CreativeMornings/Omaha – Meet Jamaal Chinn

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 our December event featuring Ruth Meints from the Omaha Conservatory of Music, we caught up with attendee Jamaal Chinn, a creative who believes that entrepreneurship and making noise go hand-in-hand.

Meet Jamaal Chinn

By JoAnna LeFlore

Jamaal is drumming up attention for arts and culture in Nebraska through his creative agency WKND LDRS (Weekend Leaders). What began as an idea to inspire himself in 2014 quickly evolved into a fresh approach toward collaboration, entrepreneurship and a new social movement.

“WKND LDRS is about stepping outside of the box. It’s about leading your life in a creative way. It’s about this Kaizen mentality: about being positive, progressing forward and self-development. I wanted to make personal development and creativity cool again.”

Kaizen is a principle taken from a Japanese business model of doing the greatest good with an idea. Jamaal’s idea to take this framework and apply it to his passions turned into the building of a new brand for establishing cultural development and personal growth. He also realized his strengths were magnified through collaborations with others – so he brought in a few friends, including photographer Michael Garrett, singer/songwriter Todd Zach, Jr., and videographer Christiann Gilchrist.

The agency first started making noise through its soundcloud channel, which features weekly “We Don’t Coast Wednesdays” playlists powered by Nebraska’s own music artists and lyricists. Local music enthusiasts, spreading between Omaha and Lincoln’s college crowd, are taking notice. WKND LDRS recently added event production to its portfolio, hosting a live music event in Lincoln, Nebraska, that showcased over a dozen musicians, producers, dancers and lyricists.

Prior to launching WKND LDRS, Jamaal tried his hand at developing a digital magazine, a clothing line and even an art collective. After experiencing limited success – and receiving his Master of Arts in Management from Doane College – he moved to Austin, Texas, where he found a stride for his passions working for a couple of startup tech firms.

“After doing some traveling I knew, I had to come back. From what I saw in other cities, I realized what Omaha doesn’t have and that’s where my motivation began. Working formerly in other creative agencies and watching how they operate sparked things up. Being halfway between New York and LA, I wanted to be a part of something that my friends could say, ‘Oh there’s some cool things happening here.’ I wanted to make more noise and make people want to come to Nebraska.”

Jamaal hopes to inspire others to create the environments they want to be in and not feel guilty about pushing the envelope for the arts and culture scene in Nebraska.

“We started this brand because we wanted to see things that we liked and be unapologetic about it. … We’re getting together and saying we can create an environment wherever we go. We’re creating a network to help support each other and grow our own ideas.”

Constantly seeking inspiration from others, Jamaal says what he enjoys most about CreativeMornings is the chance to be around other passionate people and gain some exposure.

Photo by Eric Francis

“What stuck out for me about CreativeMornings was that it was not so much focused on tech. It offers a diverse crowd with the monthly themes and I’m glad to hear the storytelling. People are just so engaged when you look around the room. I’ve left each one with more energy and enthusiasm for the day.”

Keep up with Jamaal Chin online and grab your seat at the next WKND LDRS function, the details of which are usually posted via their digital magazine or on Instagram @WKNDLDRS.

Posted in We Launch, We Live |

Photographing The University of Nebraska at Omaha

By Ryan Henriksen 

Having the responsibility of documenting an entire university is an exciting challenge. The University of Nebraska at Omaha is home to a vibrant community of students, faculty and staff with endless photographic opportunities happening every day. It is inspiring to be around so many smart and talented people in all different academic fields, but knowing what to photograph and when to be there can be a daunting task. A large part of my job is to stay on top of what is happening on campus and to know what can make for a thoughtful image to help tell the story of the university.

Annual events like Durango Days and the Signature Service Days are opportunities for me to explore the campus and the community to document what students are doing and the positive impact they have in Omaha. On the rare occasion, I have an open schedule, I spend time walking around campus and through buildings I haven’t visited in a while. This helps me reconnect with professors and students to find new stories and get new photo ideas.

There have been a few times I haven’t had advance notice to plan out a shoot. Events like the President of the United States visiting Baxter Arena can’t be planned out in advance but knowing its historical significance for the university and for Omaha, I needed to make sure to cover every different aspect of the day.

The job has also taken me outside the city. I traveled to India over the summer with Dr. Patrick McNamara, Director of International Studies and Programs at UNO, to document his work with partner universities and his research on water quality. I was able to plan out what gear to bring but each day brought a new unexpected adventure.

