Arts Education Is My Livelihood

Tom’s Story
At Metropolitan Community College, we believe creativity drives job creation, produces workforce growth, and fuels economic development. That’s why our visual arts classes combine creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship._DSC1105

My passion is to ensure faculty and students have the tools they need to be successful and produce great art. Not only are they producing great art, but students are developing their conceptual skills, their creativity skills, and their problem solving and critical analysis skills. My reward is seeing MCC students and faculty succeed. During the past year:

  • MCC received the 2014 Thomas C Woods Partner in the Arts Award from the Nebraska Arts Council, and adjunct ARTS instructor Steve Tamayo is the 2014 Heritage Award winner.
  • MCC ARTS instructor Jamie Burmeister was the 2013 Omaha Entertainment and Arts award winner as best 3D artist.
  • Three MCC students produced and directed short films that were accepted into the Omaha Film Festival.MCC art
  • MCC’s Photo program cohosted, with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln photo program, the Midwest Regional Society of Photographic Educators conference in Lincoln.
  • MCC ARTS student Lisa Schlotfeld painted one of the pianos for the, “Play Me I’m Yours,” public art project.
  • MCC Interior Design Students teamed up with Habitat for Humanity and local design professionals to create room vignettes, using items from the Habitat ReStore. The vignettes were on display at Westroads mall.
  • MCC playwriting and acting students wrote and produced one act plays and performed these plays at each of our campuses and centers.
  • We established the Commonwealth Gallery, where students create work that is available to the general public for purchase.

The highlight of the academic year is our annual student art exhibit at our Gallery of Art and Design at the Elkhorn Valley Campus, 204th and West Dodge. The student show includes Art, Animation, Graphic Design, Photography and Video. Students earn scholarships for award-winning work and, thanks to the MCC Foundation, some student work is purchased and added to the college’s permanent art collection. The student show opens April 24th, with awards announced at 6:00pm. Hope to see you there!

About Tom McDonnell, Tom
Tom McDonnell has been Dean of Humanities and Visual Arts at Metropolitan Community College since 2008. He has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University, a Master’s in communication from Eastern Illinois University and a Doctorate in higher education leadership from Northcentral University. He has more than 23 years of experience in community colleges, working in a variety of capacities. He also chairs MCC’s Public Art Committee, which seeks to identify good locations for public art on MCC’s campuses and acquire work which speaks to the mission of the College as a comprehensive institution of higher learning.

Clay and Fun Are My Livelihood

Iggy’s Storydotted cone
It started in Detroit as a kid when I took a class in ceramics. I was attracted to fire and heat and the fact that you need muscle to carry around the heavy clay. My instructor was someone I could ask questions of, like if certain ideas were good or if the piece could hold together structurally. He encouraged me to explore for myself whether it was going to work or not, and let failures be a natural part of the learning and creativity process.

I asked myself what was going to be fun for me and I decided I wanted to make my existence to revolve around creating with clay. And so I continued to push myself.

I got my degree in ceramics and sculpture, and when I finished school, I worked forsigns a year at Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery doing outreach for youth. Not long after that, I found my way to Omaha and worked for Jun Kaneko for three years. I learned from Jun just how much ability one person has. I had my first personal studio space at Kaneko, and learned what studio culture is really like. Seeing the conversion of raw material into polished product was intriguing and drew me into studio work with a passion.

I learned from Jun just how much ability one person has.

In 2009, I started to think about what was next for me after Kaneko. I did an art
show at Jackson Artworks, now Anderson O’Brien. It was a very positive experience, and the community was hugely supportive and interested in my work. I went to Omaha ClayWorks and spent two years renting space and showing work, exploring concepts, and learning to maintain my own space without infrastructure or support. I made really good friends in the Omaha art community. My show at The New BLK in 2010 was a great experience for me because a whole new group of people was exposed to my work. It gave me another level of confidence. When people believe in my work, it pushes me to believe in what I’m doing even more.

When people believe in my work, it pushes me to believe in what I’m doing even more.

I moved to my current studio in 2012. I enjoy the experience and recognition I birds on wirereceive as an independent studio artist. I do a lot of community education and outreach for people with different abilities. I work with WhyArts?, I’m an artist-in-residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and I teach ceramics and sculpture at College of Saint Mary.

