FFP Omaha: Rent Hike, Summer Art, Remembering Heaston

FFP Omaha newsletter

Howdy, Omaha — it’s Jeremy. 

The story I’ve been working on for the last few weeks awakened long-dormant memories of a compelling character from the American political zeitgeist. His name is Jimmy McMillan, but you might remember him as the “Rent is Too Damn High” guy. 

The futuristic-looking, single-issue candidate didn’t win any elections in New York, but his performance in a 2010 gubernatorial debate cemented him in memedom (which is really better than winning elections, right?). 

To my knowledge, Omaha doesn’t have a chapter of McMillan’s “Rent is Too Damn High” Party, but it seems less far-fetched now than ever. 

The average rent for a studio apartment in the Omaha metro area is $955. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a 45% increase from 2014. 

Much of what’s driving the rent hikes is just simple economics: high demand from tenants, low supply of housing and inflated costs for landlords. But in some cases, rents are shooting upward after properties change hands.

At one apartment complex in central Omaha, rents rose by more than 50% after an out-of-state investment company took the place of a mom-and-pop landlord. It’s there that I found Marianne Clark and several other longtime tenants asking themselves the same question: Where do I go now?

Read the story here (or click the photo above). 

This week also marks the FFP Omaha newsletter’s first twofer! Contributing writer Kevin Warneke took a look at the future of an Omaha religious institution: the Servants of Mary. 

The order of nuns founded the all-girls Marian High School in the 1950s and has been a mainstay on campus ever since. Twenty-one sisters still live in the old convent adjacent to the school, but they will be the last to inhabit the building. 

Read Kevin’s story here.

Jeremy Turley - Flatwater Free Press

Hello everyone! Bart here. Back again with a few ways you can connect with the Omaha metro’s thriving visual arts scene this June.

The 50th Annual Omaha Summer Arts Festival
Unfortunately, the Omaha Summer Arts Festival is calling it quits after 50 years, but I can’t wait to celebrate the decades of art, food and music it brought to our community. In addition to the festival, be sure to check out its five mural cubes across the city featuring outstanding local artists such as Sarah Rowe, Ang R. Bennett and Anthony T. Peña.
When: Friday, June 7, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Aksarben Village

World Peace by Alicia Sancho Scherich
Bellevue-based Spanish painter Sancho Scherich presents 18 large-scale works inspired by Mother Teresa. Completed over the last 14 years, these panels use visual allegory to explore the best and worst of humanity. After seeing a single image from the exhibition, I’m eager to experience the scale and complexities of Scherich’s offerings. Hopefully I’ll see you there tonight!
When: Thursday, June 6, 6-8 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday noon-8 p.m.; Sunday noon-6 p.m.
Where: Garden of the Zodiac, 1042 Howard St.

Mark Andrew // Body of Work
While I am uninitiated to Andrew’s works, I feel an affinity for the way he pushes boundaries of what belongs in an exhibit, and redefines what an artist’s evolution looks like. After checking out his exhibit at Petshop, explore the rest of the Benson Creative District as it hosts dozens of other art, musical and cultural events every first Friday!
When: Opening Reception June 7, 7-10 p.m., Saturday hours, noon-2 p.m.
Where: Petshop Gallery, 2725 N. 62nd St.

FAITH – Lub Poeem
I was drawn in to this one by Omaha artist Lub Poeem’s minimalistic use of found objects, which encouraged the consideration of time and mortality through beautiful acts of entropy. South Omaha’s Baader-Meinhof is the city’s most contemporary gallery, reminiscent of those found in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
When: Until June 28, Thursday through Saturday 1-6 p.m. and otherwise by appointment.
Where: Baader-Meinhof, 2001 Vinton St.

Alicia Reyes McNamara: Two volcanoes grow together, two rivers lay side by side
On a recent visit to the Union, I was blown away by the subtle power of Alicia Reyes McNamara’s paintings. Through images composed in both earthy and cool palettes, the London-based artist investigates their queer identity through the lens of Mexican and Irish folklore.
When: Until June 22, Tuesday through Thursday 1-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: The Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N 24th St.

PACE New Masters 2024 presented by Kathleen Pyper
If you haven’t already explored Council Bluffs’ Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center, this exhibition is your chance. This exhibition explores the works of 40 regional photographers and the long history of photographic manipulation.
*Full disclosure, I am one of the models and photographers featured in the exhibit.*
When: Until Sept. 28, Friday 6-9 p.m., Saturday noon-4 p.m.
Where: Galvani Family Gallery, Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center, 1001 S. Sixth St. in Council Bluffs

What I'm Into

Broadway’s “Moulin Rouge” is making a stop in Omaha at the Orpheum Theater! Musicals (this will be my fifth in six months!) are the perfect excuse for my sister and me to have a date night out on the town. I’ll be at the evening show on Sunday, June 9 at 6:30 p.m.

On Friday, John Heaston, Omaha’s figurehead in alternative news, died of leukemia. He was 53.

Starting in 1994, John and the early crew of The Reader — and later in the bilingual paper El Périco — gave the city a fresh take on news. They told stories others wouldn’t about people ignored in mainstream outlets. As the internet swallowed papers, John held back the beast (kinda like Gandalf telling the Balrog “You shall not pass”) but hung it up in September 2023 when fighting cancer became too consuming.

In a twist of fate, John died hours before the Omaha Press Club would honor him with a Face on the Barroom Floor, a top recognition for local newsmakers. For someone who spent his life fighting the establishment, it felt poetic to eschew the pageantry while still collecting the prize.

Of course that’s not how John would see it, because John was a good guy.

He loved people. He loved when they worked together to accomplish great things. He loved giving them space to grow. He gave me that shot in January 2020.

There were stipulations. I’d split time between investigative reporting and writing copy for the websites of plumbers, car dealers and window installers (as ad revenue shrank, John found income by starting a marketing/digital services company). He couldn’t pay me adequately so he rented me a house his family built in 1900 on the cheap. He also convinced others to work for concert tickets, coffee and even a Fender bass guitar. 

Like, ask yourself, “Who the Hell does this guy think he is?!”

John Heaston!!

He materialized solutions from cunning and fuzzy interpretations of rules, laws and the norms of polite society. Often those solutions just rearranged existing problems, as I found out during my four years on his payroll, but his mission remained steadfast.

He helped start the Maha Music Festival and Omaha Arts and Entertainment Awards. He helped fund diverse media here and nationally. He gave many now-renowned journalists their first chance at publishing words on paper.

While another century on Earth wouldn’t have been enough time to satisfy his overactive mind, he still left us too soon. The silver lining to all of this is how many of us he affected and will carry on the work. But I know I speak for many when I say:

John, we will miss you so, so, so much.

Read more about John from:

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An east Omaha inland port authority has been years in the making as state and local leaders look to create a business park near Eppley Airfield. The Omaha City Council approved Mayor Jean Stothert’s nominations to the port authority’s board, but not without protests from the public.

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The City of Omaha wants to offload 54 vacant properties in North Omaha, some for the low price of $1, in hopes of creating affordable housing. The buyers, for-profit and nonprofit developers, could see the city take back the land if they don’t start construction within two years on most of the properties.