Being Inspired Every Day Is My Livelihood

Portraits  ©Laurie and Charles

©Laurie and Charles

Laurie’s Story

From a very young age, my mother made conscious efforts to expose my siblings and I to the arts.  Of course at the time, I may not have even truly understood the profound impact that art classes, theater attendance, museum shows, would have.  There was a deep love of Broadway shows that extended to my grandmother and grandfather.  Various art projects were always on our walls, even framed, subtly showing my siblings and I that our artistic voices mattered.  Growing up in Dundee, I came to know and love everything Dundee meant to Omahans.  It was in the sunks of Happy Hollow that I explored visually after a late spring snow storm in 1986 with my first camera, a Pentax  K1000.  In fact, as I reflect on my early memories of always being ‘the friend with the camera’ I know that my early draw to photography was (and remains today) people.  The people of Omaha were the best subjects in the world.

Central High School created a lasting impact on how I view the world and continues to be influential today.  At Central, I experienced diversity and culture in a way that taught me so many lessons.  It was an honor to be amongst so many different people, a microcosm of the world in one school.   I still value that experience and know it has impacted how I have been a parent.    Difference is celebrated.  Everyone is unique.  Visually, Central’s architectural beauty never ceased to amaze me.  I loved being able to walk to the Joslyn Art Museum’s galleries and continue to love the close vicinity of these two great Omaha institutions.  Looking back on my younger years in Omaha, it’s hard to separate one aspect as all these pieces- exposure to arts, cultural diversity, and great, kind community- that have influenced and shaped where I am today.

Composition Football Paris ©Laurie Victor Kay

Composition Football Paris ©Laurie Victor Kay

My path to visual arts clearly began early, was formed in Central’s art studios, and later took me to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College.  There may have been a time in my life that I was admittedly nerdy about school, seeing arts not as a career but more as an interest, a passion.  Understanding that I could make this passion a career was enlightening.  In fact, it was Omaha that drew me back to do this in 1995.  It was in an Omaha photography studio that I serendipitously crossed paths with my husband Charles.  We had both moved home after our big city experiences- mine in Chicago, his is New York and LA.  We knew immediately we would share an incredible visual journey together through love and life.

During my twenty year career as a photographer in Omaha, I have photographed countless amazing faces of our beautiful city.  My visual journey is intricately tied to living here.    This is a town where people care for one another.  It where philanthropy combined with creativity and energy gets great things done.  I love seeing how interconnected the many creative pieces are in this city.    The creative is layered with culture on so many different levels.    When I refer to creativity, I’m also referring to organizations that are doing work in areas of the city that need it most.

So you ask, what is my livelihood?

My livelihood is life in Omaha that includes diversity, culture, intelligence, creativity, peacefulness, kindness, and thoughts of living in the nation’s best city.  My livelihood is one that includes creating portraits of people in our community that they can enjoy in their homes for years to come.  The happiness this gives me is immense.  I could not creatively do any of this if I was not inspired every day.  Living in Omaha gives me just that- liveliness about life.

About Lauriekay 2

Exploring and interpreting her surroundings through the lens of a camera, photographer Laurie Victor Kay studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College in Chicago where she received her B.F.A. in photography in 1995.  For the past twenty years, she and her husband Charles have collaborated, owning their studio Laurie and Charles Photographs. Their commissioned portraits have attracted clients to Omaha from across the country. Laurie and Charles’ extensive client list includes Fortune 500 companies, Accenture, AT&T, Citibank, and more, publications such as the New York Times, Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, and notables such as Tiger Woods and the Tiger Woods Foundation. Laurie’s work is represented by galleries in New York, Chicago, Sun Valley, and is in prominent collections throughout the US. She has been featured in Photo District News, New York Mag. and Camera Arts, and was a past winner of the Prix de la Photographie.

Laurie Victor Kay’s work can be seen as part of the Art Seen: A Juried Exhibition of Artists from Omaha to Lincoln exhibit at the Joslyn Art Museum from
June 21- October 11, 2015

The LUX Is My Livelihood

LUX Pottery Wheel

Jo Ann’s Story
My Livelihood is making art accessible to lots of different people.

The question most frequently asked is what medium I work in. Because I think I’m funny, I tell people I’m the chief bureaucrat of LUX Center for the Arts.   I’ve worked for a variety of non-profit organizations prior the LUX.  The commonality for me is trying to make the world around me just a little bit better. Somewhere along the road, that led me to art.

Making art is a perfect conduit for expression. It is a way to communicate that transcends language, age, or ability.  Just recently, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with my husband’s 101-year-old uncle.  We planned a day that would easily tire someone half his age!  On our list was a tour through the LUX and the Sheldon.

LUX Saturdays mean many children coming in for art class. Art (that’s his name!) and the rest of the family toured the center, but when we came to the studios, Art just stood there—barely needing his cane—and smiling–watching the children working on paintings around the table.  As we left the room, Art said that he has hope for our future.

The man has seen a lot in his years, but watching youngsters making art gives him hope. His words stuck with me–an “aha” moment.

In a world where there is hunger, disease, war, and poverty, it is sometimes difficult to IMG_4891justify why funding for the arts is important. While we provide those vital things that make the present better, we also have to plant the seeds that make tomorrow worthwhile.

Opportunities to create are few for today’s children. School principals, especially those with high needs populations, make tough decisions about how to spend their resources.  While art classes are mandated, they are underfunded.

This is why my livelihood is the LUX. I get to work with trained artists every day.  They use their talents to teach—to make tomorrow worthwhile.  We take on the responsibility of teaching art classes for children in our community—especially for kids who live in low-income households. We work to level the playing field so all children have the chance to become tomorrow’s innovators and creative problem-solvers. That gives me hope.

