The Union for Contemporary Art is a wonderful space located in North Omaha that works to engage the community in programs, classes and direct artist support. It was founded in 2011 and is motivated by the power of art in all mediums and accessibility to them giving way to social change and engagement. The organization utilizes its programs and artist fellowships and accessibility to resources in hopes to affect this change in North Omaha. The organization was originally founded by Brigitte McQueen-Shew and has grown to enact fellowships for artists, provide equipment and studio space, community projects and acting programs.
The Union is opening the performance of a new play entitled “More Than Neighbors”. The play is an original by Denise Chapman. She utilizes this work to showcase a family in North Omaha’s experiences. The piece focuses around the changes erupted in the neighborhood and their life after the construction of the Interstate 75. The highway was originally begun in 1926 and Chapman’s writing explores the separation of businesses and homes in North Omaha when she grew up there in 1986.
“More Than Neighbors” is based upon sights and interviews conducted from the area. Chapman explained in an interview with Channel 6 news that she found the stories and publicly sharing them has a strong meaning. This tale occurs in many places beyond Nebraska and continues in modern construction. The importance of this play is within the stories of neighborhoods that are disenfranchised and do not have financial or social means to fight back against community destroying alterations. The story was written and is being shared in hoping of redefining the community.
The play “More Than Neighbors” opens this Friday, February 15 with its first showing at 7pm. It will run Thursday’s through Sunday’s until March 3. Thursday, Friday and Saturday showings will be at 7pm and there will be Sunday matinees at 4pm. The play is a wonderful way to grow in knowledge about the community and revitalize its strength. To support and purchase tickets you may visit the Union’s website at http://www.u-ca.org/events/2019/2/15/more-than-neighbors.
Image of Chapman from The Union for Contemporary Art Website
It's December and the last Benson First Friday is a few days away. This BFF will be having a special event in it's Mayflower Mobile Gallery: Speak Up, Scale Down. Speak Up, Scale Down is a juried design show where student designers and local designers collaborate together to create small Riso prints. Each of the Riso from the show will be sold for $10 each. All proceeds bought at Speak Up, Scale Down will be donated to Benson First Fridays. So come on down to the Mayflower Mobile Gallery (Citylights Church Midtown Church) this Benson First Friday to see all the professional and student designer's Riso prints!
Speak ■p, Scale Down
Friday December 7th, 2018
6:00PM - 9:00PM CST
The Mayflower Mobile Gallery
Citylights Church Midtown Location
4383 Nicholas St, Omaha, NE 68131
Jennifer Young: Founder of J. Diane Creations
From crafts to gifts to weddings and greetings, Jennifer Young can do it for you! Jennifer Young is a local artist and event planner that specializes in the art of making handmade greeting cards and decor. She owns a local handmade crafts and event services business in the Benson area: J. Diane Creations. Before J. Diane Creations, Jennifer started out as a freelance wedding planner in 2007. She knew that she wanted to be a wedding planner for the longest time. After her first wedding, she love crafting weddings. The amount of creativity and being apart of someone's special day made her want to go into wedding and event planning. In 2010, Jennifer created her first company: JDY Event Planning. this was later expanded into J. Diane Creations. But Jennifer's company not only makes handmade crafts and plan wedding events, Jennifer also host DIY Craft Events. From DIY Halloween costumes to sneaker designing, Jennifer teaches various crafts to her guest to make them feel inspired to create.
Various Handmade Greeting Cards from J. Diane Creations
When making greeting cards and decor for her weddings and events, Jennifer's inspiration for her work comes from three difference sources. The first two inspirations are everyday beauty and the color of nature. From various plants to the floral patterns of the Lauritzen Gardens, Jennifer states that she is likes to go on walks in the outdoors. This allows her take inspiration of nature's beauty and the beauty of her surroundings. This can be seen throughout her works. Jennifer represents the bright and color patterns of nature with mixes of various floral patterns on the front of her greeting cards and decor. She also states that she is inspired by the people in her life. The various things they like and bring them joy and phrases her friends commonly say inspire her to create and implement into her designs. By combining all three inspirations together, Jennifer's colorful and creative handmade decor comes to life.
