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Megan of OmahaHa! is guest posting for us today! She's fairly new to the Omaha area and has populated her blog with the things she has discovered here and the magic of Costco. Be sure to check out her blog and say hello.

 

How do you know a friend is awesome? When your families travel together to Nebraska City, she buys you a souvenir plate so your Nebraska The Cornhusker State souvenir plate won't be lonely.

I felt the need to explain. "I'm moving to Omaha." I glanced down at the well-worn souvenir Nebraska plate I had just discovered in a stack of similar and equally kitschy souvenir plates. I looked back up at the young man behind the counter and clarified, "Omaha, Nebraska."

"Oh!" He looked amused. There was a pause. "Are you excited?"

I got that a lot.

Actually, I was kind of excited. Granted, I was leaving behind a lot of good friends, family and memories. I was born in Ohio. I went to college in Ohio. I built my career, obtained my graduate degree, owned my first home, and met my husband in Ohio. We got married. We welcomed both of our boys into this world. All of these amazing and wonderful things happened in Ohio.

But my husband wanted to move to Omaha. 

He'd spent time working in Omaha and thought it would be a great place to raise our family. He's a smart guy who I obviously trust. OK. We'll move. Wonderful and amazing things will keep happening; they are just going to have to happen in Omaha.

My only concern: Would there be enough to see and do in Omaha?

Don't get me wrong. I realize I didn't come from New York City, but it might surprise you that Ohio has a lot to offer in its nearly 45,000 square miles. (That’s right. It only takes 3.5 hours to travel across the state.) Want to see a concert and hit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? No problem. Visit a major amusement park? Ohio has two. How about an afternoon at IKEA? Gotcha covered. Symphonies, major league sports, museums? Take your pick. Ohio is home to nine symphonies, eight major league teams and more than 250 museums.

Can you appreciate my concern? We like doing "stuff" and we wanted our boys, who are now four and six years old, to grow up experiencing all that "stuff." So... does Omaha have "stuff?"

After living here for approximately 485 days, I can answer that question with a resounding, Yes! (I’m so enthusiastic with my response, I even used an exclamation point. I never use exclamation points. OK. Exception: It's in my blog's name OmahaHa!, but again, just in the context of expressing my enthusiasm for Omaha.)

In my next several guest blogs for ParentSavvy, I'll be exploring some of Omaha's finest "stuff." First up, a favorite of mine and something I think is very unique to Omaha, Hot Shops Art Center.

Located to the north of Ameritrade TD Park in downtown Omaha, this art center is home to artist studios, galleries and showrooms. Don't think for a minute this is some stuffy art gallery, though. It’s far from it. This is where art happens.

My youngest son lending a hand to Jenna, of Jenna J Art, at the Winter Hot Shops Art Center's Open House.

There are three stories of independent studios where artists paint, throw, carve, turn, photograph, digitize and solder. If bigger, louder and hotter is more your speed, head to the anchor studios, located in the attached one-story warehouse referred to as Hot Shops Market North. This is where artists forge and weld metal, blow glass and kiln pottery. It's bold and it's beautiful.

(Honestly, the building alone is worth the visit. Built in 1906, with the addition added in 1916, the building's past is beautifully fused with its present. Worn wood floors are patched with small, ornate ceramic tiles and modern oil paintings hang alongside old mechanical gauges. The bathrooms reflect their artistic neighbors through their upkeep and decor; and don’t even get me started on those marvelous weight-and-pulley stairwell doors.)

The center is open to the public, Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm, and 11 am to 5 pm on the weekends. Since the artists each have their own schedules, you never know which studios will be open. Each visit is like a new experience.

Are you grasping how amazing this place is? Let me put it another way...

Think of the traditional art gallery as the newborn nursery in the hospital. Visitors can walk by the glass and peek, coo and aww at all the adorable newborns. Now, think of Hot Shops like an invitation into the labor and delivery room. It’s for the people who want to see how art is born.

(This analogy becomes even more apropos when pointing-out that these are working artist studios. It's important to respect the artists' workspace and time. Just like labor and delivery: It can get messy; it can get dangerous; and not everyone likes you poking around their private stuff.)

Probably the best time to visit -- aside from taking advantage of their many class offerings, exhibits and group/school tours (see links below) -- is during their twice-a-year open houses held the first weekend in May and December. We took the boys in December, and we can't wait to go again in May. Featuring artist demonstrations, musical and dance performances, and a chance to see most of the artists and their studios, it's well worth the trip downtown.

Hot Shops Art Center

1301 Nicholas Street
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9 am to 5 pm
Sat-Sun, 11 am to 5 pm

Directions and parking

Gallery events

Class and workshop information

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Megan lives in Omaha with her husband and four- and six-year-old boys. She founded the blog OmahaHa!, a site celebrating living the fun-filled family life in Omaha, shortly after moving here in November 2011.

 

Megan

OmahaHa!

As an import from Cincinnati, Ohio, Megan started OmahaHa! to share her experiences discovering what Omaha has to offer her, her husband, and their two boys. Megan earned her undergraduate degree in public relations, English and music from a small liberal arts college; and, followed that up with an MBA. She worked nearly 15 years in public relations in non-profit, tech, children’s publishing and professional associations, before becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2006. ...

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