September 25th, 2010 : : Anne : : Tag Words: Stored Potential 1
Brigitte McQueen, the Manager of the UNDERGROUND with the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and previous owner of Pulp — is once a month, without fail, asked the question:
“Are you an artist yourself?”
The habit of answering “No” began with a painful semester blowing glass in college, misshapen coffee mugs hidden in the basement from a stint as a ceramicist and residual resentment from a particularly nasty critique during a foray into photography. These experiences led Brigitte to believe there was no right to align herself with the “real” artists she works with and serves each day. Until recently when one of these amazing artists commented that he wished he could do the ‘art’ of baking like Brigitte. She was floored to hear this and to realize that she never viewed her talent and skill in baking as an artform. Brigitte was well practiced speaking of the science behind baking – but had never realized the creativity and beauty — the artistic merit — held in the bits of sweetness she so passionately produces. That conversation changed everything about the way she views the pastry she bakes, and in many ways, food in general. It is beautiful and artistic.. from the marbling in a great steak, to the perfect red/orange of a ripe tomato, to the structural magic of a frosting swirl on a favorite birthday cake. It is art. Maybe not as enduring, usually not as expensive, and a bit trickier to collect… but it is art.
Thank goodness for Brigitte’s artist friend that day, and the realization he caused, because it led her to our chef team, paired with the amazing Jacqui Caniglia of La Charlotte-Caniglia Pastries (stay tuned for her blog) to work her magic and love of carefully crafted desserts as the finale for our dinner guests on October 3. Brigitte recently told us how excited she is for the opportunity to share this with the dinner guests. To momentarily move from curator working behind the scenes, to create something beautiful to touch and delight those partaking. Her medium will be butter and flour and her brushes covered in egg wash… as she proudly adds ‘artist’ to her list of accomplishments from now on. And we proudly present Brigitte as a crucial part of this special collaborative event.
The Art of Pastry: Brigitte McQueen
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Brigitte McQueen earned her B.S. in Journalism from St. John’s University in New York City. After graduation, she worked in advertising, as a pastry chef and spent 10 years as a Production Manager with Teen People magazine. After leaving NYC, she headed west and received her certification in Pastry Arts from the Seattle Art Institute. Since moving to Nebraska in 2002, Brigitte has been actively involved with the local arts community and spent two years as the owner and curator of Pulp | Paper & Art, a small gallery and boutique located in downtown Omaha. In January of 2010, Brigitte accepted the UNDERGROUND Manager position with The Bemis Center for Contemporary and curates exhibitions and programs for the bemis|UNDERGROUND. The gallery serves as a venue for emerging and established artists to explore process and projects, while actively stimulating discussion and conceptualization of contemporary art.
September 23rd, 2010 : : Anne : : Tag Words: Stored Potential 1
Chef Brian O’Malley is associated with words like “passion”, “dedicated”, “pleasure”, “local”, “sustainable”, “mentor”, “excellence”, “active”, “integral”, “contributions”, “relevant”, “commitment”, “artisan”, “unbridled”, and “joy”. These descriptors are fitting to this chef instructor who plays a pivotal role in the local food movement in Omaha and the surrounding region and was the first chef consulted for the dinner event. The rest of Brian’s resume and bio leave one’s heading spinning with the ambition, achievement, and willingness to jump in and try new things. Perhaps that is why he agreed to join the chef team even though it “freaked” him out more than a little. We are confident in his experience, connections to the growers, ideas for creating, presenting and advocating food, passion for education, and high energy for pulling off unique events, in helping to bring it all together.
With wit, insight and knowledge he can guide a crowd to understand why they should care about where their food comes from. And with his inventive love of delicious food, local foodies can see what is possible with familiar staple ingredients. When Brian agreed to take on the bison course as a team with Chef Matthew Taylor of the Arbor Day Lied Lodge and Conference Center, he did not question the possibility. A banner artist flying into Omaha from Hawaii for the event remarked that the bison course confirmed his decision to embark on the long flight to attend the dinner.
From Eagle Scout to distinguished graduate of the prestigious New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont to beginning many new initiatives at the cutting edge Metro Community College Institute for Culinary Arts, Brian brings leadership, vision, and enthusiasm to everything he sets out to do. As past chef in Vail and Santorini as well as many other kitchens around Omaha he has developed a deep sense of what needs to be done and how to do it well. His voice continues to be important as our team nears the weekend of execution for what has the potential to be the greatest local food event in Omaha.
September 19th, 2010 : : Anne : : Tag Words: Stored Potential 1
For the past month, this project has been very task focused: city permitting, insurance paperwork, scheduling giant lifts to install equally as giant banners, organizing chefs, printing and mailing dinner tickets, arranging lighting, procuring a bison and finding a place to prepare it, locating enough platters to serve 500 people, scheduling porta potties, and sleuthing out banner sponsors who see value in the project (a very special type in the world today). Yesterday, while on a daily jog to clear an often overloaded mind, I realized these days aren’t much reflecting that of landscape architecture. The last 16 years have been entirely devoted to studying, designing, and developing sites; rooftops and plazas, memorials, streetscapes, entire city plans, transportation hubs; in the United States and abroad, in both developed and developing nations. The traditional work of landscape architecture is often very separated from those who will use the finished space, and the work happens at a computer, drawing after drawing in AutoCad to instruct a contractor how to build a very limited scope of topography.