About Jo AnnDSC_5165
Jo Ann Emerson has called Nebraska home for the past 12 years. She is passionate about building community through shared arts experiences.  When not working she can be found in her kitchen either cooking or reading about cooking.  She considers cooking her art.

Jo Ann loves warm and beachy vacations with her husband and friends. She loves hanging out with her daughters and five grandchildren. Lloyd, the Golden Retriever, is her biggest fan.


To learn more about The LUX

100th Blog Posting for the Nebraska Cultural Endowment


This is the 100th Blog posting for the Nebraska Cultural Endowment since beginning the blog, “What’s Your Livelihood?” in November 2012.

What does “livelihood” mean to Nebraskans?

We created this blog to help answer that question. This is a place for our community to come together, embrace culture, and share how the arts and humanities have played an essential role in inspiring our livelihoods.

“What’s Your Livelihood?” has received nearly 14,000 views from 99 different countries. Here is a look back at some of the past livelihood blogs and people that make our state so rich in the arts and humanities.

Band Is My Livelihood

IMG_1003Tony’s Story: I didn’t come from a musical family. My mother was an English teacher and my father was a mortgage banker. There were pianos at both of my grandparents’ houses though, and I suppose my earliest musical curiosities were explored on those instruments. It became clear early on however that my inclinations were percussive.  Posted on January 27, 2014 .

Tribal Culture Is My Livelihood

Taylor KeenTaylor’s Story : Our identity is everything to us as human beings. I was born into two tribes, the Omaha, and the Cherokee. I was adopted at birth into the earthen Bison clan (Black Shoulder or Inke’cabe). My name is Ba’gee-zha, which means Bison Mane, literally, but refers to the transformation of an alpha male whose head and neck enlarge dramatically as he must physically fight for the vitality of the tribe. Our goal as Omaha Indians is to live up to the metaphor of our names so that our tribe will thrive.  Posted on June 11, 2013 .


Seven Doctors Project Is My Livelihood


Steve’s Story: Seven Doctors Project, which I formed in spring 2008 at the Nebraska Medical Center, was an experiment—of the non-scientific variety. I wanted to see what would happen if mid-career physicians who were encountering job dissatisfaction or burnout joined a writing workshop led by area writers. I also wanted to see what would happen if the physicians were placed, maybe for the first time in quite a while, in the apprentice position.  Posted on August 12, 2013 .

Shakespeare Is My Livelihood


Mike’s Story: In my time as the managing director of the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, I was fortunate to witness countless examples of how the arts transcend the creative experience to touch and affect the rest of our lives—and, how public funding for the arts makes that possible. Posted on January 21, 2013 .

Textiles Are My Livelihood

Orange Dots DetailMary’s Story: I grew up in the 1950s in Niles, Michigan. I went to the neighborhood catholic grade school and it was there that I was first initiated into the rituals of color, symbols and cloth. My mentor, a catholic nun named Mother Padua, suggested I give up my recess time and spend it, instead, in church, dusting statues, cleaning holy water fountains, and laying out the liturgical vestments for daily mass. I routinely tore through my daily church chores so I could linger in front of the massive wooden armoire full of liturgical garments, arranged by color and ancient code, long, flowing, magnificent robes, covered with symbols and embroidery, gilded as if angels had made them. What was cloth this magical doing in my little church in my little town? Posted on June 3, 2014.

What’s your livelihood?  Share your story with us. 

At the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, our mission is to cultivate a legacy of stability, advocacy and leadership for the arts and humanities in Nebraska. Learn more.





Culture Is My Livelihood

Mary’s Story
Mary Yager
When I was thirteen my mother gave me a paperback copy of Bess Streeter Aldrich’s A Lantern in Her Hand. The book told the story of a girl who grows up in the Nebraska Territory in the late 1800s.We had just moved from Nebraska to California, and the gift may have been my mother’s way of encouraging me to know and appreciate my heritage on the plains. It worked! I developed a love for history, Nebraska, and reading.

Eventually, we returned to live in Omaha where my mother helped me expand my interests to include film, theater, dance, and music at venues like the Jewish Community Center, Omaha Community Playhouse, Omaha Ballet, and Omaha Symphony. I have fond memories of seeing classic films (before they were routinely available on cable television), volunteering through my teen years as an usher for Omaha Ballet so that I would have the opportunity to see every single production, and hearing Itzhak Perlman with the Omaha Symphony playing music too beautiful to have imagined.

Today, I continue to cherish A Lantern in Her Hand and the effect it had on me. Beautifully written, it not only infused me with a lifelong love of history and reading, but also helped me  develop my passion for the arts and humanities..

About MaryMary Yager
As associate director for the Nebraska Humanities Council, Mary Yager enjoys visiting communities as state coordinator for the Museum on Main Street program, and working with individuals and organizations across the state as manager of the council’s speakers bureau and in counseling grant applicants and recipients. Mary also assists with fiscal and administrative matters for the council. Mary received a B.A. in history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and prior to joining the staff at the Nebraska Humanities Council spent 21 years developing, managing and evaluating programs for the National Arbor Day Foundation.

What does “livelihood” mean to Nebraskans?

We created this blog to help answer that question. Nebraskans from all walks of life join us in embracing culture by sharing how the arts and humanities have played an essential role in inspiring their livelihoods.

At the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, our mission is to cultivate a legacy of stability, advocacy and leadership for the arts and humanities in Nebraska. Learn more.