NewsLocal News


Shop the Heartland for the Holidays: Hot Shops Art Center

Unique gifts in North Downtown
Posted at 5:53 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 18:54:00-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Art lovers in the metro don't have to go far to get a one-of-a-kind gift made from local artists.

Serese Cole shows us how the Hot Shops Art Center offers great gifts and a unique experience at the same time.

From the outside, this may look like just an old, brick building.

But on the inside...

"This is a place where ideas, dreams, what-ifs are explored, created and shared," Tim Barry said.

Hot Shops is a half city block of nothing but art.

"We have glass blowing, we have a full ceramics studio, we cast bronze and aluminum, we have ornamental iron blacksmith, painting, printmaking, photography, filmmakers," Barry added.

Seventy artists craft their talents here.

Tim Barry is one of them.

He saw a need for a place like this 20 years ago.

"There was four of us that needed a place to work. We all worked in different areas and it made sense to bring our studios together. We stumbled on this building, we purchased it," Barry said.

Since then, artists have been creating and sharing.

"If you're just going to the museums or high-end galleries, you only see the finished work. Here at Hot Shops you can come in (and) talk to an artist. We're really kind of a living museum. So that artist gets an idea, they put it down on a sketch pad - but then you also get to see the tools that they use, the processes they go through to bring that piece of work - their idea to the marketplace."

So if you're looking for an eye-opening experience or a special holiday gift, you can find original pieces of work here, all by local artists.

Paula Wallace has a number of her books in her studio and some of her artwork can be found on greeting cards.

Across the hall, Valerie Leighton is making a custom stained-glass window. It's just one of her many creations.

Greg MacDonald hand carves Santas out of cottonwood bark. Each piece is done with detail and precision. His partner Mell Smith paints them.

One of the most popular pieces of art at Hot Shops during the holidays are these ornaments. Every year people will come in just to get their ornament. Once they see how they're made, they just have a personal connection.

Frank Daharsh is one of the artists who makes them.

He loves everything about glass blowing — from the 2100-degree heat to coming up with new ideas.

"I feel blessed and honored to be able to do this," Frank Daharsh said.

That's the theme here.

"For most of us it's a 'have to do' for us," Barry explained.

"Every day we come into our studios and ask why and what if. What do I do with this clunk of clay, with this piece of metal. What if I give it to this other artist and see what they're going to do with it. And so we're pinching ourselves after 20 years," Barry said with a smile.

And still creating, teaching and making art for the metro community and beyond.

Right now, Hot Shops is closed to the public. But you still make an appointment to see your favorite artist and take part in the artist's small group classes.

The annual Hot Shops open house will be virtual this year. It's going on until December 15.

You'll still be able to see demonstrations, the artist's work and place an order.

You can go to or Hot Shop's facebook page for more information.

Download our apps today for all of our latest coverage.

Get the latest news and weather delivered straight to your inbox.