I’m not sure what the shift to scheduling porta potties means for a landscape architecture career, but I do know this project is shaping a site. It may not be as black and white as a new streetscape or sportsfield under the tuteledge of a laborious set of construction drawings, but watching the obsolete and forgotten railroad parcel next to the grain elevator morph by way of many different hands and interests is certainly a type of landscape evolution.
When the grain elevator and its servicing railtrack went into disuse in the 80′s, so did upkeep. Maintaining weeds and gigantic structure no longer performing its original function at this scale is a full time job – just ask the new owners of the elevator, Silo Extreme Outdoor Adventures, who spend their days and nights taming a place where everything is GIANT. Until several weeks ago, this natural continuation of the hiking and biking trail to the north stopped abruptly with dark groves of trees, weeds, and random industrial waste. After several meetings with the City of Omaha about gaining appropriate access to hang the banners, host 500 people for dinner, and hopefully eventually building out this missing piece of the trail, Parks and Recreation descending upon the site with payloaders, dump trucks, chain saws, and a crew. Within a day, the site was cleared of decades worth of overgrowth, empty grafitti spraypaint cans, and buckets of oil, all exposing where the silos meet the ground – a small pleasure for someone obsessed with the system (landscape) that supports everything we humans construct and inhabit.
A couple weekends later, volunteers from the Hanscom Park Neighborhood Association showed up on a Saturday morning with rakes, shovels, machetes, and wheelbarrows to apply finishing touches and show their support for this new era of the industrial site. Since that Saturday, a dedicated site crew (Randy Smith and Nick Soper) have done even more prep work. Cumulatively, a huge amount of work done in a way that, as a landscape architect, I had only seen verified contractors, with all the correct paperwork, perform.
We hope the project as a whole begins to shape a landscape much larger than the parcel next to the elevator; our backyards, the city streets we drive on, the fields that grow our food, the aquifers that exist below the ground we walk on and supply us with drinking water, and the fields that once produced food and now produce homes. None of these exist apart from the others, and for this single moment in time, will converge at this giant, simple, and iconic concrete structure.
September 17th, 2010 : : Anne : : Tag Words: Stored Potential 1
If you are following our chef blogs, you may begin to think we view these individuals through rose colored glasses. In some ways this is true – as we went into this project not knowing what might transpire, or who would come forward. All we knew for sure is that we were committed to sleuthing out the innovators and risk takers who are motivated by the connection between beautifully feeding people and the land and processes that underlie their passion, and furthermore merges these processes towards completion: human experience and sustenance.
When Chef Clayton Chapman walked in the door for the first chef meeting, the project took a leap in quality and consideration we hadn’t yet entertained. Just in his mid-twenties, Clayton is known as a wunderkid in Omaha’s restaurant world, as the first Chef to launch a series of tasting and Prix-fixe menus as the youngest ever Chef de Cuisine at V. Mertz, known for its attention to careful selection and composition of ingredients. At the meeting, Clayton described how his days are less chef and more general contractor as he oversees the building of his new restaurant The Grey Plume opening December 2010 at Midtown Crossing. The Grey Plume will serve Contemporary American cuisine with a daily changing menu that embodies seasonality and is greatly influenced by local farmers’ supply. Chapman’s dedication to the heritage of food and to the consciousness of its origin lies at the heart of his vision. The Grey Plume is working with The Green Restaurant Association to become the first certified Green Restaurant in the tri-state area. This man is on a mission.
Chapman started his culinary career in the dish pit of North Omaha’s Mother’s Good Food when he was 15 years old. While completing his culinary degree at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, Chapman earned the Chef de Partie position at world renowned TRU restaurant under the direction of celebrity chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand. After traveling and eating his way through Europe and western Africa, Chapman moved back to Omaha to establish roots and ignite the culinary scene. After revolutionizing V. Mertz he spent time as the Executive Chef at Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops.
Considering how much Clayton has on his plate right now, he has made time for this community engaging, community inspired weekend of undoubtedly hard work preparing and executing a course for 500-people in a location without the infrastructure of a kitchen. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Clayton and his passion and skilled talent. We can’t wait to experience his carefully considered platters for 500 on October 3.
September 16th, 2010 : : Anne : : Tag Words: Stored Potential 1
Yesterday, a large truck arrived at the grain elevator on 34th and Vinton to deliver 22,000 sqft. of banners brought to life by great BIG color in Denver, Colorado. These banners have been in process since chosen by the jury on May 22nd at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Between then and now, the artists and designers have worked diligently to reproduce their original submissions at the gigantic 20′x80′ size. great BIG color has supported us the whole way through, thanks to the fabulous customer service of Kristin Battenfield, who found out about the project from her parents who still live in Omaha where she grew up. Kristin called us one day and said “this project is so amazing, what do we have to do to get it?” After some negotiating and a sample banner and re-purposed banner into farmers market shopping bag arriving at our studio the following morning, gBc has been a central part of the team by turning virtual 500MB ideas into a product.
In addition to being a smart business woman who acts fast to be part of an out-of-the-norm project, Kristin generously took some pictures of the banners in process – being printed, sewn, welded, etc. The banners are basically printed in 10′ strips and hot welded down the middle. They are then hemmed and grommeted for their life on the grain elevator. Thanks to Kristin for snapping all these photos. The banners are resting for the weekend before action begins on Monday, September 20th at 7am. Keep your eyes on the elevator!