Jennifer Young's various works will be displayed at her first art exhibit Choose Your Words next Friday (November 2nd) during November's Benson First Friday. The event will be taking place at Revival Clothing from 5:00PM to 9:00PM with beats from Marcey Yates and Poetry On the Spot by Ella Young. Jennifer's work will be displayed throughout the month of November.
Choose Your Words
6007 Maple Street, Omaha Nebraska 68104
5:00PM - 9:00PM
Refreshments Will Be Provided
J. Diane Creations:
It's October and Halloween is just around the corner. But this year, Benson is starting off the Halloween celebration early with several events all day on October 27th!
Benson Boo Bash
Location: Downtown Benson
Time: 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Trick Or Treating starts earlier in the day with the Benson Boo Bash! At the Benson Boo Bash, trick or treat at the local Benson Businesses, play games at the Benson Community Center, and take photos at various photo stations! This family friendly event begins at 10:00AM and runs to 1:00PM!
Benson Community Center:
Bethany Lutheran's Trunk or Treat
5151 North Radial Highway, Omaha Nebraska 68104
Time: 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Bethany Lutheran Church is having it's free annual Trunk or Treat Event this October. This event includes trick or treating from trucks, a spooky maze, food, a bake sale, games, laser tag, a glow in the dark dance party and of course candy! This family friendly event begins at noon and ends at 2:00pm!
Bethany Lutheran Church:
Benson Baptist's Trunk or Treat
Benson Baptist Church
6319 Maple Street Omaha, Ne 68104
Time: 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
At the same time, the Benson Baptist Church is having it's own annual Trunk or Treat! This Truck or Treat Event is an Halloween Event with several themed trunks and of course candy! This family friendly event begins at 1:00PM and ends at 3:00PM
Benson Baptist Church:
Benson Out Back
South Alley from 60th St. to 60th Ave.
Time: 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Benson Out Back is a collaboration between Benson Neighborhood Association, Benson First Friday, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, and Benson BID to make the alleyways of Benson safer, greener and more accessible and welcoming! The alleyway from 60th St to 60th Ave. will be closed off and be filled with music, food, vendors, and public arts. There will be new public arts from Brent Houzenga, Watie White, and Nolan Treadway with existing public art from Maggie Weber, and Barrett Ryker!
There will also be a public demonstration on sawmilling from the Omaha Permaculture!
For More information about this event or how to get involved, please go to:
The Crepe Beyond Pop Up #3
5918 Maple St. Omaha, NE 68104
Time: 5:00 PM - 2:00 AM
The Crepe Beyond is doing a pop up shop at the Sydney this Sunday October 27th! Every crepe sold, $1 will be donated to the Heartland Family Services!
The Crepe Beyond Website:
The Sydney Website:
Heartland Family Services Website:
Omaha Zombie Walk 2018: The Roaring Twenties
56th North Radial Highway - 62nd Maple Street
Time: 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Gee Whiz! It's that time of the year again! The Annual Omaha Zombie Walk is ghoulifying the streets of Benson for the final event of the night! This year's theme for the walk is the "Roaring Twenties!" So feel free to wear your favorite pinstripe suit and fedora or your favorite evening dress and Clouche Hat and come on down to doll yourself up at one of our many makeup stations across the Benson Neighborhood.
The Zombie Walk begins at 6:00PM and will start at 56 NW Radial and end at 62nd Maple Street. All proceeds to the Omaha Zombie Walk will be donated to the The Sienna Francis House!
Be sure to follow the official Zombie Walk Facebook page to keep up to date on the latest news for the Zombie Walk!
The Siena/Francis House Website:
These are the sponsors this year to make the Omaha Zombie Walk the bee's knees:
"Jack" - Digitally Enlarged Woodcut - 2018 - West wall of Bärchen Beer Garden
If you have walked around the the Benson Area and noticed the life sized black and white portraits in the alleyways or ever looked up at the buildings at Midtown Crossing and saw the colorful murals, these will be the works of Watie White. Watie White is an Omaha based artist who works in the fields of printmaking, painting, and public art projects. Originally from Palo Alto, California and raised in Southern Illinois, Watie attended Careton College. He earned his Bachelors in Fine Arts at the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago and his Masters in Fine Arts at American University.
