KC students experience Hot Shops Art Center

Twenty-two Blue Valley Southwest High School students from Kansas City journeyed to Omaha (with their marketing/broadcast class instructor, of course) to become a video production crew for a day. After three hours of filming at seven different locations, two rounds of edits in four hours and twelve pizzas cashed, the students were ready to showcase their awesome ‘We Don’t Coast’ experiences.

The first in a series of seven, Hot Shops Arts Center.

“You can go to any old art museum just to view art, but here you can see where the ideas are made.”


Hot Shops Art Center is home to 58 art studios allowing artists to work and interact in a creative space. The 4 anchor studios are what put the ‘Hot’ in Hot Shops. This fiery discipline allows artists to create their work out of melted metals, molten glass and kilns of baked clay.

Many thanks to Tim Barry, one of Hot Shops founders, for helping create the experience.

Learn more about their stay and how this video came to life here.

Posted in We Explore |

This Was not One of Those Days…

Kim Sellmeyer, Creative Director, Greater Omaha Chamber

We all have those days – heavy workloads that leave little room for inspiration. This was not one of those days.

Let me set the stage for you: I’d received a call from Steven Cortez, a high school teacher at Blue Valley Southwest in Kansas City, asking if I might be interested in hosting his marketing/broadcast class (Wolfbyte TV) for a video production assignment in Omaha. 

…Um, yeah…

Steven has done this before – taking his classes to different communities to get real-world working experience by producing marketing videos for actual clients. When he asked his students where they wanted to go this year, they chose Omaha.

Even better, I was able to time their visit to coincide with CAREEROCKIT, the Chamber’s inaugural student/career experiences week (April 1-8) where over 12,000 of our local student’s were also having career experiences in the business community.

I worked on giving the students a ‘We Don’t Coast’ experience by prepping seven locations and creative briefs for direction. The students were on a very aggressive timeline. They would shoot for 2-3 hours in the morning and then edit for 2-4 hours that afternoon.

Photos left to right: Gritty City Video Group with Kim Sellmeyer, Dodge Street Video Group with Steve Gordan and BCycle Video Group with SecretPenguin. 

When they returned to the Chamber, raw footage in hand, they were buzzing with excitement and after two rounds of edits, they had completed files – clever, creative, real. As we recapped what they learned, three things stuck out to me:

  • The father/chaperone, originally from Omaha, who said how much our city has changed since he lived here 26 years ago
  • The student, previously a die-hard solo editor, who learned new techniques and otherwise discovered what a benefit it was to collaborate with her classmates
  • All of us learning how surprisingly good Ethan looked wrapped from head-to-toe in wax paper

I’m so proud of the work those students did and of their teacher caring so much and having the courage to haul 22 kids (his “munchkins”) to a different city so they could become a marketing production crew for a day. No small task…

I recently received a note from Steven saying the kids were still flying high from their time here. Me too.

Collaboration. Creativity. A glimpse into the potential of tomorrow’s workforce. It was truly a ‘no coasting’ kind of day.

Special thank you to all of the people and businesses that helped make this a great experience for our visitors.


Want to see the videos the students produced?
Hot Shops Art Center
 | Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium | Make Believe Studios | Midtown Crossing | Downtown on BCycles | Dodge Street | The Durham’s Gritty City Tour


Posted in We Explore |

Venerable Venues

Photo Courtesy: The Orpheum Theater
Excerpt from the “Omaha: We Don’t Coast” magazine:

We are a cultural hub, with new spaces and historic stages to explore. National and international artists, local and touring productions and many up-and-coming local artists are taking center stage and making a mark on Omaha’s vibrant theatre scene. Experience live entertainment at its best at one of these venerable venues.

The Orpheum Theater
– Recently renovated and Pollstar-ranked among the top 100 venues along with the acoustically engineered Holland Performing Arts Center. Omaha Performing Arts manages both venues and enlivens them with the finest in local and national performing arts.

Omaha Community Playhouse – Renowned for its two state-of-the-art theaters and continuous encore of first-rate, volunteer-powered productions.

