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Game Changer: McGuigan Arts Academy Opens In Omaha

Having enrolled my kids in a variety of camps and classes over the years, I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities. And let me tell you, I’m really excited about what’s opening in Omaha soon: McGuigan Arts Academy. It will offer classes for kids and adults, and not just theater, but a whole range of creative arts.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by McGuigan Arts Academy, which is a part of Rave On Productions. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

About McGuigan Arts Academy

Perhaps you’ve heard of Billy McGuigan. He’s the creative force behind popular touring productions “Rave On: The Buddy Holly Experience” and “Yesterday and Today.” He’s a super nice guy, with a great backstory having grown up a shy kid who gained confidence to become an amazing performer thanks to early exposure to the arts.

Headshot of Billy McGuigan
Photo courtesy Rave On Productions

(And, side note, he has great taste in Omaha restaurants).

He dreamt up the idea of creating an arts academy — as well as the Omaha Series — with Kimberly Faith-Hickman early on in the pandemic.

The academy’s mission is devoted to teaching life skills through hands-on studies in music, theatre, film, art and technology. Acknowledging that not every student of the arts wants to be a performer, McGuigan Arts Academy will nurture and showcase Omaha’s talent in every artistic realm.

The space for McGuigan Arts Academy is at the charming Countryside Village at 87th and Pacific streets. My plan? Drop the kids off at class and then have a coffee at The Village Grinder each week. If you feel like shopping or eating, there are a lot of great, locally-owned options within walking distance of the academy.

New arts camps & classes for Omaha kids

The first set of classes begin this spring. They have spring camps, Saturday classes, and voice, piano and private guitar lessons planned. Registration is open now.

I jumped at the opportunity to enroll my kids because, A) one of them loves improv and it’s so hard to find a kid’s improv class, and B) the class sizes are so small, I feel comfortable finally having them do something social (while masked). They loved their class experiences – read about the theater classes here.

Summer camps are being planned now, which I know are going to be popular!

By the way, there are scholarships available for those who need financial assistance.

Q&A with the artistic & education director, Kimberly Faith-Hickman

I had a couple of interviews with Kimberly Faith-Hickman, the arts & education director at McGuigan Arts Academy. Hickman most recently served as Artistic Director for the OmahaCommunity Playhouse. In her nearly five years there, she directed 19 productions and launched initiatives such as the OCP Directing Fellowship, as well as drive-in and virtual productions.

You’ll want to get to know her and her teaching philosophy if you plan on enrolling your kids in a class at the academy.

Photo courtesy Rave On Productions

Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview. I’ve edited it down for clarity and brevity.

Q. Hi Kimberly, nice to talk with you again. For readers who may not know much about you and your work in Omaha, can you give me your elevator speech introducing yourself? 

A. I grew up in Phoenix City, Alabama. I fell in love with theater when I was 3 years old. My parents took me to see a theater production of “Annie.” After I saw “Annie,” I was hooked for life. 

After high school, I realized theater could be a job. I worked in a theater, basically doing any job I could: Marketing, development, box office, and backstage in wardrobe. Anything I could do to have a job in theater, I did.

Then I focused more on directing and teaching. And I started traveling to different theaters across the county to do that. Eventually, I went to New York, and I was in New York for eight years. I did three Broadway productions and a bunch of Off Broadway shows…All of those experiences really shaped as who I am as a director.

The Springer Opera House is right across the Georgia-Alabama border near my hometown and they have the Springer Theater Arts Academy. I taught for them as a freelance teaching artist for many years.

Q. Going beyond your job title at McGuigan Arts Academy, describe what you do there.

A. Basically, I work with Max Meyer who’s head of music instruction, and he and I come up with the classes we want to offer. In addition to creating the curriculum, I do a fair amount of teaching. 

Kimberly Faith-Hickman and a student during rehearsal
Photo courtesy Kimberly Faith-Hickman

Theater classes will be instructed by me. They will be as many concentration as possible, so there’s acting, playwriting

Not everyone wants to be an actor. I think people are attracted to the arts for a variety of reasons, so it’s important that I offer classes and mentorships in all of those areas. Everyone is going to benefit from it in a way that makes sense for them and is authentic to who they are.

The main goal I have as a theater artist and teaching artist is to help someone apply the arts in a way that is going to be authentic to who they are... to help someone become more confident and authentic to who they are. That is success to me.