Watie's has worked on various different projects and series in different mediums. These range from oil to acrylic to linocut prints. His studio series called "Pulp" is a acrylic on paper project illustrating covers of pulp novels from the 1960s and 1970s while combining them with parts of entries from his personal journal. "Stolen" is a series of oil on canvas paintings and linocuts on paper that Watie asked the models of what their favorite painting is. After they have chosen one, Watie would make them mimic the painting and he would paint them as the models of the original painting.
"Laith" - Digitally Enlarged Woodcut - 2017 - East wall of Ted & Wally's
Watie White has also been doing large scale public art projects. He has worked for Habitat for Humanity, InCOMMON Community Development, Justice For Our Neighbors-NE, Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, and Omaha Public Schools to develop murals and installations for them. Some of these include "New Nebraskans": a series of woodcut portraits depicting immigrants and refugees that recently became Nebraska citizens, "All That Ever Was, Always Is": a collaborative project with Peter Cales of installing paintings based on the residents stories of the neighborhood into the houses of the homes that were going to be demolished, and "Lead Stories": a series of woodcuts telling the stories of people in the community who had childhood experiences to lead poisoning.
One of the current ongoing public art projects that Watie is doing is the "100 People" Mural Project. The "100 People" Mural Project is a series of digitally enhanced woodcut portrait murals which focuses on activists and advocates throughout the Greater Omaha Area. The subjects of the murals are people that Watie admires and provides a voice of them through the print of the mural. Recently, Watie has installed several of the "100 People" murals around the Benson area as part of the Benson Out Back Project; an art mural project to improve the alleyways of Benson. He has also installed several murals in The Blackstone District and the Vinton Street Area. As of the posting of this blog post, there are 27 7x4 woodcut murals spread across the Greater Omaha Area with plans to add many more to come in the upcoming months and years.
"Poplars (Collegiate Peaks)" - Woodcut - 2018
With studio work and public art projects, Watie’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, the Frist Center for the Arts, and the Joslyn Art Museum. He has also been featured in New American Paintings, Almagre, OYEZ Review, Omaha Magazine and the Omaha World Herald. He was also a featured speaker at the Art Expo Chicago, State of the Art Symposium and the Plains Art Museum.
"Related Histories" - Works of Waite White & Brent Houzenga - The Petshop Gallery
Currently Watie's studio work is on display along with Brent Houzenga, a New Orleans based painter and musician, in a gallery show named "Related Histories" at the Petshop Gallery in Benson. Stop on by The Petshop Gallery and check out the works of Watie and Brent! Be sure to check The Pet Shop Gallery's Facebook and Instagram for gallery hours and future Petshop Gallery events!
Here is a small photo gallery of abandoned pieces of furniture throughout the Benson area.
After an hour of wandering aimlessly through the Benson neighborhood just south of Maple St., we stumbled across this beauty that looks like it could've been stowed away in a hospital for the past 20 or so years. You can take a look at this shabby old girl on the intersection of Ohio and 56th St!
Next we have a pretty sweet velvet couch complete with a '90s feather pattern. This comfortable sofa only has a few stains and a limited amount of old cat hair. Old and a little sad, this "FREE" couch can be spotted resting at the corner of 48th and Wirt.
After about 3 hours of galavanting, we decided it was about time to retire, but not before snagging some pictures of this little blue recliner boy stationed behind Benson High School.
By Savannah Pickard
Written by Savannah Pickard
As a lot of you might already know, Benson First Friday was inspired by the monthly artist driven event by the same name in the Crossroads district of Kansas City, Missouri. While our First Fridays here only occupy a few blocks of Maple Street, Kansas City's has a radius of almost half of a mile.
In order to get an idea of how things work down there, I was sent on an elaborate recon mission to find out their secrets and recruit artists! Guided by an old friend who just so happens to be a KC native, I set off to explore the streets to draw some inspiration and gather info to bring back to the masses.
At first, I was taken aback by the wonderfully diverse hordes of people that ventured out to enjoy art in their city. First Fridays turn the Crossroads district into a melting pot of people from all over. It helps keep art alive in the city and expose people to artists and goods that they normally wouldn't get to enjoy otherwise. The sheer size of this event is something that we can only hope to achieve one day!
We also got to enjoy a lot of street performers and musical acts that had set up on various street corners. Local businesses also serve as artist spaces for those needing/wanting to set up inside! I think this would be a great thing to bring back home as it would help artists and business owners in Benson area.