I go to work every day excited for the planned events and ready for the unexpected. Each day is new opportunity for me to do my part in adding to the visual history and help tell the story of this great university.


Ryan Henriksen has been the multimedia specialist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for 2.5 years, telling the story of the university on campus and abroad. Prior to that he worked as a staff photographer for newspapers across the country documenting and telling the stories of people in their communities.

Posted in We Inspire, We Launch |

Omaha Musicians Included in Global Collaborative Playlist

CreativeMorning communities – around the world – have helped create to a global collaborative playlist, recommending songs that represent the “sound” of their city. The Greater Omaha Chamber huddled with Hear Nebraska to select three songs/artists to be included:

To check out the entire CreativeMornings playlist – and more of the story behind it – visit (If you want to listen to songs in their entirety, you will need a Spotify account.)

Learn more about the CreativeMornings – Omaha community at



Posted in We Entertain, We Live |

CreativeMornings Omaha – Meet John Henry Muller

By JoAnna LeFlore
Photo by Jeremy Dreier (

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.

2016. CreativeMornings inaugural event. Fantasy with Dean Jacobs. Photo by Eric Francis

Photo by Eric Francis

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.

CreativeMornings – OMA

Posted in We Launch, We Live |

Benson First Friday

#BensonFirstFriday Instagram Take Over and blog by:
Bill Sitzmann, Sitzmann Photography

View Bill’s photo story of Benson First Friday.


artistpaintingmural parkay-jump man-signing
2016. Benson First Friday. Photo by Bill Sitzmann 2016. Benson First Friday. Photo by Bill Sitzmann






It was 1917 when Benson was annexed into Omaha. Almost 100 years later, it has become home to one of the largest outdoor art galleries in the state. Alleys are enhanced by local artists, adding to the makeup of this impressive Omaha neighborhood. I spent an evening capturing the August Benson First Friday where diversity in culture and thought are celebrated. I saw everything from a shrine to Husker football legends past, juxtaposed against a giant mural tributing Mother Earth and all she enables.

See more of Bill’s story.




Posted in We Inspire, We Live |

The Omaha Film Festival: Entertaining. Educating. Inspiring.

On March 7, 2017, we will drop the lights and raise the curtain on the 12th annual Omaha Film Festival (OFF), a nonprofit labor of love and our way of elevating our community, filmmakers and the arts.

Fade in to three budding filmmakers driving back from a film festival in Norfolk, Neb. They start batting around the question: Why isn’t there anything like this in Omaha?

Dissolve to more than a decade later. OFF is now recognized by MovieMaker magazine as one of the “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”

Jeremy Decker, Jason Levering, and I, three guys who live, work, eat and drink in Omaha, set out to build something like Sundance or the Austin Film Festival – our way of celebrating the artistic, educational, and historical importance of motion pictures, only closer to home.

Sometimes, there is a perception, when you hear the words ‘film festival,’ that it’s going to be pretentious black and white documentaries about things that you don’t care about – or films shot in people’s backyards with terrible actors.

OFF is neither one of those.

We show what we consider the top independent films circulating that year in film festivals, including a lot of films that premiere at Sundance or Slamdance every January. I always tell people who don’t understand what OFF is – if you like movies, there’s going to be something that you’ll enjoy. We have comedies, dramas, action-adventures, animated shorts… (Over the course of a week, OFF showcases over 90 films selected from an average of over 500 annual entries.) If you think you don’t like documentaries, come and see at least one of ours. I think it will change your mind pretty quickly.

Since we are from the community and built OFF for the community, showcasing local talent is also a priority for us. Every year, we have a Nebraska Spotlight category – three full blocks of Nebraska shorts. If we get feature films or documentaries that are made locally, we like to highlight those too.

One of the most engaging things about film festivals – and certainly OFF – is what happens after the final credits roll. We bring in as many of the filmmakers as possible so the audience can interact with the people who made the art. Past guests have included Famke Janssen, Chad Michael Murray, Jaime King, Mauro Fiore, Mike Hill and Shane Black.

Over the last 11 years, we’ve also made great strides towards becoming one of the Midwest’s premier teaching festivals, offering opportunities for filmmakers, students, and film enthusiasts to learn more about the craft of filmmaking through panels, lectures, and workshops at our annual Filmmakers Conference. Just last year, we launched OFF Academy, our high school educational outreach program. For two days during the festival, we connect high school kids with filmmakers and the screenwriters so they can learn about all aspects of filmmaking. That outreach extends to filmmaking classes at Westside High School and Creighton Prep. It’s all about educating, entertaining and inspiring – and it is a super-rewarding part of what we do.

