5 with courtney kenny porto

“Switch It Up” opens Friday, June 2, at the little gallery with a reception from 6:00 to 9:00pm. Below is a Q+A with the artist.

Q: Describe the impetus for “Switch It Up.”

A: I first came up with the idea of painting light switch covers as a less expensive way to buy an original piece of art. It could be the beginning of an original art collection or a unique addition to a collection that is running out of wall space. I also liked the idea that these pieces could be used functionally, as true light-switch covers, or displayed in groups as a multi-paneled painting. As I began to dive deeper into this idea and its potential, I realized that I wanted to cover an entire wall in light switch covers. I loved the thought of being completely engulfed in hundreds of small pieces of art. After a little math, I realized it would take about 450 to cover a 19.5′ wall.

Q: When did you know you were going to be an artist?

I have loved art, crafts and making since I was able to hold a pencil. It was always what I was meant to do, a deep part of who I am. I began college as an art education major, but realized after doing a short practicum that I was never actually interested in the teaching part. Creating is an addiction for me; teaching was a way for me to justify it. I switched my major to studio art and decided that I needed to be an artist.

Q: Describe your process.

Most of my pieces are meticulously planned and executed according to that plan. This project has been a little different. While some of the light switch covers were planned as usual, particularly the realism pieces, many were not. Working more loosely and reacting instead of planning was extremely exciting and frustrating at the same time.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration through research, other artists’ work and everyday life. A couple of my covers were inspired by a dead butterfly I saw on a walk with my husband. Others were inspired by patterns in nature, macro photography, my life and experiences as a woman, and experimentation.

Q: Name the 3 most important things in your studio space.

The three most important things in my studio space are my materials, hard floor and the ability to work from the wall. Materials are a given, the hard floor allows me the freedom to spill and make a mess, and working vertically from the wall helps with perspective.

Q: What do you want others to know about you/your work?

I work in a variety of media; most commonly charcoal, graphite, acrylic and yarn. I have been both criticized and commended for this diversity. In reality, this is the only way I can work productively and sanely. Each medium gives me something unique and utilizes a different portion of my brain and ability. Switching between media keeps me engaged and challenged. Much of my work is meant to spark a conversation about women’s issues and feminism, though some of it is intended to be taken at face value – for its humor or esthetic.

5 with jim pattavina


Jim Pattavina’s “Flowers, Bunnies, Sex” opens Friday, May 5, at the little gallery with a reception from 6:00 to 9:00pm.

A native of Omaha, Pattavina attended art school in Ohio. He’s been many places and done many things, but he lives for art, music (he plays guitar/bass and has been in two touring bands), vintage cars (he fully restores them – all the way down to welding, painting and interior work) and bicycles (he currently works at the Omaha Bicycle Company). “I find inspiration when riding in the spring, when everything is alive and beautiful,” he said.

Below is a Q&A with the artist.

Q: When did you know you were going to be an artist?

More than likely high school. I had this crazy art teacher who let us do whatever we wanted. She taught us the rules of art and then allowed us to break them.

Q: Describe your process.

Kind of free form. If I see, hear or feel something that inspires me to make art, I make art.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

In nature and in cities, in music and in silence, in beautiful things and ugly ones as well. Inspiration is all around us. You just have to open your eyes.

Q: Name the 3 most important things in your studio space.

Music, supplies and a little inspiration. My studio tends to be where ever I find inspiration.

Q: What do you want others to know about you/your work?

Beautiful things in nature tend to be my main source of inspiration – even if they are surrounded by a vast emptiness or cold, man-made things.

“Flowers, Bunnies, Sex” runs through May 27 at the little gallery, 5901 Maple Street in beautiful downtown Benson. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 3:00 to 6:00pm, Saturday from 10:00am to 1:00pm, the second Sunday of the month from 8:00am to 1:00pm and by appointment. Questions? Call 402.681.1901.

5 with sean jackson

“They’re at The Door” by Sean Jackson opens Friday, April 7, at the little gallery from 6:00 to 9:00pm.

The installation, inspired by an ad Jackson saw during the recent presidential campaign, will transform the little gallery into a typical living room. Once the transformation is complete, he will take stock of his surroundings and create ways to protect his family from the objects he has access to. This process will be videotaped, and the creations Jackson makes will be available for sale.

