his hometown, specifically North Omaha. Show up at 7 p.m. for drinks and a social hour before listening begins at 8 p.m. for this free, all-ages event. Learn more here.

Saturday, Feb. 16th: Da Truth have become a fixture in the Kansas City live music scene, and they are bringing their versatile style to Omaha for Cocktails and Kisses at Love’s Jazz & Arts Center. DJ Chain will be the special guest, playing music from American jazz musician and composer Sam Rivers. Get a VIP ticket and you can meet the artists. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. Keep the week of love going at Love’s. Buy tickets here and find other events at the center here.

Sunday, Feb. 17th: Show some love for the Paralyzed Veterans of America Great Plains Chapter at their Wine & Roses fundraiser, happening at WineStyles this Sunday. Proceeds help fund graduating high school seniors who have a permanent physical disability or have a parent with a permanent physical disability through the Ladies Auxiliary’s McAleer/Pierce Memorial Scholarship. For only $20 you can try 5 wines and nosh on an assortment of cheese and crackers and specialty desserts. Ladies get roses, and everyone can participate in a raffle. View the event here.

Passion Player

February 13, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In December 2017, Catie Zaleski resolved to stop delaying her dreams and started acting. A little more than a year and four plays later, it’s clear she made the right choice.

“When I’m acting I feel like my best self,” Zaleski says. “When you’re passionate about something, you could work on it all day and night, money or no money, and feel like you did something worthwhile. I love all the processes of acting, but some of my favorite moments the audience doesn’t get to see. Behind the scenes, actors work so hard to create and honor characters.”

Zaleski, 24, didn’t do theater in high school or college, but she competed in interpretive speech at both educational levels, which she credits as pivotal to her development as an actor.

“I love acting and I’d always wanted to act,” says Zaleski, who has a degree in international studies with a minor in women’s and gender studies from UNO. “I think the speech world is where my acting skill base comes from.”

Zaleski had done a short film, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and some local web series projects prior to securing her first theatrical role in Kim Louise’s Umurage, part of The Union for Contemporary Art’s February 2018 Centering the Margins series.

“I feel very lucky that was my first experience with theater,” she says. “Being at The Union and working with [director] Denise [Chapman]…she considers the whole person within the process with the culture she creates, like keeping you safe as an actor when doing emotionally taxing work. Theater isn’t therapy; it can be cathartic but it’s not therapy. The whole experience was very affirming of who I am as a person and an actor, but also still challenged and pushed me. I got to be with all black actors, which is rare for black actors. I feel like I am the person I am today because of that experience.”

Next up was The Mountaintop at Omaha Community Playhouse, where Zaleski worked with Chapman at the helm again.

“That was an amazing experience. I got to push myself and expand my range as an actor. We were very vulnerable in that process. It’s politically charged and says things a lot of people might not want to hear,” she says. “I also got to see the leadership of the Playhouse—people like [artistic director] Kimberly [Faith Hickman] who are working to make it a more inclusive space…it was great to see change being made there.”

Next, Zaleski did some stage readings at the 2018 Great Plains Theater Conference, which further exposed her to Omaha’s thriving theater community, followed by a starring role as Agnes in the Playhouse’s She Kills Monsters.

“The [roles] I’d gotten so far, I kind of thought, were for black actors and that might be the only things I’d get cast in,” Zaleski says. “A lot of times when people read scripts and there’s no race assigned, the default is white. And then when I got [the part] and my sister in the show was white—I liked [director] Beth Thompson from the jump. Again, the Playhouse is doing things that make people think, and pushing people’s ideas of family and how people interact in the real world is cool. Working with Beth was amazing.”

With the larger cast, Zaleski says she really felt the sense of community and also enjoyed getting to do stage combat and dig into the physicality of a role.

“I’m in the moment, but I’m also always thinking, ‘What can I take from this experience that will help me grow in the future?’” she says.

Late in 2018, Zaleski performed in Alyson Mead’s The Flora and Fauna, which the playwright offered royalty-free for a brief period with proceeds going to the #MeToo movement.

“It was awesome being surrounded by 20-some other women, and the script is so beautiful and hard and hopeful,” Zaleski says. “I found another community of women there. I’m constantly floored by the people in Omaha’s creative community.”

While Zaleski hopes to focus more on film work in the future, she’s incredibly grateful for her theater experiences. Regardless of the platform, Zaleski says she’s drawn to roles with complexity and projects that eliminate tired tropes attached to race, gender, class, and sexuality.

