Week Fifty Two

W52 Interview: Craig Roper’s ProjectRoom celebrates two years

Posted in Art openings, Interview by sarahbakerhansen on 2 April 2010

 Images from the first two seasons of ProjectRoom. Clockwise from top left: “Act or Observe” installation, Anthony Hawley, Bob Hall & Eric Anderson.


Week Fifty Two recently had the opportunity to ask ProjectRoom Director Craig Roper a few questions in anticipation of the second anniversary of his Lincoln art space, based in the successful Parrish Studios space on 14th and O streets. ProjectRoom’s latest offering, “Home Theater,” featuring the provocative photography of Bradley Peters, opens tonight from 7-10 p.m. For more information, visit the ProjectRoom Web site.

Week Fifty Two: Have the first two years at ProjectRoom been what you thought they would be?

Craig Roper: Yes and no.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  I knew I had an opportunity to bring a different approach to promoting art to Lincoln when I saw what The Parrish Studios could be.  I am pretty thrilled how many people from all over the country  have expressed strong support for what I am doing and actually love the small, unpretentious space and collaborative spirit that is ProjectRoom.  Another thing I was not expecting was how personally rewarding it has been and how humbling it is (as an artist myself) to work so closely with so many talented people.  Might I add that it is also a lot more work then I anticipated.  After it’s all said and done I hope I’ve helped introduce the work of some amazing artists to Lincoln and to the region who otherwise may not have gotten the exposure they deserve.

W52: The space has become known as one that’s not afraid to show challenging, unusual work. Was showing Bradley Peters’ photography on the anniversary of year two a specific choice or just one that fits with the gallery’s mission?

Roper: Bradley’s show was purely coincidental. He’s a super talent whose type of photographic work is not seen around here.  An anniversary isn’t important to me as a statement other than to look back and say, ‘Whew! That went fast.’  And yes, I am not the least bit afraid to show challenging, unusual and interesting work. It just has to be good.  I’ve seen a lot of art in my days and I think I have a pretty good eye for quality and thought.

W52: Did you ever expect the Parrish building to become what it has today?

Roper: I saw the potential immediately what with Tugboat gallery relocating here, Roundus, Chocolate Cake, Aorta, etc.  I did not expect the crowds would be so large and intense from the very beginning.  I love them all.  There is a very real, palpable hunger in this community for new, fresh art and the ideas that come along with it. They (the viewers) are very curious, supportive and engaged.  Everybody that works here and comes up here contributes to the creative vibe and quality of experience that helps to put us on an equal footing with much larger art centers in the country.  Believe me, people are watching what’s going on here.

 W52: What’s in store for the next two years?

Roper: I wish I knew!  Actually, I don’t have a master plan and I don’ t like to plan out my program more than 6 or 7 months out so that I can be a little spontaneous when given the chance.  I do have an incredible roster of shows lined up already and I will be working with more artists from out-of-state when I can.  I’d like to get some artists from ProjectRoom seen in other areas of the country and into the hands of more influential support.  I will continue to grow my contacts, seek out artists and their work, and hope that good things will grow from the seeds I’ve planted over the last two years. 

Images at right: Santiago Cal & Colin Smith. All images courtesy of ProjectRoom.


W52 Interview: Neal Obermeyer “Good Friday, Better Art”

Posted in Art openings, Interview by sarahbakerhansen on 1 April 2010


Cartoons by Neal Obermeyer, part of “Good Friday, Better Art,” opening Friday at Lincoln’s Handmade Modern.


Editorial Cartoonist Neal Obermeyer is an old friend of Week Fifty Two: we worked together at the Daily Nebraskan, on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, for a few years in the mid-1990s. Now he cartoons for the Lincoln Journal Star and keeps an active blog at his Web site. It only made sense than when he told us he was having an art show we wanted to know more about the method behind his madness. Obermeyer’s show “Good Friday, Better Art” opens Friday night at the Parrish Studio’s Handmade Modern from 6:30 to 10 p.m. For more information, visit Handmade Modern or Neal Obermeyer.

Week Fifty Two: The show has a tongue-in-cheek religious theme. Why did you choose to go in that direction?

Neal Obermeyer: For the most part, it was just taking advantage of something that happened by chance. First Friday fell on Good Friday. But since the show fell on Good Friday, I figured I’d take advantage of it. Incorporating the day into the theme of the show was an easy way to make the opening date memorable. And at the same time, I’ve had a lot of cartoons featuring Jesus over the years — particularly Holy Week — so incorporating that idea came very naturally. I also wanted to do some finished versions of some of my favorite rejected cartoons, so the idea of resurrecting cartoons that had been sentenced to death by editors fit with the Easter weekend theme almost effortlessly.

W52: How do the cartoons translate to the walls of a gallery?

Obermeyer: We hung stuff Wednesday night and honestly I was thrilled by it. These are pictures I’ve looked at numerous times over the years, but seeing them in these little frames stuck to these walls looking all official and stuff — it was very cool. I’m used to seeing these things on a smudged piece of off-white paper surrounded by Charles Krauthammer and Cal Thomas columns, but never in frames with nice lights shining on them! I should probably clarify the prior statements by making it clear that I’ve never done a show like this before, so this was a totally new experience to me.

One of the things that I liked upon seeing these things on the wall was how, when you get up close to read them, you can see all the eraser smudges, residual pencil marks, ink swirls where I’d try to get my pen working, and other elements of their creation that would normally be cleaned up and Photoshopped out before they’re sent on to my editor. I’m a big fan of seeing the process of things, and so I liked those hints of the earlier stages that are exposed by the lights and the presentation.