I didn't expect to make as many connections as we did during our time there; so many artists were eager to give us their business cards and spend time talking to us about our mission with Benson First Friday. Hopefully we get to see some of the people we talked to make the trek to Omaha to get some exposure and help us grow as an event and organization as a whole!
With a fat stack of business cards and new friends, we plotted the course back home with new knowledge and ideas to implement into BFF. Down below you can view a slideshow of some of the super rad artists we met and art pieces we liked!
(Cat Grange, Intern, BFA student at UNO)
From ancient Greece to today, the rabbit has been a prolific and complex symbol in art history. It represents abundance, fertility, and Immaculate Conception – but also the insidious nature of unbridled lust. Thousands of artworks featuring Benson’s favorite furry thing have been produced since antiquity. So to celebrate the rabbit’s dynamic contributions to our visual language, I will be highlighting one of these artworks in a series of short articles, starting with GFP Bunny (AKA “Alba”).
In 2000, French scientists injected green fluorescent protein (GFP) from a jellyfish into the fertilized egg of a rabbit. It was part of Chicago artist Eduardo Kac’s project, which he described as transgenic art. The rabbit, named Alba, was born in April that year. Under normal conditions, she looked like any other albino rabbit with white fur and pink eyes. But under the correct lighting, she glowed fluorescent green.
Producing a glowing bunny was only one part of the transgenic project. As Kac said in his statement, “The second phase is the ongoing debate, which started with the first public announcement of Alba's birth.” Alba sparked discussion across disciplines, including art, biology, social sciences, law, and philosophy. What are the ethical implications of genetic modification and gene therapy? How does this affect our understanding of diversity and the way we treat individuals we perceive as “other”? What does this mean for the future of interactive art?
The third phase – if the project had been completed – would have steeped the conversation further in a social context. Eduardo Kac intended to integrate Alba into his home, giving her a life of normalcy that any other un-spliced pet rabbit could enjoy. But unfortunately, Alba died two years later for reasons unexplained, never having left the lab she was born in. It’s been speculated that the scientists involved wanted to distance themselves from the controversy started by Kac, but the truth is still unclear.
Despite its untimely end, the GFP Bunny project made significant strides in art in relation to science and technology. For that, Alba is worth celebrating.
Una Novotny, BFF Intern, written after an interview with Dana Jeck and Kaissa Inzunza
Art has historically been known to push the boundaries of societal norms, and has represented the changes that we make as a society to better ourselves and our understanding of others. However, in order for those changes to occur, we must continuously be critical of how things are working, and create spaces that allow voices to be heard that may otherwise go unnoticed.
This May, Omaha artists Kaissa Inzunza and Dana Jeck traveled for the second year in a row to the weekend long skate competition “Wheels of Fortune” in Washington. The event started 9 years ago, and as their website states, “is the longest running and largest skateboard showcase featuring female-identified (cisgender or trans), trans, and gender non-conforming athletes from around the world.”
As both artists are also skaters who identify as queer females, they were inspired by the immense amount of love and support that came from everyone in attendance, and the fact that a space exists to allow for the combination of their multiple passions, as well as providing a large platform for all of them to be shown, which may not be as available in other places.
Their experience last year led to six portraits, which portrayed 2017’s finalists and incorporate the distinct styles of both artists. They were drafted and finished over the course of two months while traveling throughout the West Coast on their way to Wheels of Fortune, and were displayed over the weekend, where they were seen not only by many of those finalists that returned in 2018, but by so many others that had been inspired by them as well. This portrait series will be shown along with Kaissa's independent work at Hugo's Gallery on July 27th.
Until recently, most professional skateboarders were male, and most representations of skating in mass media and pop culture stereotyped skateboarders as such. This event has grown in popularity, and many of the finalists they had seen only a year ago in 2017 are now sponsored by major brands, helping to break the stigma that all serious skaters are straight males.
This increased visibility has inspired many non-male identifying people to feel comfortable enough to enter
the skate community. Kaissa and Dana have brought this back to Omaha, and share the positivity and inclusivity
with our community. They have personally inspired me
as well as many others to be a part of Girl’s Skate Night,
which provides an area for people of all ages who may
feel excluded in other areas to develop their skills in an accepting and non judgemental environment.