During the reception, people will be able to talk to the artist, walk through the aftermath of his creative process and watch the video of him at work. Below is a Q&A with the Omaha artist behind this installation.

Q: When did you know you were going to be an artist?

I didn’t start painting until I moved to Omaha in 2008. Before that, I stayed away from the visual arts and focused on creative writing. When I began painting, I started with strictly paint on canvas. As I grew more sure of myself, I ventured into different mediums.

Q: Describe your process.

My process changes depending on my medium – most of my painted works are maps, so I spend a lot of time scouring old city records to find fun and unique maps. For my more experimental installations, almost all of my time goes into the planning – getting help, finding and purchasing materials, and having others set up the space so that what I create in my limited time is genuine and unplanned.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

For “They’re at The Door,” my inspiration came from a Trump smear ad during the election. A woman is asleep in her room, and she is jolted awake by the sound of breaking glass. She runs to the phone, and as she is calling 911, she unlocks a gun case on her dresser and reaches for the loaded pistol inside. At this point several things happen – the gun she is reaching for disappears, and a voiceover tells viewers that Hillary could take away her right to self defense.  There is a cut to a scene in front of the woman’s house with crime scene tape up and the words “Don’t let Hillary leave you defenseless” on the screen.

This ad left me speechless. As a husband, father and one of the many Americans who do not own guns, I found myself looking around my living room and thinking, “I don’t think I’m defenseless just because I don’t own a gun.”

Q: Name the 3 most important things in your studio space.

Good, loud speakers with music constantly pouring through them, a freshly steeped pot of tea and my apron with pockets overflowing with both necessary tools and random bits and bobs.

Q: What do you want others to know about you/your work?

I want others to know that being an artist and creating doesn’t always have to be paint on canvas. If you have an idea that seems outrageous or intriguing, you should run with it. As for my work, I want to change how people view the objects we interact with on a day-to-day basis.

“They’re at The Door” runs through April 29 at the little gallery. For more info, call 402.681.1901.

buff is back, but better

Josh Kaufman from Benson Machine Works and the new and improved BUFF.

A few weeks ago, someone plucked BUFF – our Benson Underground Film Forum mascot – from the planter outside the little gallery at 5901 Maple in beautiful downtown Benson.

We purchased BUFF for about 8 bucks from one of Benson’s vintage stores a good while back and have no idea where he came from or why he was created. He hung out in our planter during the winter months in lieu of plants and flowers.

When we discovered BUFF was gone, we circulated some ‘missing’ fliers, hoping a neighbor might spot him and return him. About a week ago, we got a call from a guy named Josh. He said his wife had seen our flier, and he asked how big BUFF was, saying the couple would keep their eyes out for him.

Late last week, Josh stopped by the little gallery after he got off work. When he opened the trunk of his car, there lay BUFF – but bigger, smarter and a lot less rusty. The folks at Benson Machine Works, where Josh spends his days, had laser cut us a shiny new BUFF based on the photo in our flier. They even went one step further, adding his name to the base.

This is why we love Benson and why we’re honored to be part of such a thoughtful, caring business community.

Benson Machine Works, now located at 1604 Fort Street, is a locally owned and operated metal working facility that’s been in business for more than 60 years. So if you need laser cutting, CNC machining (we have no idea what this is but you will if you need this service), fabrication or welding, stop by Benson Machine Works.

Tell ’em BUFF sent you.

The Benson Underground Film Forum screens free, short films in conjunction with art openings at the little gallery on Benson First Fridays. Are you a local filmmaker looking for a place to show your work? Contact us at 402.681.1901 or info@polecatcommunications.com.


benson’s pizza shoppe to close march 11; new pizzeria to open at 6056 maple street

OMAHA – After 22 years of serving its signature pies to pizza lovers across the metro, the Pizza Shoppe Collective in downtown Benson will close its doors for the final time Saturday, March 11.

Owner/operator Amy Ryan is closing the neighborhood restaurant to devote full time to her new role as executive director of the Benson Theatre. The former vaudeville venue, located at 6054 Maple Street, will serve as a versatile community space for educational workshops during the day and a wide range of arts entertainment at night. A capital campaign is under way to raise funds for its renovation. To date, more than 55 community partners have signed on to use the Benson Theatre once it opens.