Other treasured theaters:

  • Chanticleer Community Theater
  • Lofte Community Theater
  • The Rose Theater
  • Bellevue Little Theatre
  • Blue Barn Theatre



Photo Credits:
  Lofte Community Theater – Dialogue Farm
  Omaha Community Playhouse – Omaha World-Herald
  Blue Barn Theatre – Megan Farmer
  The Rose Theater – Courtesy of  The Rose Theater
  Holland Performing Arts Center – Linda Shepard

Posted in We Entertain |

World-class competition. Perfected here.

For months, we’ve celebrated the build-up. Now, Omaha is ready to show the world, once again, how we do champion-caliber competition.

More than 40,000 equestrian show jumping and dressage enthusiasts from 20+ countries are descending on the city for The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping & FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals, which run March 29 through April 2 at CenturyLink Center Omaha.

We beat out London, Hong Kong and s’Hertogenbosch for the right to host the FEI World Cup™ Finals. Although this is our first international professional championship, we’re quite adept at attracting and impressing sports fans from around the globe. We’ve played host to the Olympic swim trials in 2012 and 2016, and will host the Olympic team trials for curling later this year. Not to mention the fact that the College World Series has called Omaha home since 1950.

To our World Cup visitors, we say “Welcome.” Enjoy the graceful action and our Midwestern hospitality, our incredible dining and our other arts and entertainment options while you’re here. (The EQUUS film festival is hosting a tour stop at Midtown Crossing March 30 – April 1.)

We’re proud of our reputation – a community known for going above and beyond to make each competition successful – and we’re ready to earn it again. Saddle up. It’s going to be a great week.

#FEIWorldCupFinals #Omaha #WeDontCoast

Posted in We Win |

Omaha’s Home To History

Photos by Kent Sievers and Omaha World-Herald
Excerpt from the “Omaha: We Don’t Coast” magazine:

Located in the beautiful art deco Union Station, The Durham Museum is an Omaha treasure. Union Station itself is the museum’s largest artifact. In its hay day, it was one of the busiest stations in the nation. It had every amenity a passenger could ask for: 24-hour restaurant, news and magazine stand, barbershop, taxi stand, telegraph office and hospital. On May 2, 1971, the final passenger train took off and the station closed its doors, ending an Era.

The Durham Museum is filled with restored train cars, numerous artifacts and displays and traveling educational exhibits associated with the Smithsonian. Make a stop at The Soda Fountain and enjoy sundaes, ice cream sodas, malts, and other favorites. The museum is an opportunity to take a step back in time and discover Omaha’s rich and vibrant history. 

Posted in We Entertain, We Live |

CreativeMornings/Omaha – Meet Mackenzie Frei

Omaha is part of the global CreativeMornings community. This monthly breakfast lecture series is designed to highlight our creative community and adds to Omaha’s strong arts and culture scene and growing reputation.

After our February event featuring Omaha Street Percussion, we caught up with attendee Mackenzie Frei, film producer.

By JoAnna LeFlore

Grand Island, Nebraska native Mackenzie Frei is neither a shy nor boring personality to have encountered. We met her at last month’s CreativeMornings session and she entertained us with her wit and sense of humor as she shared why being in Omaha is so important to her.

“In the film industry, students and prospective filmmakers are encouraged to either become enslaved in the repetitive, non-creative, commercial realm or take ‘the risk’ and leave for the coasts to work on ‘real’ films. These opportunities do exist in Omaha, though they are hard to come by without networking,” Mackenzie explains.

“Doing my part is simply being open-minded about projects and talking with as many people as possible. ‘It’s not what you know, its’ who you know.’ If you believe you have no career chances here, you will not find them. Being a new mother, my free time is little-to-none, however, I try to volunteer my time on local short films and spread the word about Omaha filmmakers and regional projects.”

Mackenzie brags that some of her creative hobbies are writing fiction, making homemade dog treats, fishing and scriptwriting. But her commitment is most evident in her current profession as a producer at Dialogue Farm working with clients who need just a little push to tell their story. The Omaha based firm confidently offers a way to help others share a message without losing its uniqueness. This is a quality that Mackenzie takes to heart in her work.

