We were lucky to partner with WhyArts? Inc to host a conversations with artists and educators from around Omaha during our visit in January. WhyArts? PR pro and radiant smiler, Teresa Gleason, generously wrote about her experience with us as outsiders to Omaha, and how we can all try to check our assumptions at the door. Check it out below!

Ive always loved NYC. When I was little, I lived less than an hours train ride away from the famed metropolis, although the only time my family traveled there was to pick up or drop off someone at the  airport. I pictured it in my minds eye, though fast, loud, exciting, a bit dangerous and the home of my beloved Knicks, Giants and Yankees a place I was sure would figure into my future.

Well, my family moved to Iowa when I was 10, so the first time I really experienced iton my own was a weekend trip with a college friend to see a show. It was everything I pictured.

Ive never understood the immediate negative response some Midwesterners have to New York, i.e. everybody’s rude, youre gonna get mugged, you cant trust anyone, it literally stinks there, etcetera. But youve never even been there, Id try and counter.

So, I was excited to learn that The In[heir]itance Project, a national arts organization based in NYC, was coming to Omaha in 2019 to, as they explain it,

put communities lived experiences in conversation with sacred texts.

The Omaha play whatever it ends up looking likewill be grounded in the Book of Exodus with a focus on refugees. The performances will be held this November. Until then, the team wants to talk to as many Omahansas possible to gather our thoughts and experiences and weave them into the creative process.

I sat in on a recent session hosted by WhyArts that included local artists and actors (I am neither), and thats what Im supposed to be writing about. Here’s my Top 10 list of reactions to the experience

  1. Jon, Chantal and Ariel (read more about them in the Team section of the web site) are super friendly.
  2. They didnt look down their noses at anyone in the room at any time.
  3. They are good listeners.
  4. They asked questions that made everyone think.
  5. They created an environment that made you want to be honest in how you responded to them.
  6. Once one person ‘went there,’ the conversation changed from exchanging pleasantries to truth telling.
  7. They understand the important role good coffee and Dunkin’ Donuts play in running a successful session.
  8. Chantal has great sneakers, and she swears a little when she gets excited, so I felt right at home.
  9. Actors talk with their hands.
  10. People stayed to chat after the advertised end time was up.  

Even after only 90+ minutes, I now feel somehow invested in the process, and I’m curious as to how it all ends up. If you get a call to attend a listening session or get involved with the project in some way, don’t blow off the opportunity. If you don’t get a call, call them.They’re the real deal.

At the end of the process, I hope the team can return to NYC and start dispelling some of the idiotic perceptions some New Yorkers have of the Midwest – we all drive tractors, there’s nothing to do here, we don’t lock our doors at night, we’re all a bunch of rubes, etcetera.

I also hope I start checking my perceptions at the door on a regular basis.

The In[HEIR]itance Project: Omaha Team with WhyArts Executive Director Carolyn Owen Anderson