Tag Archives: Wyoming

Trevor Amery

March 10, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts resident Trevor Amery is a well-traveled maker. The artist, whose Bemis stay began January 11 and runs through mid-March, has done residencies in Mexico, Hungary, and Finland. He’s completed projects in Alaska, Florida, and many points in between.

After years on the East Coast, he now makes California home, though he’s often just returning from or embarking on a new art-life adventure. This summer he expects to go to China.

Some journeys have proved transformative. In the course of a 2011 Finland sojourn, fate or circumstance intervened to change his practice from painting to sculpture.

He had just left his former risk-adverse life as an admissions counselor at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore to heed the very advice he gave students—to live freely and fearlessly. He’d no sooner broken away from his higher education rut to go to far-off Finland when, en route, all his oil paints were confiscated by airport security.

There he was, adrift in a strange country, unequipped to create in the manner he’d come all that way to do.

“I didn’t have a lot of money to go and buy all new oil paints in one of the most expensive countries in the European Union,” Amery says. “I just had to figure out how to start making.”

Enraptured by the dense forests of the residency’s idyllic rural setting and the ubiquitous, large firewood piles he saw outside every home, he surrendered the idea of painting to create instead in wood. It helped that he had an extensive woodworking background.

“I started splitting wood to understand it as a material. I’d wake up and split as much wood as I could handle, and I learned so much more about it than I ever did working in a wood shop,” he says.

“I started doing these stacked firewood piles. I made a 12-foot tall spinning wood pile on a children’s merry-go-round as a kinetic permanent sculpture. I did a 6-foot by 6-foot by 6-foot cube of firewood on a floating dock in the middle of the lake outside the old schoolhouse I stayed in. I went into town to do woodpiles in urban niches–between buildings and mailboxes–and left them to be reclaimed.”

His “big epiphany” happened paddling wood out to the floating dock in the lake.

“I had this eureka moment of, ‘Wow, this could be my work. I don’t have to sit in a studio illustrating an idea with oil paint. I can actually be out in the world engaging nature and people, having the social aspects I crave.’”

For Amery, the journey in the making is everything.

“I just like process–problem-solving, engineering new solutions, and stuff like that. I do have an interest in DIY culture, which also informs my practice.”

Since Finland, Amery’s gone on to cast pieces of firewood in porcelain stoneware. This summer in Wyoming he taught himself how to make his own charcoal using wood.

While assisting with the setup of a towering geodesic installation there, he salvaged a broken sledgehammer handle made of ash and converted it into a 30-inch, hand-hewn spoon sculpture. He carved a tiny geodesic dome in the bottom of the spoon.

“Function plays a role in the work,” he says. “But this object also now has a really important history to it. I love the kind of shift in value that comes with provenance of objects and materials that I use. Because of a personal story with it, it has this new significance.”

In 2012 he came back from a residency in Hungary only to find himself “back to square one” in his work. Absent a project, he thought long and hard about finally realizing something he always wanted to make: a boat. Made of wood, of course.

“After some research, I set out to build my own Aleutian- style kayak, and I did. I made all the ribs out of green bent branches I cut in the woods in Maine.”

The design for the 17-foot vessel came from a downloaded PDF.

“The first year after I built it, I kind of denied its function. I was more interested in its making, its coming into being, the history of it. I built part of the frame in Maine and then drove it to Michigan, where it spent a year with me as this omnipresent, dope object I couldn’t finish because I didn’t have the space to do it.” he says.

“It hung above me in the apartment making me feel bad for not working on it. I eventually brought it back to the East Coast and then came to California with it, where I finished it. But I was still using it as this studio-exhibition object and skirting its function. Then I decided I have to put it in the water.”

He secured a grant for a performative project whereby he drove the kayak to Alaska to make its inaugural launch off the Homer Spit. He documented the experience with his Mamiya C330 camera.

On-site, he split a log to make his own paddle from tree branches. When the moment arrived to place the kayak in its heritage waters, he was overjoyed this object that traveled so far with him “actually worked great.”

The kayak trekked with him again when he took part in the Performance is Alive satellite art show in Miami.

“I kayaked through the different waterways of Miami to document the coastline and the relationship of these important spaces to water recreation and the city’s economy and looking at how this essentially sea-level city will eventually be underwater.”