“My passion lies in storytelling. Telling stories is my way of meditating. It releases all my pent up creative energy. With many pressures of becoming a functioning adult, expressing my creativity is the single most important self-help I’ve found. Some do yoga, some drink coffee – I write and daydream about plot lines.”

Mackenzie’s favorite moment from February’s CreativeMornings session with Omaha Street Percussion was witnessing everyone in the room clapping together in one syncopated rhythm. “There were people from different backgrounds, ages, ethnicities with different interests and careers that all participated in one collaborative sound,” she said. “We can all learn from each other and influence positive change for one another both professionally and personally.”

Photo by Eric Francis

How important is being a part of a creative community to you?
Dialogue Farm is located in the Image Arts Building at 2626 Harney Street. Within the Image Arts Building I see designers, photographers, videographers, actors, writers, audio engineers (and more) on a daily basis. Without having those individuals around Dialogue Farm, the business would become stale and stagnant. Creative minds inspire movement and new perspectives for growth and depth within the business and versatility in projects.

In your opinion, how should we celebrate one another’s uniqueness?
Celebrating uniqueness, to me, is all about acceptance. For too long uniqueness has meant people’s physical differences and appearances, which has created a sort of dissonance. To celebrate our uniquenesses is to allow everyone to do what they want, how they want.

“Live and let live.”

What might you look forward to by attending CreativeMorning lectures?
I would be very interested in listening from more accomplished artists on their inspirations, obstacles, and thought processes. Also, to hear more about opportunities to participate in creative projects locally.

You can connect with Mackenzie through the online CreativeMornings community or find her working passionately on her next project at

Posted in We Entertain, We Live |

CreativeMornings/Omaha – Meet Rita Paskowitz

Omaha is part of the global CreativeMornings community. This monthly breakfast lecture series is designed to highlight our creative community and adds to Omaha’s strong arts and culture scene and growing reputation.

After our January event featuring Dana Altman from North Sea Films, we caught up with attendee Rita Paskowitz, a storyteller and performance art teacher.

By JoAnna LeFore

When we asked Rita what her favorite pastime was she humbly replied, “listening to others tell their story.” Fitting for someone who graciously makes a living as a storyteller and performance art teacher. In January, Rita Paskowitz, who is known for warming up the crowd and inviting individuals into a sacred space on the stage or classroom, taught the CreativeMornings family how to tell a story through improvisation and collaboration with complete strangers.

“I believe if we all knew each other’s stories, we would have world peace,” she told the audience.

Rita is a well-traveled artist who delivers a dynamic experience, whether as an actress on stage or through her teaching. “I was really inspired by a woman named Nancy Duncan, who is the goddess of storytelling and she really wooed me into storytelling,” Rita says. “For me, it combines all of my skill sets: my ability to write, create, improvise and teach. It’s the best marriage of all of the things I can do. It takes me to so many amazing places too.”

Photo by Eric Francis

Having a professional background in spaces between Los Angeles, Minneapolis and New York City, she is no stranger to the hustle and fortitude of living as a creative entrepreneur.

While working at a Soho art gallery in New York City, she met artists like Faith Ringwall, a quilt artist, and Beverly Buchanan, a painter and installation artist.

Throughout her life, Rita has been inspired by many pieces, including three mosaic style paintings on small canvases. The South African artist told his story of how his brother was murdered by military men due to a violent civil rights issue over children protesting apartheid in their schools. “All of those children who died, they are my heroes,” she says. Rita’s entire apartment is also covered with paintings, sculptures, hand-crafted pieces and an 8-foot-tall wall stacked with books. Each piece of artwork has a story, and she uses those experiences in her teachings and workshops.

Another skill Rita embodies is dealing with human emotions. She tackles grief, depression, social justice, empathy and excitement all through the art of storytelling. She prides herself most in her mission to create an inclusive environment for her students and peers.

At a Lincoln-based alternative high school, she taught young artists aesthetic based education. Another inspiring piece, an abstract painting, was gifted by a student who was mentally ill and used art to express his hardships.