“I can’t begin to express my gratitude to everyone who has supported The Pizza Shoppe over the years,” Ryan said. “Thank you for allowing me to be part of your work days, birthdays, anniversaries, first dates, weddings and celebrations of life in all forms. Many of you have jumped in to do dishes, stay with me until close to make sure I got out the door safely and truly make The Pizza Shoppe your home away from home. Your support has created jobs for many, boosted the vitality of our neighborhood and given me a lifetime of memories that are jam-packed in my grateful heart.”

The popular Benson hangout won’t be empty for long. Local restaurateurs David and Brenda Losole will be bringing a new menu and their legendary twist on South Omaha Italian to 6056 Maple Street. Virtuoso Pizzeria is set to open in April.

Losole will be stepping away from his family’s restaurant, Lo Sole Mio, where he served as executive chef in order to purse his passion for pizza. He is the only certified Pizzaioli in the State of Nebraska to graduate from Tony Gemingnani’s International School of Pizza.

text’ure opens march 3

"Debates: Fracturing America" by Peg Pennell

“Debates: Fracturing America” by Peg Pennell

BENSON – The little gallery at 5901 Maple Street will host an opening reception for Text’ure Friday, March 3, from 6:00 to 9:00pm.

This group show from the Midwest Fiber Arts Alliance features works by fiber artists Rhonda Baldwin, Marge Bresel, Shelly Burge, Gail Dickel, Joan Duggan, LaVonne Dunetts, Cindy Erickson, Deb Hysack, Cynthia Levis, Aimee Mahan, Wendy Maliszewski, Peg Pennell, Cindy Schroeder, Dianne Thomas, Debra Ward and Roberta Willet.

Text’ure runs through March 31. The little gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 3:00 to 6:00pm, Saturday from 10:00am to 1:00pm, the second Sunday of the month from 8:00am to 1:00pm and by appointment.

Call 402.681.1901 or email info@polecatcommunications.com for more information.

oscillating bodies opens feb. 3

nonsense torrey smith fiber art, embroidery hoop 5.5" x 5.5" $35

torrey smith
fiber art, embroidery hoop
5.5″ x 5.5″

Join the little gallery Friday, Feb. 3, for the opening reception of Oscillating Bodies, a Torrey Smith + Nadia Shinkunas collaboration, from 6:00 to 9:00pm.

The show is an expression of their attempt to engage unique and overlapping components of the left and right brains: one explores shadows, optical illusions and the unpredictable with latex paint on wood panels; the other examines the juxtaposition between the internal and the external through the collaging of words, paper and various styles of fiber art.

The pair’s work contains elements of contrast: sharp versus soft edges, the geometric and linear versus free moving and changeable, bright colors versus greyscale, pendulum motions versus spinning elements. And while each body of work may seem to engage one side of the brain more than the other, both aim to reflect two sides of the same coin.

Processes, materials and tools may differ, but revision, rearrangement and ever shifting intent embody the pair’s respective intents.

about torrey
Smith was born and raised in Denver, CO. She made her way to the Pacific Northwest, attending Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, where she earned her B.A. in English and history in 2014 and her M.A. in critical theory and creative research from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR, in 2015. Smith is now a writer and artist based in Omaha, NE. She primarily writes poetry and critiques and works in fiber art and collage.

Smith’s pieces in this show were initially inspired by Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, written and published in various forms and publications between 1882 and 1906. “Many of his tongue-in-cheek definitions feel very pertinent to our current political climate,” Smith said. “I wrote catalog issue 2: dead poet’s anxiety by selecting 250 or so of the words found in his dictionary and incorporating them all into one extended poem.”

about nadia
Shinkunas was born in San Bernardino, CA. She “bounced around the universe for a bit and decided to come to Omaha in 2005.” After studying a variety of trades and subjects, she finally quit denying what she always wanted to do. She began studying art at Metropolitan Community College and finished her bachelor’s degree in sculpture with a minor in art history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2014.

Shinkunas is currently exploring 2D optical illusions and visual devices that she finds through trial and error in an attempt to mesh the complexity of 3D and the simplicity of 2D. She is inspired by shadows and negative space, the overlooked, “things that we perceive as nothing or not really there.”

The show runs through Feb. 28.