Homage to Luigi Waites

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January 24th, 2011

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Jeremiah Neal's portrait "Homage to Luigi Waites" as featured at the W. Dale Clark Library (Photo by Anthony Davis)

Omaha, NE – The story of the homeless man with the golden voice, Ted Williams, recently made headlines.   After a video featuring Williams showing off his vocal talents went viral on the web, several opportunities were presented to him, giving him a second chance to share his radio voice with the world.  Here in Omaha, there’s a similar story unfolding: it’s one of a homeless man with a golden paint brush.

Jeremiah Neal was once a homeless artist living in a shelter but now his work is the main attraction in an exhibit that pays homage to the late Luigi Waites, a well known Omaha jazz musician.  Edith Buis  is a teacher at Metropolitan Community College and she coordinated the exhibit.   Buis said she noticed Neal’s talent at a show organized by Mike Saklar, the Executive Director of the Sienna Francis House, where Neal was living.

“When I first met Jeremiah in August,” she said, “I fell in love with his painting he did of JFK. It was an oil but it was more drawn than painted.”

“I talked to him for a while,” she said, and told him about Omaha’s famous musician, Luigi Waites. “A lot of us really loved Luigi and I asked him if he… could do a painting.”

Artwork featuring Luigi Waites in the W. Dale Clark Library (Photo by Anthony Davis)

Buis said Neal now has a job, lives in a rental and is no longer homeless.  She also said Neal’s piece featured in the exhibit will be on permanent display at the Dundee Dell by mid June.  The jazz-themed exhibit offers a variety of work, Buis said, including paintings, water colors, fabrics, and photographs from Neal and 26 other local artists.”

As a teacher, Buis said, she wanted to see how many different works were submitted inspired by the Homage to Luigi Waites theme. What she got was a diverse collection, she said, “all kinds of media… it’s a fun show.”

The exhibit is now on display through January 30th at the W. Dale Clarke Library in downtown Omaha.  And from February 2nd through March 30th , the exhibit will be on display at the Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha Campus.

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