W52: You have a big following in both Omaha and Lincoln, but for those who aren’t as familiar with you, why should they check out your show?

Obermeyer: One of the things I like about looking at old cartoons is that they’re a kind of silly history book of events and issues from the past decade. It’s like an odd timeline with punch lines. Also, I’ve enjoyed stepping back and trying to look at these pictures from an artistic perspective. As I am prone to say, I have long approached this work from a very utilitarian perspective, so it has taken me some time to view these drawings in a different way. So I think it’s fun to look at these pictures and try to detach myself from the decisions I made, often subconsciously, and look at the aesthetic makeup of the picture and how that enhanced — or sometimes obscured — the idea. I think what I’m trying to say is “If you like to look at drawings, there will be drawings there.”

Also, if you’re not into the whole “Editorial cartoons” thing, I have some comic book content there. I didn’t think I’d have room for it initially, but I’ve included the original art from a 9-page fictionalized Edgar Allan Poe biography published last year by Powerpop Comics, which looks really nice laid out across one wall. I also have some books available that include my two 24 Hour Comics.

As a little side note, if the whole idea of “Jesus cartoons” has thus far been a put off to any readers of this interview, I would like to add that some of my more religious friends have been the biggest fans my Jesus cartoons. I’ve always tried to think of them as a modern version of the type of religious art (with punch lines), so many of them are loaded with symbolism. I definitely put more thought into them than Jesus-sensitive critics might initially assume, so I don’t want anyone to be frightened away by the presumed sacrilege. You might still hate them, but at least then it will be for the right reasons. Also, if you’re 21 or older and come up to me and say “Fizgig” you will get a can of Busch Light (while supplies last). Everyone else has to drink wine.

W52: For the people who do follow your work, will we get to see some of “Neal’s greatest hits” as part of the show?

Obermeyer: Yes, absolutely. I’m not sure yet how many cartoons we’ll have room for on the walls, but I pulled work from my whole career. So you’ll see cartoons from the Daily Nebraskan, the Lincoln Journal Star and The Omaha Reader. I didn’t specifically set out to put together a “greatest hits” show, but I tried to select cartoons that were memorable, pretty to look at, and effective at communicating, so I think cartoons that meet those criteria would qualify as among the “greatest hits” category for most people.

It won’t all be nostalgia, though — I’ve also taken six of my favorite rejected cartoons from the past few years and done brand new finished versions of those. So there’s a combination of greatest hits, resurrected rejects and then just some miscellaneous personal favorites that I felt like including.

W52: Will you be eating a few fish sandwiches on the day of the opening?

Obermeyer: Oh yes — Friday, April 2 is also the Last Supper for the Lent 2010 Fast Food Fish Sandwich Tournament. The final round is between Hardee’s, which I’ll have for lunch, and Runza, which I’ll have for dinner. Then sometime after midnight, I’m going to the Gourmet Grill for a gyro.

W52 Interview: The 815

Posted in Art openings, Interview by sarahbakerhansen on 31 March 2010
A selection of work to be shown in the first show at Lincoln’s 815.

Our focus here on W52 for the rest of the week is going to be on the April openings taking place this weekend during Lincoln’s First Friday. Thursday, we’ll feature an interview with Neal Obermeyer, whose “Good Friday, Better Art” opens Friday at Handmade Modern. Friday will bring an interview with ProjectRoom Director Craig Roper as his gallery prepares to celebrate its two-year anniversary in April.

Today we’re learning more about The 815, a live music and visual arts venue that debuts Friday. The 815 Director Todd Bumgarner answered a few questions about the new space. The 815 will begin its tenure in downtown Lincoln with “Artists on the Edge,” an outsider art exhibition. Photographers Rob Liliedhal and Keri Hess will exhibit on the lower level, and local guitarist Luke Sticka will perform a set. The 815 is located at 815 O St. in the old Pepperberg Cigar Factory under the O street overpass. The opening runs from 6-9 p.m.

Week Fifty Two: How did you come up with the idea to open the 815?

Todd Bumgarner: The idea of The 815 came about as we sought to simply serve the local artists and musicians in the city of Lincoln.  We want to draw attention to what is going on in the cultural scene in Lincoln and The 815 is a way in which we can serve the artists and musicians via prime venue space downtown.

W52: Will you have regular hours, or just be a First Friday venue?

Bumgarner: At this point, we will only be a First Friday venue, though we are thinking through ways to expand upon that.

W52: Will the venue focus exclusively on “outsider art?” Tell me a bit more about your definition of outsider art.

Bumgarner: The 815 consists of two separate spaces.  It is our hope to continually use the main level to focus on outsider art through the work of the local group, Artists on the Edge.  By “outsider art” I am referring to those with no formal training, but simply a passion to create.  The lower level is being used to feature up-and-coming artists who are trying to get their feet under them by providing a no-cost venue in which they can exhibit their work.

W52: What kind of music do you plan to focus on? Will the shows be exclusively during first Fridays or at other times, too?

Bumgarner: The music side is really still being developed.  We will feature local musicians during the First Friday shows, and hope to expand into serving local musicians with potential rehearsal space during the week. We also want to provide an alternative venue for bands trying to get a hearing or simply seeking a more intimate venue.

W52: Why would you encourage someone to check out the new space?

Bumgarner: Lincoln really has a lot to be celebrated when it comes to the local art and music scene.  Our goal is simply to serve the local artists and musicians through space. If you are someone who is interested in supporting that local scene, this would be a great place to start.  Beyond that, we are really aiming to be a venue for up-and-coming folks that may not as easily get a hearing in some of the larger or more well-known venues.  So if you’re interested in getting a peek at up-and-coming artists, this will be a great place for you to do that.