“I like characters and stories that push people’s ideas of life and humanity, and that show the complexities and nuances of life that we often forget about or are not shown,” she says.

Zaleski is thankful for the professional highs 2018 showed her, but also realizes she has been preparing for these moments.

“I’ve learned you have to be ready for moments, and you don’t always get to choose them…opportunities arise and you have to be ready to go,” she says. “I feel so lucky, thankful, and motivated to do more. My mindset is ‘keep going’ and whatever space you’re in, make sure you give it everything. I want to honor stories out there that need to be told—or maybe they have been told, but need to be told in a different way. I want to make sure that I’m constantly growing and being pushed outside of my comfort zone.”


This article was printed in the March/April edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

January/February 2019 Between the Lines

January 3, 2019 by
Photography by provided

Alicia Hollins Senior Sales Coordinator

Alicia has worked at Omaha Magazine for 11 years as Gil Cohen’s assistant. She is currently the senior sales coordinator, helping Gil with customer service, ad work, and sales. She loves the creative and collaborative atmosphere of magazine work. She also enjoys collaborating on house projects with her husband, Trevor. She is the president-elect of the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart Alumnae Board and an active volunteer at Loveland Elementary. She enjoys researching her family tree, and has even received a certificate from Boston University in genealogical research. All of this happens while she is fielding an array of constant questions from her amazing 8-year-old, Logan.

 

Anthony FlottContributing Writer

Anthony fell in love with magazines in grade school when his carpenter father gave him a large box of old Sports Illustrated magazines found on a job site. Later, Anthony also worked in construction, laid asphalt, and cut trees for various family-owned enterprises. Eventually, he decided on a career where he could avoid physical exertion and workplaces equipped only with outhouses. He earned communication degrees from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and worked three years for the Papillion Times Newspaper Group. For 25 years since then, he’s been editor of the award-winning UNO Magazine. He’s also a widely published magazine freelance writer and has taught magazine editing and writing classes at UNO. He is married with four children.

 

Justine YoungEditorial Intern

Justine is a senior at UNO studying English, with a focus on creative nonfiction writing and absolutely no intention of becoming a teacher. Armed with a limited attention span, a fleeting passion for almost any subject, and a deep appreciation of ice cream, she hopes to one day write a great novel, or at the very least, a plethora of mediocre books. When she is not studying or visiting her family in rural Iowa, you can find her swing dancing, recruiting friends for a good old-fashioned game of bingo, or reading anything by Ann Patchett. Despite her Iowa roots, she considers Omaha home, and she works hard to convince locals that the word “bag” should be pronounced “beg.”

 

Megan FabryEditorial Intern

Megan is pursuing degrees in journalism and English at UNO. Born and raised in Omaha, this one-third of triplets spent much of her childhood hanging out with her other two-thirds, and their older brother. Megan graduated in 2014 from Millard West High School, where she was a copy editor for the yearbook. She is the arts and entertainment editor for UNO’s newspaper, The Gateway, and she hopes to continue contributing to the student-run publication until she graduates. In her spare time, Megan enjoys reading anything she can get her hands on, watching historical documentaries, and spending time with family.


This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

 

Nebraska Medical Orchestra

December 20, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

On a cold night in November, musicians in a new orchestra gather in a classroom at the Strauss Performing Arts Center. They are rehearsing the recognizable march from The Nutcracker. Only, in the song’s first few measures, they wait a few additional beats in silence due to the missing members of the woodwind section.

It’s a medical orchestra, one where its performers have day jobs in hospitals or in front of classrooms. Many of the musicians are the medical students in those classrooms.

No one passes judgment if an entire section skips rehearsal before a particularly stressful test. That’s not what this orchestra is about.

This collaboration between University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska-Omaha School of Music formed to increase exposure to the arts with the belief that the arts reduce stress and may improve performance in medical careers. Part of the ongoing program has placed student performers in hospital lobbies, and small ensembles have performed in a Thursday concert series at the Buffett Cancer Center.   

Known as the Nebraska Medical Orchestra, the collaboration began in April 2018. Similar programs exist in medical universities around the country.

“This is fun,” explains one of the cellists, Dr. Matthew Rizzo, chair of the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences and director of the Mind & Brain Health Initiative. He acknowledges that many musicians in the group are tired by the time they get to rehearsal, and they may not have even practiced during the week. And it still works out for the orchestra.

