Hot Shops: August’s Small Business of the Month 8/3/16 08/03/16 9:32:38 AM
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Hot Shops’ General Manager Tim Barry demonstrates his pottery throwing in his studio.
August’s Small Business of the Month
At 16, Hot Shops Art Center ‘Just Getting
Warmed Up,’ Says General Manager
By Dan McCann
The Daily Record
Hot Shops Art Center, the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Small Business of the Month for August, turned sixteen earlier this year. If you’re looking for signs of teen angst, look again. Tim Barry, potter and general manager since 2006, is energized about the future of the facility, the artists who create there, and the burgeoning north downtown district.
“When we [a group of artists and investors] bought Hot Shops in November 1999, Omaha hadn’t voted on the convention center and riverfront development hadn’t happened yet. Film Streams, Slowdown, the ballpark, Tip-Top, the Mastercraft Building and the four hotels were not here. The growth has been amazing, and we are proud to be thought of as an anchor to the neighborhood,” Barry said.
Set in a former mattress factory, today’s Hot Shops Art Center houses three anchor businesses – Bruning Sculpture, Crystal Forge and Hot Shops Pottery – as well as 56 artist studios, three galleries and numerous exhibition spaces. It is the first art center of its kind in the Omaha area.
“Omaha is full of creatives/makers, and they need spaces to make things,” Barry said. “Our mission is simple: Hot Shops is a place where ideas, dreams and ‘what-ifs’ are created, explored and shared.”
Right now, a total of 70 artists are based in the center, all benefitting from a shared atmosphere of creativity.
“Most of the artists come to us from isolation – studios at home in the basement, garage or spare bedrooms. Once at Hot Shops, they can’t walk to their studios without being influenced by the art they walk by,” Barry said.
“If they need help moving or building something, there’s not a tool we don’t have. If they get stuck on an idea, they can bring in other artist for a critique. They share customers.”
To rent a studio at Hot Shops the only requirement, Barry said, is that the check clears.
“I don’t judge their work. We provide them the space, give them permission to be creative and stay the hell out of their way. We want it to be a place they can come to see how good they can be,” he explained. “We truly are a reflection of this vibrant, creative community.”
The artist is just one of two constituencies Hot Shops serves. It also revels in providing creative experiences for the public.
“If they are just going to the galleries and museums, they are only seeing the finished work,” Barry said. “Hot Shops is a place to come and see where and how the art is made. They see the sketches, the models, the pieces pushed to the side that didn’t make it.
“If we’ve never felt the heat from the glass furnace, watched a bronze being poured or the potters making pots, we truly have no foundation to understand what we are looking at in the museum.”
He added, “Our greatest pride comes from putting sparks in minds of people young and old. The looks on their faces when the glass blower pulls the 2000-degree glass out of the furnace are priceless.”
Another source of pride is the center’s Small Business of the Month recognition from the Chamber.
“The list of Chamber Small Businesses of the Month is very impressive,” Barry said. “We are truly honored and proud to be included.”
Barry oversees three other employees at Hot Shops. A working potter, he brings the perspective of an artist to his role as general manager and beyond that, to his broader role as an advocate for the Arts.
“The Arts have taught me patience,” he said. “I teach that the Arts are about transforming common materials and creating things that enrich our lives and allow us to explore and share our dreams and ideas.
“The Arts are about the beauty we find, the pain and ugliness we witness, the ‘what ifs’ and journeys we experience. The Arts are about the mechanics, theory, power and importance of communication.
“The Arts are our record of the human spirit. Art has a history as old as man – and a future as infinite.”
Though Hots Shops faces some challenges ahead – an aging building for one – Barry is radiant about its future.
“We are just getting warmed up. The potential for growth and collaboration are as hot as the glassblowers’ furnace.”
What will not change, he promised, is the Hot Shops mission.
“Hot Shops, like Omaha, will always be a place where ideas, dreams and ‘what ifs’ are created, explored and shared. It will always be a place where we work hard then play hard.”
United Republic Bank sponsors the Chamber’s Small Business of the Month award. To nominate a small business online, visit www.omahachamber.org. Nominees must be current Chamber members with 50 employees or less.