As an intern with Benson First Friday, I have come to understand more deeply how important it is for communities to support their creatives, especially those whose work may not be accepted into other areas, whether it be because of the content, bias against the artist, or simply because they cannot afford to have it displayed elsewhere.
With this accessibility as well as inspiration from Dana, Kaissa, and so many others in the community that are working to create inclusive spaces, I am curating a show highlighting the work as well as the experiences of trans, queer, or non-gender conforming people, in which Kaissa’s independent paintings will be featured. The topic the show will mainly explore is how sex, sensuality, and self image is seen by those whose bodies or sexualities are not represented in the media or in society as a whole. Through learning from and understanding others we continue to grow the community into a place where everyone is encouraged to express every aspect of themselves.
If you are a visual, written, or performance artist and are interested in being a part of this upcoming September show, submit work to www.bensonfirstfriday.com/showcase.html
(Johnny Redd, Studio Art undergraduate at UNO)
I’m an autistic person, and I am also an artist.
I have trouble interpreting social cues. I have intense and narrow interests. I am bothered by aspects of the sensory environment that others can easily filter out.
These things make me autistic.
I also paint, draw comics, take photographs, and create digital art.
These things make me an artist.
In many ways, I often feel that the world expects me to choose between, or separate, these aspects of my identity. Whenever we are exposed to successful, well-adjusted autistic adults in media (which isn’t often, but that’s a whole other ordeal), we see socially-awkward male engineers, physicists, or computer programmers. These stereotypes are further cemented by representations of autistic, or autistic-coded, people in fiction, like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.
A lot of autistic people are scientists and engineers, and that’s great.
But a lot of us aren’t.
While many aspects of autism are actually game-changers in STEM fields, those same qualities can also be part of what makes an amazing artist.
Our society likes to define everyone as either “left-brain dominant” or “right-brain dominant.” This popular myth, which suggests that creative tasks are controlled by the right brain while logical reasoning tasks are controlled by the left brain, has contributed to a false binarization of the way our brains work; it has also been debunked countless times, and research has found that all functions of our brain benefit the most when both hemispheres work together in conjunction.
This false binary, arts versus STEM, can be seen everywhere in our world, and the separation comes from both sides. It’s not uncommon on any university campus to hear art students lament about how bad they are at math, and for math students to gripe about how they were forced to take art in high school for an elective.
This separation harms everyone, but it especially harms autistic people in the arts.
As a population, we are stereotypically grouped as “left-brained.” This is because misinformed junk-science states that the left hemisphere of the brain exclusively handles logic, reason, critical thinking, and numbers, all things that autistics are traditionally associated with.
The stereotype that autistic people have to be mathematicians, scientists, or engineers, and that these fields are the “opposite” of the arts, contributes to the marginalization of us in communities that are already hard enough for us to navigate socially.
I am an autistic person, and I am an artist.
But I am also a scientist.
All of the things that make me an artist, like my attention to detail, my ability to look at things from a fresh perspective, my drive to explore new ideas, my ability to hyperfocus on a project for hours, are all things that also made me a scientist.
For the first half of my college experience, I was a neuroscience student, and I loved it. It didn’t end up working out for me (darn chemistry), so I switched to art. While there was definitely a culture shock going from STEM to art, I found that there is a lot more overlap between the two fields than people think. The skills that I had gained from my science education, like careful planning, persistence, and observation, gave me an edge when I began my education in art.
Autistic people are often exceptional planners and observers of the world. We are this way because of how our brains are programmed; I plan every minute of my day because I cannot handle the anxiety of not knowing what is going to happen next; I need structure, and that comes from my autism. We must observe the world very closely compared to everyone else in order to function socially with other people. These skills actually translate to real-world benefits in both art and STEM fields.
Autistic people exist in the world as scientists and engineers, but we also exist in the world of art, music, and design, just like everyone else. Some of us, myself included, exist in both. The false binary of arts versus STEM is harmful to not only autistics, but also to us as a society because it stunts our collective growth.
We need engineers who are artists, and designers who are programmers, and mathematicians who play music. The only way we can push forward is if we stop pigeonholing everyone, autistic or not, and combine our collective strengths into one.
Our Newsroom editors are current interns of BFF - most are students at UNO.