“They just come here and do the best they can…It’s a great experience. You don’t have to be Mozart,” he says.

Rizzo was in a similar medical orchestra when he was at the University of Iowa; he was one of the key drivers of starting this orchestra in Omaha.

Nebraska Medical Orchestra consists of about 50 dedicated amateur musicians, describes Dr. Steven Wengel, assistant vice chancellor for campus wellness at UNO and UNMC. They are medical students, professors, doctors, nurses, and other members of medical teams, including medical billers. For a few hours a week, they step outside of their demanding roles and pick up their instrument of choice.

As conductor, Matthew Brooks (a doctor of musical arts), the director of orchestras at UNO, chooses the repertoire they perform and handles the artistic questions that pop up with running an orchestra. He keeps rehearsals light-hearted while fine-tuning musicians’ abilities.

“This has been a great opportunity for them to make their way back into music,” says Brooks, speaking a month prior to their first performance at the Buffett Cancer Research Center on Dec. 5.

Maddie Olson, a second-year Ph.D. student in the cancer research doctoral program, was among about 130 people to apply for a chair in the orchestra. She began playing cello in an orchestra at 9 years old, and continued it for a year in college while she pursued her interest in science. She says she feels lucky to have the opportunity to play again.

“I always wanted to keep cello in my life,” Olson says.

The medical orchestra is one part of a multipronged mission, describes Washington Garcia, director of the UNO School of Music (and doctor of musical arts). The first part is to bring more music into the medical community in Omaha, which is the stage the universities are in now.

Eventually, university officials hope to begin the research phase of the orchestra, measuring how it impacts the musicians and what its impact on the medical community may be.

Wengel says the medical humanities is a relatively new field of study, but a popular one. Already at UNO there is a minor in it.

Thus far, Wengel and colleagues know one thing for certain: When members of a health-care team are interested and involved in the arts, they are happier. The question is: Does it make them better clinicians?

“Anecdotally, it’s been a very positive experience,” Wengel says. “They’re exercising a different part of their mind, heart, and soul.”

A 2018 article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine attempted to measure the humanities’ impact on medical students. It didn’t seem to matter if it was passive exposure, like going to a concert, or more active involvement, such as playing an instrument. The finding was the same: The more exposure the students had to the humanities, the higher they rated on different tests in areas like empathy, problem-solving, 3D spatial reasoning, and tolerance for ambiguity.

“Basically, the more exposure to humanities, the higher they scored,” Wengel says.

Besides the research this orchestra could contribute to, there are artistic possibilities to consider. Brooks said the program may grow to have guest artists, they may tour, or there could be exchanges with other medical orchestras.

None of those possibilities are on the minds of the performers, though. For now, they are content fine-tuning those staccato rhythms in The Nutcracker.

And, more pressing, they’re thinking about acing that exam next week.


Visit unmc.edu and unomaha.edu for more information about the partnering universities.

Brenton Gomez

December 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Derek Joy

Local rapper Brenton Gomez—aka Conny Franko, Conchance, The Wooz, Daddy Woozbuckz, Conny Chrondracula, Chronny, or Econnyome depending on time, place, and project—is a wiry and reflective man of letters with deep roots in South O.

Gomez needs many names to represent the many aspects of his artistic identity. A 31-year-old with world-weary eyes, he carries himself with the quiet energy of stillness before the storm, like a flyweight boxer prior to a fight. Gomez’s best punches are thrown conversationally, philosophically, and intellectually. He can lay down a freestyle critique of commodified American culture and the individual’s role in it that would make C. Wright Mills glad he didn’t go into insurance.

His first real job came at age 10, shining shoes after prom for $5.25 an hour (off-the-books in a tuxedo shop). This character-building experience informed his worldview, education, and artistic messages by awakening his sense of working-class consciousness.

The Millard West and Metropolitan Community College alumnus graduated with honors from UNO with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a focus on Latin America and business. While business now seems a less-than-perfect fit given his ideology, his side excursions into the social sciences and philosophy seem to have paid off in wise dividends. Art, after all, requires experience, knowledge, culture, and community to thrive.

“If you don’t have something to say, you’re just pissing in the wind,” says Gomez about what makes art meaningful. “If you don’t have a historical context for how things developed and how things were colonized or industrialized then you really don’t have a f***ing clue about what’s going on now.”