He successfully negotiated the voyage only to have curator Quinn Dukes ask him go out again and finish in South Beach.

Tempting fate, Amery recalls, “I went across the channel out into the ocean like a fool. Everything was going fine actually, and then the ocean floor dropped off at this one place that turned the ocean into a washing machine. This wave came from behind and capsized me many football fields away from the coastline.”

He says he thought he was “done for” but was eventually rescued by a jet skier. His kayak and camera both survived the mishap.

“Out of all that came a whole new body of work of wooden wave sculptures I call ‘Capsized.’”

The artist is approaching Omaha the way he does all his residency stops (by ”keeping that opportunity for discovery”).

“A huge part of it is what comes out of the relationships in a place,” he says. “Yes, the landscapes inspire me, but also the people and the conversations.”

This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter

Diane Kremlacek

January 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Diane Kremlacek is used to proving she can do the same things a man can.

As the communication department manager—a historically male role—for 20 years at OPPD before retiring in 2015, she often had to go above and beyond to show she was qualified to do the job.

So, when it comes to hopping on her yellow and gold custom-made Big Dog Chopper and cruising down a country road or taking a longer ride to motorcycle mecca in Sturgis, South Dakota, Kremlacek says she is in control, feeling free, and doing her own thing with no expectations or limitations.

“I absolutely love it; there really is no freer feeling than the wind in your face, racing on a motorcycle,” she says. “It’s empowering for a woman because people see me on my bike and ask me, ‘how can you ride that?’ And all I tell them is ‘because I can.’”

“To a degree, bikes are still seen as being for men, but more and more women are proving they belong on a bike as well,” says Kremlacek, who also has a Wheaten terrier named Chopper.

She became interested in motorcycles after marrying her husband, Joe. A cycle enthusiast—he has a Big Dog Canine, which is larger than the Chopper—he bought Diane her first bike, and she’s been hooked ever since.

“He always talked about motorcycles and riding, even before we were married, and he actually got me my first motorcycle so we could ride together,” she says.

Kremlacek picked up her previously owned Big Dog Chopper in April, much-reduced from its brand-new sticker price of $35,000.

Each year, she and Joe begin riding in the spring and increase their bike time over the summer and fall months—going out a minimum of two to three times a week when the weather allows.

As they do every year, they rode to Sturgis for the 76th annual Sturgis Rally this past August, but her longest ride to date was to California and back more than a decade ago.

“I didn’t have any saddle bags on my bike, so I had to haul my luggage right behind me, which made for a somewhat uncomfortable ride,” says Kremlacek. “But riding a motorcycle is one of the few times in life when you’re in the moment and not always thinking about what to do next. It’s very relaxing. It’s an escape.”

Speaking of escape, during her 30-year career, 20 years of it leading operations at the OPPD Service Center, Kremlacek worked with highly technical telecommunications, microwave technology, and telephone systems—resulting in a fair amount of stress.

When she felt particularly bogged down by work and life, she says hitting the 100-mph mark on the open road proved to be a fantastic cure.

But has she ever been hit by flying debris or the wayward bird?

“I did have a rather large bug hit me in the forehead once, and at the rate of speed we were going, it felt like a bird,” she says with a laugh. “On the way to Sturgis one year, we had a deer run out in front of us, nearly causing an accident, and we encountered three bobcat cubs in Wyoming. But those will never stop us from enjoying the tremendous freedom we have on our motorcycles.”


High on Jesus

October 12, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Getting high on Jesus in the Rocky Mountains, however, is always 100 percent legal.

The Front Range looms overhead as Dan and Dawne Broadfield sip their morning coffee. Towering at a height of 14,259 feet, the snow-capped Longs Peak is the highest point in the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Residing at an elevation of nearly 1.5 miles above sea level, the Broadfields live on the forested grounds of Covenant Heights. The year-round Christian camp is located nine miles south of Estes Park, on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, near the base of Longs Peak.

estespark6The parents are career missionaries and together have visited Haiti, Mexico, Canada, England, France, Belgium, and Holland, among others. As assistant director of facilities, Dan helps to maintain the 65-acre Covenant Heights, while Dawne home-schools their three children: 18-year-old Darby, 14-year-old Dakota, and 11-year-old Max.