Now, couple that with the overwhelming return that comes from the reactions of participants and audience members: the high school student profoundly impacted by seeing their film on the big screen with friends and family in the audience or the attendee who caught a documentary that potentially changed their life. That pays for itself.

Beyond that, Jason, Jeremy and I – and our team of dedicated volunteers – are proud to simply contribute to a body of incredible, locally-created and -supported cultural events in Omaha, including Omaha Fashion Week and Maha Music Festival. It’s important for people to do things they love – and if you can support local events and the community at the same time, bonus. All the better.

Next spring, we’d love for you to sit back, relax and celebrate the art of motion pictures with us at the 12th Annual Omaha Film Festival, March 7-12, 2017. There truly is something for everyone – stories that are daring, courageous, risk-taking, and filled with discovery and wonder.

Are you a filmmaker or screenwriter? The Call for Entries for entries is now open with three ways to enter. Last year, OFF awarded over $32,000 in prizes to participating filmmakers and screenwriters.

Film categories:
Narrative Feature, Documentary, Short Film, Animated Short, Nebraska Short and Nebraska Spotlight.

Screenplay categories:
Feature Screenplay & Short Screenplay (under 30 pages)

Follow OFF on Facebook or Twitter for the latest news. 

Fade out.


Posted in We Entertain |

Omaha: A Great Place to Be a Writer By Liz Kay, Omaha-based poet and author of Monsters: A Love Story

I had the pleasure, just recently, of meeting with an Omaha book club to discuss its reading of my new novel, Monsters: A Love Story. The novel is many things – part love story, part cultural critique, part celebration of the city I’ve grown to love over the past 17 years, the City of Omaha.

I must read a dozen novels a year set in Brooklyn, but the last book I read set in Omaha was Timothy Schaffert’s The Swan Gondola. It’s a gorgeous novel, but set in 1898, it’s not exactly representative of my experience of this town. So it was exciting to hear the book club readers identify the many iconic spots in Midtown, the Old Market, and west Omaha where the protagonist of my novel hangs out. She eats a carrot dog at M’s Pub; one son teases the other about the scariness of the zoo’s Kingdom of the Night exhibit. Borsheims, or at least its signature wrapping, makes an appearance.

On the one hand, the novel is a Hollywood-esque fantasy. There’s a love affair, a handful of movie stars, and Stacey, our Omaha-based protagonist, finds herself jetting off to luxurious locations. Omaha, with its realness, offered a contrast to that fantasy element, a grounded-ness that allows even the more rarified scenes to feel accessible. Interestingly enough, when I talk with readers beyond Nebraska, it’s not Turks and Caicos or Los Angeles they want to hear more about.

I expect I’ll be reading more and more stories set in Omaha in the coming years. There’s such a vibrant and supportive writing community here working in a broad range of genres. We have amazing poets and YA novelists and people writing historical fiction and crime fiction and romance. Our colleges and universities aren’t just teaching writing, but sponsoring community events bringing more writers into the community through their reading series. We have tremendous support from our local bookstores—The Bookworm and Barnes & Noble. And we have arts organizations like the Nebraska Writers Collective and KANEKO providing outreach opportunities that bring new audiences to working writers and help foster new writers and readers along the way. So Omaha is a great place to write about, but even more importantly, it’s a great place to be a writer.


Liz Kay is an acclaimed poet and founding editor of Spark Wheel Press and the journal burntdistrict. Liz lives in Omaha with her husband and three sons. Monsters: A Love Story, her debut novel, was selected as a “Summer Beach Read Pick” by Harper’s Bazaar, the Associated Press, Purewow, and Refinery29


Posted in We Launch |


Hey Richard,

We were so sorry to hear that Pied Piper’s office space recently closed. But we totally get that the cost of doing business in the Valley is insane. This might sound a bit crazy, but how about instead of all working and living in Erlich’s house, you could afford a sweet new office space… and each get your own house. Did we just blow your mind? Hear us out.

The cost of doing business in Omaha is 11 percentage points less than San Francisco. The cost of living in Omaha is 46 percent less than San Francisco and housing is 74 percent less! ( (The median house price is $163,500 in Omaha compared to Silicon Valley where the median is $980,000.) This is fantastic news for Jared- who wouldn’t have to live in the server room/garage anymore. And an extra bonus: Erlich could also leave Jian-Yang in the Valley.