A skilled rapper whose heart lies with the DIY community, Gomez thinks of himself principally as a writer with multiple projects going at any one time: zines, chapbooks, poetry, and essays as well as rap. Music has provided an outlet for his American experience since 2000. In 2007, he played the Slowdown.

“The first rap artist to play there was Redman, and then it was me. It just shows that I’ve been kicking rocks around in this city for a long time,” he says of his ascension in the Omaha music scene. “Sometimes people identify with what you’re doing—and sometimes you get stepped on—but I do art because I need to be doing it, not to get some kind of social capital from it, you know what I’m saying? The portfolio of your lifetime is your work.”

Gomez is glad to play any stage, as M34N STR33T (his group with Adam Robert Haug, aka Haunted Gauntlet) or rapping solo alongside local producers Keith “DJ Kethro” Rodger or Juan Manuel Chaparro, aka “DJ Dojorok.” Getting paid is its own reward, of course, but it is not the only reward, especially for a grounded artist like Gomez and his passel of identities.For the sake of his art, he returns to the DIY community to recharge on the culture that motivates his work. Making art and speaking for his community as best he can are personal as well as professional priorities.

“I’m glad to see people be successful, but I also like to see communities respected,” says Gomez of the changing face of neighborhoods like Benson and Blackstone. “It’s always nice to get a check. Money is a variable. I need to get it because I’m in a capitalistic society, so I might as well. But at the same time, there are other things that are important, too.”

For the most part, Gomez says he would rather play the DIY circuit. It is by and for the community (and the kids who consume the music), which in turn fosters the local music scene.

“You do it for the culture rather than for looks and likes and analytics. A lot of times, I just want to make noise about my community and about myself and do it with integrity to art rather than, you know, with some hype,” Gomez says. “I’d rather have something that makes people just listen to it and gain something from it. Sometimes that’s movement, sometimes that’s knowledge and perspective. It’s where I’m seeing my music career going.”

Gomez’s albums with M34N STR33T are available on digital platforms and sold locally at Homer’s and Almost Music. The group’s third and latest album, Don Quixote’s Lance, was released in April 2018.


Visit m34nstr33t.com and soundcloud.com/connyfranko for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

In the Crease, Covered in Grease

October 18, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In 2007, during a race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, Brian Haaland stood up after drilling multiple lug nuts into one of the right tires on Jeff Green’s race car. As Green pulled away and Haaland came to his feet in the middle of a hectic pit row, he quickly glimpsed the hood of Kasey Kahne’s stock car just before it plowed right through him. 

Haaland would surprisingly (and luckily) walk away from the incident almost completely unscathed. But the mishap drove home advice he got from his coaches a few years earlier: Despite what he may think about the straightforward nature of hitting lug nuts into a race car, it would take him at least three years to see everything he might possibly experience as a pit crew member in the wild world of racing. 

Eleven years later, it is now Haaland’s job to impart such wisdom as a pit crew coach for Team Penske. His journey toward becoming one of the best coaches in NASCAR began long before he met the front end of Kasey Kahne’s car, though. It took root during his time playing goalie for the University of Nebraska-Omaha hockey team in the early 2000s. Around that time, his burgeoning interest in racing—and a fortuitous relationship with the Mavericks’ team psychologist—would eventually lead him to trade his professional goalie ambitions for a full-time job changing tires.

Haaland grew up playing hockey in Minot, North Dakota. After progressing through the youth ranks and graduating high school, Haaland played for multiple teams in the United States Hockey League, the country’s premier junior hockey league. 

UNO would eventually ask him to join their squad beginning with the 1999 season. Haaland redshirted his freshman year and played behind eventual NHL star Dan Ellis for much of his career with the Mavericks. “My claim to fame in my college hockey career was that on a few occasions coach thought we had a better chance of winning with me in the net, instead of Dan,” Haaland says. 

Despite the sparse playing time, one of the most consequential relationships in Haaland’s life developed while at UNO. Jack Stark—a longtime performance psychologist for many Nebraska-area teams, including the Nebraska football program and Creighton basketball—served in a similar capacity for the Mavericks at the time. Stark immediately noticed something special in Haaland. 

“I was impressed with how hard he worked and his ability to control his emotions while playing the mentally exhausting goalie position,” Stark says. “I also always thought he was just the nicest kid.”  

Other than Haaland’s good nature, the pair also bonded over Stark’s new project—serving as a psychologist for NASCAR drivers and the pit crew teams at Hendrick Motorsports. 