Their days are filled with hiking, fishing, backpacking, paddleboarding, archery, and kayaking. They have unfettered access to high ropes, zip lines, and a climbing wall—perks of living at a wilderness retreat. The same activities draw campers from across the country.

If the weather is nice, Dan and Dawne say they might go six to eight hours without seeing their offspring, and that’s fine for both parents and frolicking children alike.

In summer, nighttime unveils an infinite heaven of twinkling stars, with the Milky Way shining down on three hammocks arranged in a triangular formation in the trees. Each hammock cradles a Broadfield child, peacefully sleeping.


Once the weather turns chilly, they gather firewood for campfires. The winter season also brings snow-shoeing, ice hockey, and cross-country skiing.

Wildlife is an integral part of living at the campground, where animals also make their home. Coyotes, moose, and deer frequently wander through Covenant Heights. Herds of elk are common visitors; during the fall rut, the bulls’ high-pitched bugling will echo for miles.

“The other day, an elk walked through the middle of (the triangle of hammocks),” Dawne says. “Our youngest woke up and thought, ‘Uh, oh. This isn’t good.’ But the elk eventually moved along.”

estespark5The free-spirited mother of three does have one rule about sleeping outdoors. Her kids can’t have lipgloss, sunscreen, or other scented items in their pockets. Bears live in the neighborhood, and scented items or food will attract them. Dawne even brings her bird feeders inside at night so as not to attract unwelcome scavengers.

She loves life amongst the animals. In fact, her animal-watching pastime vaguely reminds her of childhood years spent in Omaha. “We went to the Henry Doorly Zoo about every two weeks,” says the one-time Omahan. Dawne’s father served in the Air Force at Offutt Air Force Base for three years, when she was in fifth through eighth grades.

Her adult life unfolded away from Omaha. Before relocating to Colorado in 2015, Dawne and Dan were living in San Antonio, Texas, where they ran an art gallery and online networking platform for artists called ArtLife.

“Here we are now in Estes Park because we felt like we ran out of space in San Antonio. We wanted to become more of a starving artists community,” says Dan. “We want to develop an artists community up here. I want to create a safe space for people to come and hone their skills. It’s the idea of not being in their normal circumstances.”

estespark4Surrounded by natural abundance, the family feels rich. Not so when it comes to the latest technological amenities. They have a satellite television, the only reliable phone is a landline, and mobile internet service is patchy from camp.

Dawne says “there’s a 20-minute window about twice a day” for internet access. An avid photographer, she posts almost daily on Instagram from her smartphone during those limited windows of online accessibility.

Her photo stream documents their neighbors, mostly the wildlife (@adeltadawne). “We have lots of moose that hang out,” she says. “The elk, the deer, the eagles, and then I sprinkle in family stuff.” If it is necessary to check something online, they head to a coffeeshop or the library in town. Dan and Dawne enjoy their wireless existence. “I kind of like the idea of being disconnected,” Dan says.

Christian wilderness retreats have a rich history on the Front Range near Covenant Heights. Even before Colorado was a state, missionaries were spreading the gospel across the landscape.

estespark3Summer encampments for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) date back to the 1890s. The YMCA summer campsite from 1908 remains the site of the modern-day YMCA of the Rockies. Today, the organization hosts Christian gap-year programs for 18-to-24 year olds “seeking personal and spiritual growth while working in a seasonal job at Snow Mountain Ranch.”

On January 26, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park into existence, and the nationwide National Park Service came into being the following year (celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016).

Covenant Heights arrived on the scene in the early 1930s through the fellowship of the Covenant Young Peoples and Sunday School Conference of Colorado and Wyoming. The coalition of Rocky Mountain churches sought to give “a concerted effort to provide inspiration, Christian fellowship, and evangelism for the young people of the churches in Colorado and Wyoming,” according to its website. Covenant Heights’ current permanent campsite became operational in 1948.

Separate from the YMCA or Covenant Heights, the nonprofit Wind River Ministries also runs the ongoing Wind River Ranch, a “Christian Family Guest Ranch Resort”complete with dude ranch.

Regardless of one’s spiritual inclination, the sweeping mountain vistas are inspiring throughout the vicinity of Estes Park.

In the wake of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, residents of Estes Park voted to block the opening of recreational and medicinal dispensaries within the limits of town and Larimer County. It was a strategic move to preserve the region’s wholesome reputation as a family destination. Meanwhile, federal marijuana laws reign supreme over Rocky Mountain National Park and other federally owned lands.