With my art, I like speaking in a universal language of colors, shapes, and forms. I’m not super conceptual and I don’t focus too hard on context. It can be disorienting. I like making something you can see and understand right away. I like to put an emphasis on everyday things you might overlook, like sewer caps or birds on a wire. My art merges the natural world and industry, not in a negative way, but in a more ambiguous and thought-provoking way. I like my audience to do a little thinking for themselves, so I tend not to give people the answer.

I like to put an emphasis on everyday things you might overlook, like sewer caps or birds on a wire.

About Iggy
Michigan-born ceramic sculptor Iggy Sumnik received his BFA from Detroit’s Wayne State University in 2004. He currently maintains a studio in Omaha, Nebraska.

After Sumnik’s three-year ceramics apprenticeship with international sculptor Jun Iggy SumnikKaneko, he emerged from the master’s studio and mentoring to create a Fantasia all on his own. Though his 3D art acknowledges Kaneko’s influence, particularly with regard to organic shapes, geometric patterns, repetition and technical skill, there the similarity ends. Sumnik’s objects are smaller in scale and less idealistic. Instead, his Jelly Beans, Cloud Forms, Zulu Pipes, Totems, Hybrids, and additional representational forms dance and pose like figures from the Disney animated symphony. Beneath the whimsy and humor of this wizard’s imagery is a social conscience whose main objective is achieving balance with all natural and manmade environments.

One of the least known and appreciated faculties of Sumnik is his power of observation, particularly when it comes to the little things in life, or the details in a finished work of art. The artist is aware of his environment underfoot and all around with an appreciation of both industrial and natural design, especially where they overlap or coexist.

Opera Is My Livelihood

Roger Weitz

Roger’s Story
I’ve enjoyed listening to, singing, and playing music for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Omaha, I sang in school and church as well as the Nebraska Children’s Chorus. I attended a small liberal arts college not particularly known for its music program and in addition to traditional entry-level courses also enrolled in private piano study, the freshman chorus, and a classical music appreciation class. What I thought were extra-curricular activities all served as gateway drugs and I became hooked. My appreciation class led to music history, which led to music theory. Chorus led to private voice study, which led to studying opera and song repertoire. Opera grabbed me with its enthralling and immersive combination of music, text, theatre and visual; I found the whole to be so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Between my junior and senior years Opera Omaha granted me a summer internship. I helped them prepare for upcoming productions including that summer’s “Arts on the Green” at the Joslyn Museum, an educational program going on tour that fall to central and western Nebraska, and the next season’s world-premiere opera of Eric Hermannson’s Soul by Libby Larsen based on a short story by Willa Cather. It was this experience with Opera Omaha that inspired me to pursue a career in arts administration. My eyes were opened to the myriad of activities that happen behind the scenes to create and support art. I learned then that it takes just as much creativity to manage a successful arts organization as it does to perform on the stage.

After college I moved to Chicago and began a ten-year tenure with the city’s “second” opera company, Chicago Opera Theater. The company had just signed on a new General Director, Brian Dickie, who had been tasked with transforming the regional organization into a nationally and internationally recognized company, all while moving from a neighborhood theater to a brand new venue in downtown Chicago. It was fortuitous timing as I had the opportunity to learn from and participate in that transformation. The values I learned there guide me to this day.

I am now back in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska and serve as the General Director of Opera Omaha, the company that gave me my start. I am privileged to be able to make opera my livelihood and strive to produce and support world-class art to further enrich our cultural community.


About RogerRoger Weitz
Omaha native Roger Weitz is General Director of Opera Omaha. He holds a degree in music from Carleton College where he studied voice and sang in multiple ensembles. After college Weitz began a decade-long tenure with Chicago Opera Theater under the leadership of Brian Dickie. During the last three years in Chicago he served as Chicago Opera Theater’s General Manager, having worked as the company’s Artistic Administrator for seven years prior. There he managed the planning and execution of over 30 new productions working with illustrious artists and creative teams from the U.S. and abroad. Between his posts as Artistic Administrator and General Manager of Chicago Opera Theater, Roger spent a year in Washington, DC as an Arts Management Fellow in a highly selective program at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


Fashion Design Is My Livelihood

Buf’s Storyimage001
I am a fashion designer.

I am so much more than that, though. I am simultaneously a designer, coordinator, seamstress, manager, parent, partner, doughnut-eater, Sherlock enthusiast, and plenty more. Some of those are more important than others, but many require a great deal of time and energy.