Haaland saw his first NASCAR race while visiting his older brother Blair in California during the summer of 2001. “I thought this is loud, and it was actually kind of boring just watching the cars go round and round,” says the former Maverick goalie. “But I saw the cars go down pit road, the athletes jump over the wall and change the tires so quickly, and I thought that part was awesome.” 

Stark would make sure that Haaland got to see just how awesome being a pit crew member could be. Shortly after Haaland’s graduation, Stark—thinking the flexibility and mental toughness that made Haaland a good goalie would translate to changing tires—helped get him get a tryout with the Hendrick Motorsports team. Haaland would make the team as a tire changer in 2004, but he worked mostly in a backup role for the racing behemoth’s most notable cars. 

He did, however, come to see that there are few more intense settings in sports than pit road at a NASCAR race. Amidst roaring engines and zooming cars, a missed lug nut or a slow fueling job could cost a car 10 to 20 spots as pit crews battle to beat other teams by just hundredths of a second. 

Out of a desire to perfect the razor-thin margin associated with pit stops and to hopefully have a long career in the sport, Haaland eventually accepted the job as a pit crew coach for Team Penske.  

“He’s become one of the best coaches in the sport,” Stark says. “He could go to any team he wants. Penske is lucky to have him.”

Hockey is still a part of Haaland’s life as well. For the past 10 years, he has been a goalie coach in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area. He sees 30 to 35 goalies a week and some of them come from as far as Augusta, Georgia.  

But whether he is mentoring former Division I athletes trying to make NASCAR pit crews or young goalies, he constantly draws on advice from the litany of incredible coaches he learned from during his time in Omaha—including Stark, who remains one his closest confidants. 


Haaland owns and operates Old School Goal School, a goalie camp in Charlotte, North Carolina. Visit oldschoolgoalschool.com for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Chloe Kehm

October 11, 2018 by
Photography by Keith Binder

With her bobbed blond hair, flowered orange dress, and a jean jacket covered in pins (mostly cats in some form or another), artist Chloe Kehm looks like she could have stepped out of one of her favorite anime shows. But while her art may often depict that culture, her interests and influences are far more diverse.

“I listen to podcasts a lot,” Kehm says. “I’ve just been listening to this one podcast and hammering out stuff.” 

Kehm is describing a part of her creative process. One of her favorite podcasts is Saw Bones, a medical history program. “It’s about all the stupid things we’ve done medically in the past…they talk about the Victorians a lot. They did a lot of weird things,” she says with a laugh.

Also, she adds, “If my room’s a mess, I can’t do anything. Which is unfortunate, because I’m not the cleanest person.” Regardless, she manages to get a substantial amount of creating done, including an entire comic book for her BFA program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. It’s something she’d been putting off because she says she wasn’t confident in her skills. But after many life-drawing classes, she finally thought, “Let’s just do it now.” 

Having grown up watching animated shows such as Powerpuff Girls and Sailor Moon, it’s not surprising she became interested in drawing what she calls “fandom things,” such as characters from video games, comics, and television series. But what she really enjoys is making her own, original work, and a big part of that is telling a story. Besides working with digital mediums, watercolor, oil and acrylic paints, and experimenting with ink and marker drawings, she also creates short, four-panel comic strips. “I love writing,” she says. “I took a couple of creative writing classes before and I’m always writing comic strips.”

While pop culture clearly influences a lot of her current work, she does have an appreciation for the classics, such as Van Gogh. Her favorite work of his is “Almond Blossoms.” “His colors are gorgeous and I like to think I could pull some of those into my own work.”

Her pieces are definitely more contemporary, though. “A lot of the artists I really love right now are currently living,” she says with a smile, “and they are young female artists in the comic book industry.” She lists Babs Tarr, Fiona Staples, and Leslie Hung as her top three, but adds that there are countless others. “It’s just really inspiring.”

It’s unsurprising that Kehm admires these artists. She says that, while she didn’t really start considering herself a feminist until college, she has always believed equality is important, “across the board.” She credits those animated shows she grew up on with helping her develop that ideal. “A lot of animated shows directed at young girls [are] showing them in positions of power and being strong and independent. I think that just kind of sat in there…and it inspires a lot of what I want to do with my storytelling and my animation,” she says, before wryly adding, “And I’m a woman. I should care about that stuff, right?”

Kehm says she likes her creations to be fun, but also to have a message. “I like depicting different people in different ways. I like to show the vastness of the human race.” She pauses, then breaks into laughter. “Which sounds…a little lofty.”