Getting high on Jesus in the Rocky Mountains, however, is always 100 percent legal.

Visit covenantheights.org for more information.


Location Scout and Producer Jamie Vesay

October 11, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When it comes to shooting video, Jamie Vesay of Omaha is a handler, facilitator, fixer, procurer, and—as his LinkedIn site puts it—“minutia wrangler” and “chaos killer.” He works on television commercials, music videos, and feature films. His location scout credits include Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and Downsizing.

Whether doing logistics or scouting locations, Vesay says he is “a creative collaborator” helping filmmakers “realize their vision.” He also aspires to make his own films from scripts and stories he’s writing.

The Pottsville, Pennsylvania, native worked odd jobs back East when he got an interview for the special effects (FX) crew on a 1989 Baltimore film shoot. Vesay’s experience as a machinist provided the fabrication skills needed in the FX profession. That first gig came on Barry Levinson’s major studio project, Avalon.

More FX feature jobs followed, as did a move to Los Angeles, before the work dried up and he relocated to Omaha. His talents made him in-demand on shoots. He added location scouting to his repertoire on projects near and far. Payne’s frequent location manager, John Latenser V, got Vesay day work on About Schmidt. But it wasn’t until Nebraska that Vesay worked extensively with Payne. Latenser couldn’t join the project at the start, so Vesay took the reins.

“You have to have that ability to bob and weave, change and adapt to the director you’re working with. Alexander is so smart about life, let alone the industry. At his core, he’s a guy who will say to you, ‘What do you think?’ And he’s sincere–he wants to know what you think.”

-Jamie Vesay

Vesay broke down the script’s locations. Having scoured the state for years, he had mental and digital files of countless sites. Since the story revolved around a road trip by father-son protagonists Woody and David, an excursion was in order. Payne, production designer Dennis Washington, and Vesay made the Billings, Montana, to eastern Nebraska trek themselves in an SUV. With steering wheel in one hand, 35-millimeter camera in the other, and legal notepad and pen on his lap, Vesay documented possible locations they came upon. Everyone voiced an opinion.

“My goal is to present options to the director,” Vesay says. “Many things we’ll drive by, Alexander will say, ‘OK, slow down, stop the car–I want to look at this.’ Sometimes you let him discover it. Other times you guide him. As I’m presenting the options, he’s seeing what’s available and saying, ‘Well, maybe it’s that.’ He’s a rare filmmaker willing to change with what’s available and use a location different from his original vision.”

The Nebraska script called for a Wyoming truck stop but Payne didn’t like any. With the SUV’s gas tank nearing empty. Vesay pulled into a combo gas station, bait-tackle shop, and bar that Payne loved. On Downsizing, Payne rejected South Omaha duplexes for one of his old haunts, Dundee.

“You have to have that ability to bob and weave, change and adapt to the director you’re working with,” he says. “Alexander is so smart about life, let alone the industry. At his core, he’s a guy who will say to you, ‘What do you think?’ And he’s sincere–he wants to know what you think.”

Vesay found the abandoned farmhouse the family visits in Nebraska. Payne called it “perfect.”

Instinct and experience help Vesay find things. Besides, he says, “I know where they’re hiding.”

A location’s look might be right, but it must also safely accommodate cast and crew. Access, sight lines, and noise are other considerations.

Choosing locations is just the start. Protocols require filmmakers to secure signed permission from property owners. During production Vesay does owner relations.

Looking to the future, Vesay urges the state to do more to attract film projects that provide steady work to local professionals.

Visit jamievesay.com for more information.


Omaha Ski Club

January 14, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Janet Tuttle was in her 40s, she wanted to take up skiing again, an activity she started at age 14 but stopped when home and family life took over. She joined the Omaha Sports Club, but when that group decided to focus less on skiing, a new group branched off from it: the Omaha Ski Club.

Today, Tuttle is 79 and still going strong as a member of the Omaha Ski Club. Her favorite part of skiing is the scenery.

“I love the mountains,” she says. “When you ski in the mountains, you see things you don’t see when you’re driving.”

Teri Hammon, 57, a board member who plans all of the club’s trips, says about three quarters of the members are age 60 or older.

“We’re not old fuddy-duddies,” Hammon says. “We ski hard and ski all day.”