Q. You founded Omaha Community Playhouse Henry Fonda Theatre Academy and created the Omaha Community Playhouse Directing Fellowship. What aspects are you most proud of for each of those programs?

A. I want to be really respectful for what was created at the Playhouse, like the directing fellowship specifically was an opportunity to have people an opportunity to learn. Directing is a hard field to get into, and I have that experience first-hand. You get into directing by actually doing it yourself.

The fellowship was an idea I came up with based on fellowships I was a part of. You learn a lot through learning and failing. Here in Omaha, there was nothing like that. For OCP I thought it was really important that they had an opportunity like that. 

How that crosses over with Rave On Productions and McGuigan Arts Academy, I have to figure out, because I don’t want to take away from that specific mission at the Playhouse.

As for the Fonda Theater Academy, my approach to any arts education has to do with the life skills aspects of it. The arts teach you so much and help define people as individuals more so than actors and technicians. That’s a part of who I am and that’s how I was taught. That was how I was raised in theater. I’m certainly carrying that with my into this academy as well.

Q. What would you like parents to know about these new classes and camps?

A. I want people to know that it is a safe space. I mean that literally and metaphorically. I think Countryside Village is such agreat part of town. I love the neighborhood, community and the schools, restaurants and coffee houses. It’s such a great place to bring a child. And if they wanted to do something while their kid is in class, there are so many things to do there...

Kimberly Faith-Hickman with a theater student she has taught
Photo courtesy Kimberly Faith-Hickman

I feel really good that our class sizes are going to be as small as they are. Big classes, unintentionally, can allow a kid to get lost in the shuffle. They are small and safe in regards to the pandemic…and they create an intimate setting where relationships and community can be build by the students.

It’s important that kids feel like they have a community, that they can be themselves. 

Q. Is there a camp or theme you’re most passionate about?

A. Yeah, there is. The theater part I’ve been doing for a really long time but the music and arts aspects for this is fairly new to me. I’m talking to art teachers right now about offering painting and ceramics.

I’m not an artist in that since of the word. I can’t draw, I can’t paint. So I’m looking forward to it. I see kids with all of these abilities and I’m excited to give them that opportunity with people who can guide them. 

We’re going to incorporate our music students into some of our productions (where age is appropriate). I’m really excited about getting these different arts disciplines together to collaborate in a way that hasn’t been done before. 

Kimberly Faith-Hickman working with a young actor during
Photo courtesy Kimberly Faith-Hickman

Q. What’s your favorite age to work with? Why?

A. Oh gosh. That’s a hard question because I know it sounds like a cop out to say I like them all. But I do, because they gain so many different things when they come at it from their own perspective.

I love really small kids. They’re so honest, they’re so funny, they don’t have a filter yet. I like the 8 and under group because of that honesty that they have.

I do enjoy working with the older students, too, because you are watching people coming into their own. I love watching people come into their own when they are trying something new or something challenging, something outside of their wheelhouse. … it makes them a stronger person. I love watching that process. …Watching people do something they didn’t think they could do.

Q. There’s a class called Grown Up & Me for ages 2 to 4. Tell me about the youngest students who will attend the academy.

A. Typically a lot of theater classes start at around kindergarten. I wanted to try something. I’ve never (taught such a young age group) before.

I wanted to try to introduce the fundamentals of theater arts to really small kids. … Having a class that allows a  young, tiny person to be with their grown up, I thought offering a class for the two of them together could be a fun thing. 

It also lets the grown ups see what kind of art instincts these kids may have by introducing them to painting, musical instruments and fabrics, all the tactile parts of theater.… Obviously they’re not doing team work or reading scripts.

There are other things you can do to introduce them to this world and let them have a hands-on approach to it. And it’s a great bonding experience. It’s something I feel like is missing here and I really wanted to try and see how it goes. I’m really excited about that. 

Q. Anything else to say?

A. If you’ve never done this before, this is absolutely the place for you to try. I only say that because I’ve heard from parents, kids I’ve directed or they’ve taken a class from me, and this is totally new for them. 

I feel like this is the perfect environment, the small class sizes, this is a safe environment where kids will feel free and safe to try things in a supportive environment. They’re not going to get lost in the mix. And that’s really important. … I’m really excited we can offer this more intimate teaching setting.

Everything you need to know about McGuigan Arts Academy, a new arts and theater academy in Omaha featuring classes and camps for a variety of ages and interests. #sponsored

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