She says she believes art in general has a hand in almost everything we do as a society. “You don’t realize how much art plays into everything you interact with on a day-to-day basis. Like your shoes. Someone designed that, someone drew that.” She gestures around the coffee shop as she speaks. “The layout of the building you’re in, the house you live in—an architect did that. They have artistry skills, and I think it gets overlooked a lot. But I think art is pretty integral to everything that we do. Be it political or day-to-day life.” 

While she hopes her message of equality comes through in her work, Kehm says she’ll be happy if it just makes people smile. “That’s ultimately what I want to come out of it.”


etsy.com/shop/KuroesCreations   | instagram.com/kuroedraws

This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Encounter. 

Lookout! It’s a Launch Party Weekend

July 6, 2018 by

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Sunday, July 8: Naturally, the pick of the week is our July/August Launch Party for our latest Omaha Magazine (our food issue) and Encounter Magazine! Our second annual watermelon-eating contest is also going down, and it’s all happening at the Florence Mill Sunday Farmers Market. If you’ve never been, look forward to finding organic produce, local arts & crafts, seeing some farm animals (chickens and calves), and listening to some diverse music (flutes, folk guitar, and local rock band Daisy Distraction). There’s also an exhibition upstairs and maybe even a little fashion show in the works. (Check out Paige Modlin in the latest Encounter for a taste of what to expect.) The market begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m. We will be there all day! Please RSVP here and bring the kids out for some tasty watermelon eating!

Thursday, July 5 to Sunday, July 8: It’s your last chance to catch Shakespeare On The Green this weekend. On Thursday and Saturday you can experience the comedy of Much Ado About Nothing. If you’re in the mood for a little more drama, head down to the green on Friday and/or Sunday (depending on how much Shakespeare you’re craving) to watch the historic classic King John. Grab a blanket, a picnic basket, and maybe even a bottle of wine and settle in for a relaxing evening of cunningly zany fun. Find out all the happenings here

Friday, July 6: Fridays are for family this week at the Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs. So get out and Celebrate Summer with free admission for all from 5-7 p.m. (Donations are always welcome, though.) There will be crafts, games, and a sidewalk chalk party. Plus, if your kids (or, you know, you) have ever wanted to see a firetruck up close, this is your chance. Don’t worry about hangry showing up and ruining the fun. You can grab a very kid-friendly snack from the hot dog cart out front. Learn more about it right here

Saturday, July 7: Good food, good times, and great music—you’ll find all that at the Punk Rock BBQ at Lookout Lounge. This year’s lineup includes Jeff Rosenstock, Remo Drive, and Pseudo, plus too many incredible local bands to list. If you haven’t made it a point to get to Lookout for one of their punk rock shows, this one is a definite don’t-miss event. Get all that lightning rod, firecracker energy out in a nice, intimate mosh pit scene. Check here to find out if your favorite local instigators are in the lineup.

Saturday, July 7: If the noise, smell, and overall onslaught of real fireworks has you on edge, check out the Cosmic Fireworks—Astronomy Night at Indian Cave State Park this Saturday, hosted by Branched Oak Observatory. Enjoy the natural beauty (and silence) of the outdoors. This is a free, dark-sky astronomy event (no actual fireworks) for all ages. You will have the opportunity to observe dozens of galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters in the night sky, including the chance to see planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. Get your star-gazing on and learn more about this unique show here.

Where Pink Pigeons Fly

June 15, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Coming from a very artistic family, Gabi Quiroz’s parents always encouraged her creative endeavors. Her mother taught her to shade, her father used to draw, her grandmother quilts, and she has an aunt who draws and writes.

After being raised in such an environment, full of inspiration and creative energy, it’s no wonder Gabi became the artist she is today.

But her upbringing also fed another passion—animals. Growing up an only child, Quiroz was never lonely with all her animal siblings keeping her company.

“We started off with one dog and then it kind of became a zoo,” she says. “From there—fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, a cat, and another dog.”

After leaving the nest, Quiroz couldn’t imagine life without animals. Today, she has three cats, a miniature pinscher named Bella, and Wilbur, a potbelly pig, who will be 3 years old this May.

Quiroz loves all animals, but especially pigeons. That admiration is evidenced by the name of her business, Pink Pigeon Studio.