The Omaha Ski Club generally takes two to five skiing trips a season and members bicycle in the summertime (“to stay in shape for skiing,” Hammon says). The group has skied in Colorado, California, Utah, Wyoming, and Canada.

“Anywhere there’s powder!” Hammon says.

The group recently traveled to Snowmass, Colorado, for their first trip of the 2015-2016 season. Trips vary in length and typically involve the members meeting at a ski resort. Members enjoy participating in social activities, including a pre-trip party to discuss travel arrangements and a welcome party on the first or second day, along with lots of skiing.

In order to go along on a trip, one must be a member of the Omaha Ski Club (or one of its reciprocal clubs with the Flatland Ski Association). Annual dues are reasonable. Each member pays for his or her own travel, lodging, and equipment, but group discount rates often apply.

One need not be an expert skier to join the club, which welcomes all skill levels along with non-skiers who want to go to the resorts and do something else. Knowledgeable, experienced members often help beginners. Tuttle says she particularly likes to go out with the beginning-level skiers along some of the easier slopes.

Tuttle and Hammon agree that the club gains stability from the large percentage of retired members, who tend to have more free time and savings that allow them to go on the trips. Tuttle says she appreciates the social aspect of the club, which includes and welcomes anyone regardless of age.

“The socializing is a nice part of the skiing,” she says.

What about the risk of injury? Tuttle and Hammon have bumped and bruised themselves on the slopes—that’s why Tuttle says she’s become more careful as she’s aged.

But it takes more than a few accidents to keep her from returning to the mountains.

“It’s kind of like falling off a horse,” Tuttle says. “If you love what you’re doing, you get back on the horse again.”

Visit omahaskiclub.org to learn more.


Get Lost

December 4, 2015 by

We pause now for a moment of silence in memory of the plethora, the genus, phylum, and species of old jokes japing the male’s propensity to stubbornly refuse to ask for help on the way to that weekend family event he didn’t want to go to anyway. An example of the genre:

Q – Why was Moses wandering through the desert for 40 years?

A – Because men refuse to ask for directions!

Yes, a moment of silence, because that witticism, and all others based on this gender-based “truth” are now obsolete.

It must be said that though the trope was based on a factual reality that the primitive male brain, steeped in the evolutionary soup of “not wanting to seem stupid” to the other giant sloth hunters in our long-ago fur-clad clans, as in, “The water hole is just over this ridge, a quick left past the tar pit,” forced us alphas to maintain that said “water hole” was exactly there, whether we, upon arrival, discovered a toxic fumarole instead of said pond. It is a biological/psychological fact that for men it is more important to be “sure” rather than to be “right.”

Note: we manly-men usually confuse the two.

In our defense I must state that in reality we would ask for directions when we were unsure of where we were going, but we would only ask very close friends. We expected our best mates would not tell anyone our little secret, and we also used their answers to our inquiries as a dependable gauge of the quality of their character.

Let me illustrate. If I ask Joe “Which way to the (blank)?” and he responds, “Go down to St. Paul’s church, turn left, and when you get to First Lutheran, turn right.” I know Joe loves God. If I ask Bill and he says, “Go down to McDonald’s, turn left and when you get to Wendy’s, turn right.” I know Bill has a weight problem. If I ask Tim and he answers, “Go down to the Med Center, turn left, and when you get to the urology outpatient surgery clinic, turn right.” I know Tim needs to drink more pomegranate juice. And if Ted tells me, “Go down here to the Starlite Lounge, turn left, and then when you get to the Nifty…” I know I want to hang out with Ted. You can tell a lot about someone when you hear the frame through which they see the world.

At least that used to be true.

Now, no one asks directions. Everybody just takes out their smart phone and looks at where their blinking dot is blinking and where their destination’s red pin is sticking. And don’t get me started about the disembodied voice that tells you to, “Turn left in 300 feet.” Like I didn’t know that already.

So, bottom line, the old jokes are dead. I blame Steve Jobs. I mourn their passing, as does Rand McNally, but mainly I feel a sense of loss because it’s almost impossible to get lost these days.

Some of the best things in my life have happened because I was lost. Once I turned left on a dotted line that led into Wyoming’s Wind River Range and…but that’s another story.

For now, I encourage you all, unplug.

Get lost.