“I always make it a priority to create an atmosphere of permission and safety. Nothing that someone shares is wrong and we all have something to learn from each other.” Rita explains. “If you are alive and aware, everybody’s got something to teach you. And everybody has a story.”

As an Omaha resident, Rita has worked with local organizations including the Nebraska Arts Council as an Artist-in-Residence, TEDx Omaha, Temple Israel, Sienna Francis House, Joslyn Art Museum and a Storyteller-in-Residence at Ted E. Bear Hollow. She has also held countless workshops through non-profits, corporate organizations, universities, and schools.

As Rita continues her storytelling journey, she believes that her work is a calling and this is what inspires her to stay connected to Omaha. After attending CreativeMornings, she was inspired by so many people who were passionate about the arts. Rita hopes to continue to help others express their experiences and find the joy in living. If you wish to meet her one day or witness her on stage, you can watch her TEDx video or request her presence through the Nebraska Arts Council.

Posted in We Entertain, We Live |

2016 OMA-goodness Moments

Photos by Chris Machian, Ryan Soderlin and Mark Davis
Excerpt from the “Omaha: We Don’t Coast” magazine:

We loved our 2016 “OMA-goodness” moments – those shared experiences that got the masses talking and amping up Twitter. We had our share over the last year – whether we were welcoming the leader of the free world or the man who helped colonize Mars (on the big screen).

President Barack Obama (top left) – President Obama making Omaha his first stop after his final State of the Union address? That certainly grabbed our attention. Speaking to more than 10,000 people, he gave a shout to our new Baxter Arena (“It’s still got that new arena smell”) but more importantly, highlighted our strong economy.

Terence “Bud” Crawford (top right) – Crawford, Omaha’s own, defended his junior welterweight title at Madison Square Garden in February – and then in July beat back a challenge from previously undefeated Viktor Postol (28-1) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas – a highly-anticipated super-lightweight unification fight.

Tri-Faith Initiative (bottom left) – Christians, Jews and Muslims came together on one campus that celebrates our differences and promotes understanding. The initiative involving Temple Israel, Countryside Community Church and the American Muslim Institute (formerly American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture) is believed to be the first and only project of its kind in the world.

Alexander Payne (bottom right) – Oscar-winners, Alexander Payne, an Omaha native, and Matt Damon, a Hollywood superstar, filmed parts of Payne’s latest movie, Downsizing, around Omaha, setting off a selfie and Twitter frenzy. Locations included a neighborhood near 46th and Douglas St., Creighton Prep High School (Payne’s alma mater), La Casa Pizzeria and Borsheim’s in Regency Court.

Posted in We Entertain, We Live |

Masterworks on Display

Photo by Brad J. Williams
Excerpt from the “Omaha: We Don’t Coast” magazine:

We are a cultural hub, feeding all avenues of expression. Creativity is not confined here – and the sheer quality of our artistic continuum continually enhances the quality of our lives.

Joslyn Art Museum – Nebraska’s largest art museum, honored with a 2016 Governor’s Arts Award for its role in shaping “our state’s artistic landscape.” Over the last 85 years, the Joslyn’s collection has grown to include over 11,000 works – all of which can be seen free of charge.

Our area galleries also include:

  • 402 Arts Collective
  • Artists’ Cooperative Fine Arts Gallery
  • Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts / Carver Bank
  • Gallery 92 West / Fremont Area Art Association
  • Gallery 1510
  • Hot Shops Art Center
  • Harvester Artspace
  • Union for Contemporary Art
Posted in We Entertain, We Live |

We Welcome Sports Fans from Around the World

Photo by ONElapse Photography
Excerpt from the “Omaha: We Don’t Coast” magazine:

For four days in June, we were simultaneously home base and starting block for two of the biggest happenings in sports: the NCAA Men’s College World Series and the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.

We took tremendous pride in welcoming the tens of thousands of spectators who joined us for these overlapping marquee events – and showing them what “We Don’t Coast” means to us. More than a comment on our geography, it’s a synopsis of our attitude.


Posted in We Entertain, We Win |