“I’ve always admired pigeons for how beautiful they are, but they’re always commonly referred to as rats that can fly,” she says. “Pink Pigeon is about recognizing the beauty in something that isn’t usually considered beautiful.”

Finding beauty in the unusual is evident in her work. Quiroz begins her creative process looking up the symbolism she wants to convey in multiple references, and then constructs the scene to take her source pictures for the piece she’s creating in a series, which normally consists of 10 pieces.  

From there, she works in her two primary disciplines—oil paints and colored pencils—to develop works of symbolic imagery and figurative study. Her pencil drawings are intricate and hyperrealistic while her paintings tend to be more fluid, yet both are always rooted in nature.

Life and death symbolism is ever-present in Quiroz’s pieces. She considers herself a spiritual person and believes in the afterlife. In her current series, she’s using local flora, such as peonies and poppies, along with animals bones found in the Midwest.

At her Hot Shops studio, you’ll find Quiroz pouring her inspiration into her creations while drinking coffee and, depending on the day, listening to an audiobook, music, or watching a movie she’s seen a million times. She loves the challenge of making something out of nothing, but admits being an artist is hard.In the next couple of years, her goals are producing four pieces a month and having her work show in regional and national galleries. Quiroz also one day aspires to teach art on the collegiate level, and ultimately, she wants to have a stand-alone studio and a couple acres of land for a farmstead of her own, with lots of animals.“If I were to work just when I felt inspired, this would be a hobby for me,” she says. “The artist stereotype that we lah-tee-dah all day and create something is wrong because most of the time, it’s not like that.”On those especially trying days, she brings Wilbur to the studio and stops for cuddle breaks.


See more of the artist’s work at gabriellequiroz.com.

This article appears in the May/June 2018 edition of Encounter.

It’s a Sexy Weekend of Mud Play, Beer Bellies, and Art

May 17, 2018 by

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Saturday, May 19: Play like a kid again (and bring the real kids, of course) at Fontenelle Forest’s Mud Day this Saturday, a partnership with the Henry Doorly Zoo designed to make you forget your adult-world worries. You can go for a barefoot hike, dig in the dirt, build a mud castle, make some tracks, and even do a little mud painting. No matter what you decide on doing, just be sure to have fun. And don’t do too much adult overthinking. There will be a cleanup station available as well, though you may want to bring along a towel or two. Also, (in case you didn’t know) you can rent a family membership to Fontenelle Forest for the day from your local library in Omaha, Bellevue, or Council Bluffs! Keep track of all the fun you can have at Fontenelle here.

Thursday, May 17: Start winding down a little early this weekend while learning about local food as you grab a drink and make some new friends. Head to No More Empty Cups for their Local Food Happy Hour w/ Cooper Farm Urban Ag Education Center with program coordinator and Extension educator John Porter. You may want to RSVP to this free event, as space on the beautiful NMEC patio is limited. Keep in mind donations are certainly welcome, so even if you can’t attend in person, you can still feel good about doing good by donating online here. Find out more about the space here and RSVP to the event here.

Friday, May 18: Experience the culmination of the Rad Women of Omaha service learning project at the Omaha Design Center. Curated by artist-in-residence Kim Darling, this collaboration was inspired by the book Rad American Women from A to Z, by Kate Schatz. The project developed at Blackburn Alternative Program (in collaboration with University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Speech-Language students, the UNO Writing Center, and the UNO Service Learning Academy). This show will feature artwork inspired by real women of Omaha, and includes both narrative and visual works. Learn more about the project and the event here.

Pick of the Week—Friday, May 18 to Saturday, May 19: Get to Elkhorn this weekend for the Main Street Studios Open House. This is a two-day event, so even if you can’t make it out on Friday, you have all day Saturday to check out the updates, new exhibits, live blues and jazz music, and of course, all the new artwork! Plus, if you’re going out on Saturday you can check out the “Alley Gallery.” Appetizers and (free!) beer and wine will be offered throughout, as well as some tasty apps. Get more info about the event and the space here.

Sunday, May 20: Drink beer and do some good this Sunday by attending Beer Bellies for Full Bellies at Jerry’s Bar in Benson. This event has it all: a silent auction, live raffle, drink specials, T-shirts, and button making! Best of all, your beer drinking habits will benefit the Food Bank of the Heartland. Plus, a Food Bank staffer will be on-site showing off the Kids Cruisin’ Kitchen and letting you know how your donations will benefit children in the Omaha community. Get all the details here.