We know what you are thinking…and just how are we suppose to get back to the Valley for important meetings? Easy- with a new daily, direct flight from the Silicon Prairie to Silicon Valley! And how nice would it be to put some distance between you and Gavin Belson? Join Google, LinkedIn, PayPal, Yahoo and others who also have offices in the Omaha area.

Tell Gilfoyle and Dinesh to start packing for the Prairie.

-Your Omaha friends

Posted in We Build |

Drive 2 Vote Campaign: Riding Shotgun with Warren Buffett

Homegrown billionaire Warren Buffett has a challenge for us all this Election Day – invest a bit of your time to help get others to the polls.

Buffett is leading the Drive 2 Vote campaign, an effort to ensure the highest possible voter turnout in Nebraska’s District 2. The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway is asking us to promise to vote, ask for a ride if we need one or pledge to drive others to the polls if we’re able. We can get the process rolling by visiting

“We heard at one of the conventions that democracy is not a spectator sport and that rang true to me,” Buffett says. “People complain about government and grumble, but they shouldn’t do it from the stands.”

Buffett has pledged to personally drive at least 10 voters to the polls on Tuesday, November 8. also includes links to register to vote, find your polling place and request absentee ballots.

#WeDontCoast – #WeVote

Posted in We Inspire |

Afraid of the Dark? Turn on the Light.

Did you see the report on WOWT the other night about Omaha teenager Brendan Kauth-Fisher?

Born on one of the darkest days in American history, he’s choosing to turn on the light, marking his 15th birthday not with cake and presents – but through service.

“It just doesn’t feel right to be celebrating on a day when the nation is in mourning,” he told WOWT.

On Sunday, Brendan will spend his birthday volunteering at the First Responders Foundation’s Omaha Together, a daylong event in Stinson Park honoring the lives lost on September, 11, 2001.

15 years later, there is still plenty of darkness in the world: global threats posed by ISIS, a national rise in violent crime, pervasive health concerns like cancer and diabetes…

How can we combat the darkness? We can do what Brendan is doing – and turn on the light.

Volunteer for organizations that speak to you – whether they help feed the hungry, offer mentorship opportunities or bring hope to the hopeless. Find inspiration in people like Brendan, teenager John Lang and his Great American Flag Project, or Susie McGuire who’s bringing Omaha caring to children in Madagascar.

Time and again, we have shown that we are a community that cares – Omaha together – and there is less darkness in the world because of it.

The First Responders Foundation’s Omaha Together remembrance on Sunday, Sept. 11, begins with the 3rd Annual Minute of Silence Ceremony in Stinson Park, followed by a day of free family activities to encourage us to come together in honor of the lives lost, reunite as a community, and show appreciation for our first responders.

Omaha Together Schedule:

9 a.m.: Minute of Silence Ceremony Begins
Join government officials, first responders and members of the community for the Minute of Silence ceremony to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11. The ceremony will include distinguished speakers, a high school marching band, singing performances, pipe and drums, and a flyover. Anyone who attends this ceremony will receive a special wristband to get into the park free in the afternoon.

9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Farmer’s Market Activities will pause at 9:11 am for 60 seconds to recognize the Minute of Silence. 

noon – 4:30 p.m.: Acoustic Sets, Art, & Dance
Attendees will enjoy acoustic music and live art throughout the day as the kids have fun with the many entertainment options we have organized.

5 p.m.: World Record-Breaking Swing Dance & Tribute Video
An official attempt to break a World Record by having the largest group of people doing the same choreographed dance simultaneously. Those who want to participate can come early the day of the event to practice the simple steps. The River City Shakers and Rednecks will be set up in all four corners of Stinson park giving instruction on how to participate.

6 p.m.: Live Concert
A concert starting at 6 pm will feature High Heel the Band, Dallas Hendrix, and more.

9:11 pm: Special Tribute
Music headliner Dallas Hendrix has prepared a special tribute.

All Day: Kids Activities, Food, Drink, and More

There will be kids activities throughout the day, including face painting, a balloon artist, splash pads, and dance lessons. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, and drinks will be available for purchase for a suggested donation. A VIP area exclusively for first responders and their families will be provided with complimentary food, refreshments and shade.

For more information about the event, visit the official Omaha Together Facebook page.


Posted in We Care |