By JoAnna LeFlore
Photo by Jeremy Dreier (jeremydreier.com)
Omaha has officially been accepted into the CreativeMornings community and has joined 157 other creative cities across the globe. 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 the inaugural November event featuring photographer and world traveler, Dean Jacobs, we caught up with attendee, John Henry, and wanted to introduce you to our new friend.
CreativeMornings-OMA: What is your hometown?
I was born and raised in LeMars, IA. The ice cream capitol of the world.
CM-OMA: What are some of your hobbies?
John: I don’t have any “hobbies” like whittling or making craft beer or yo-yoing or anything cool like that. But I’m open to ideas. I like work but I’m not sure that’s a hobby.
I spend all my free time with my family. We love getting outside for hikes, walks, runs, bike rides, picnics, swimming, sledding, skiing, etc. Moving about to see more of this amazing planet is becoming a higher priority.
Occasionally I work on side projects with/for friends and family. Last summer my brother Daniel and I made a documentary about our family history. I recently helped my friend Alex with his school board campaign.
CM-OMA: We are a community who has committed to ‘Not Coast.’ How do you help to push our community forward/what causes do you advocate for and participate in?
John: Before I left Omaha in 2013, my company (What Cheer) was quite active in community projects promoting art, technology, entrepreneurship, inclusiveness and progressive ideas. These included “I live in Omaha” (a community pride project), Empty Room (a creative space for artist and entrepreneurs), a bunch of Big Omaha “experiments” (including: Selective Perspective Detective Objective, Small Talk, Hot or Cold, others) as well as bake sales and other community events that supported positive ideas.
Since moving back in 2015, I haven’t been as involved in the community as I used to be. With the results of the recent election, I’m feeling more motivated to take a more active role.
CM-OMA: What is your creative passion?
John: People! Art exists to give humans a better understanding of the world around them. Design exists to make the world function better for humans.
CM-OMA: Have you attended CreativeMornings in another city in the past?
John: I have! When I lived in California I would frequent CreativeMornings in both San Francisco and Oakland. The most memorable session was David McCreath (then of Mule Design, now Slack). He did a live version of his podcast, It Might Get Personal. The theme was “Bravery.” It was a positive message that stuck with me.
CM-OMA: Describe your favorite moment of today’s CreativeMornings-Fantasy presentation?
John: It’s hard to choose. The whole event was incredibly special. It was something everyone needed after an especially long week. I think the thing that will stick with me the most is Dean Jacobs’ message about putting your whole self in. I will never hear “The Hokey Pokey” the same way again.
CM-OMA: How are you motivated to express your creativity?
John: I’m a lucky guy and able to do creative work to pay the bills. My influence ranges from visual brand to user interface to user experience to product design. Outside of my day job, I often like to use the same mediums I use during the day. However, I’m a little selfish. If I’m doing work outside of work, I like to get something out of it for myself. That could be learning or trying something new, or supporting people or causes I care about.
CM-OMA: How important is being a part of a creative community to you?
John: Super important! As mentioned before, people are the reason for art and design. Your own community understands that as much as you do and will support your own mission. Being at Omaha’s first CreativeMornings reinforced how important that is.
CM-OMA: In your opinion, how should we celebrate one another’s uniqueness?
John: Empathy. Knowledge. Kindness.
The messages of hatred disseminated during this election are a threat to the values of every creative community. We have to fight anger with empathy, ignorance with knowledge and hatred with kindness.
We just learned the battle is a little bigger than we originally thought, but I hope that motivates us to make the world a better place for all people.
CM-OMA: What might you look forward to by attending CreativeMornings in the future?
John: I look forward to seeing familiar faces, welcoming new people, drinking delicious coffee and starting my Friday with positive excitement for what’s next.
CM-OMA: Who is your favorite cultural leader and/or artist of all time?
John: Oh, boy. That’s a big question. I’m not sure I can limit it to just one.
So, I’d say the person I don’t know yet. The person who pushes for what she believes in and hasn’t gained recognition. The person who stays up late and gets up early to create the thing that feeds something within and makes the world a better place.
We need more of this person.