I have been a designer for a greater amount of years of my life than not. If I had to say one thing is my livelihood it would have to be that. It pushes me to my limits. It tests my strengths and sheds light on my weaknesses. Designing has become its own being inside of me that I need to nourish, control, and discipline.image

Accepting the label “designer” took a long time to do. I kept thinking that there were some special qualifying factors that came into play that when I achieved them, I would be able to validate the label. I would wince when people called me a designer for fear of being called-out as a phony. It took years to realize that I don’t go a single day without conceptualizing, gaining inspiration, or piecing together looks in my head. I take inspiration from some of the most mundane tasks. When my brain has reached capacity, my hands lay out the structures for a collection of clothing thatimage002 have envisioned from the first sketch to the final model walk. This process can take a few days or a few years to reach fruition. Each collection will exhaust my physical and emotional being to points I had never known. It pushes me a little further and I take comfort in knowing that I will get through it because I always have before.

My next major show in August at Omaha Fashion Week will involve creating the specific fabric design for my gowns, creating the accessories, designing and building the set, creating the lighting, figuring out sound and music, casting models, planning hair and makeup, and pulling it all together for a show that will last a matter of minutes. Then we immediately tear it all down and move on to the next show. While all of this may seem arbitrary and unnecessary to many, this is my passion. This is my livelihood.

About Buf
Buf Reynolds was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. She has been designing and creating garments for 18 years. Buf has a wide-range of designs that stem from a desire to educate herself and push her aesthetic forward.
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Buf is the Designer Coordinator for Omaha Fashion Week. She is helping raise two boys with her partner, James, in Omaha. She can be found drinking coffee, going to PTO meetings, singing when she thinks no one is around, thrift shopping, and generally making an ass of herself by over-sharing. She has thoroughly enjoyed speaking in the third person throughout this.

For more information or to get involved in Omaha Fashion Week go to

Designer applications close April 4th.

Textiles Are My Livelihood

Carolyn’s Story
My passion for textiles began before I really can remember. My earliest memories are watching my mother’s hands fly as she fed fabric under the needle on her sewing machine. I was sure she was going to catch her finger instead of fabric!

My father couldn’t pound a nail into the wall without hurting himself, so Mom was also in charge of all home repairs. I was her assistant. I learned how to take her sewing machine and the vacuum apart and oil all of the pieces. The small cupboard we constructed is still hanging in a corner in the house. As a teen I was embarrassed when, instead of buying an interesting item, Mom would ask if she could draw a pattern!

My mother and I explored whatever was fashionable in the craft world—embroidery, carolyn_verticalknitting, crochet, clothing construction, macramé, fabric painting. I wasn’t patient enough to match pattern pieces or undo work when I dropped stitches, so I gravitated towards embroidery and crocheting. I still have the turquoise purse with a yellow flower that I crocheted at age 8 and the denim work shirt that I thought was the epitome of cool in high school. As an adult, I honed my embroidery skills and began to design my own pieces.

I also became fascinated with historic textiles. I frequented the library, looking for inspiration. It was during my “sampler stage” that I discovered quilts. The stories, the colors, and the life in the quilts fascinated me. I slept under a quilt made by my grandmother. Suddenly the fabrics—from my blouses, my dad’s pajamas, my mother’s dresses and my sister’s prom gown had more meaning. There was a connection there that brought me great comfort and kept me cozy at night.

When I returned to school after a couple of attempts to find a career that intrigued me, I decided to pursue my passion for needle arts. I got degrees in art history, focusing on American textiles. And then, at nearly the exact time I returned to Nebraska to pursue my PhD, nearly 1,000 quilts arrived. I’ll never forget the feeling when I read the newspaper article that announced the donation. I knew at that moment my life had changed. I just didn’t know how much, or how wonderfully, it had.

I was hired as Curator of Collections at the International Quilt Study Center in 1998: my dream job. I’ve traveled the world, made great friends, and literally played with quilts nearly every day since then. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

About Carolyncarolyn_square
Carolyn Ducey is curator of collections at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She oversees new acquisitions and ongoing care of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum’s collection of nearly 4,500 quilts.

Carolyn earned a M.A. in American art history from Indiana University in 1998, and her Textiles, Clothing & Design, with an emphasis in quilt studies at the University of Nebraska in 2010. She has curated a number of exhibitions, including “Chintz Appliqué: From Imitation to Icon,” “What’s in a Name: Inscribed Quilts,” and co-curated “Quilts in Common.” She is author of the monograph Chintz Appliqué: from Imitation to Icon, (2008), and co-author of What’s in a Name: Inscribed Quilts (2012).