Mapping Leadership

By: Watie White

Several years ago, I took part in a community development training called Leadership Omaha. As I participated in the year-long program, I must admit that I felt a little out of place. Wearing my nicest studio clothes, I felt conspicuous amongst a room of suits. However, over the course of the year, I found my people in the crowd. In the years since, they have remained good friends, diverse collaborators and trusted confidants who push my ideas in unexpected directions.

Last year, the woman who has run Leadership Omaha for years asked me if I could come up with something to award each graduate of her current class–something in contrast to the motivational dice or desk toys that had been given in years past.

That was when I reached out to urban planner Stephen Osberg. We decided to take a look at the geography of Omaha using the latest GIS data to see what stories it will tell. We settled on locating households in Omaha which make over $150,000 and those locations of children in poverty. We then located the homes of the Leadership Omaha Graduates and demarcated them all on the affluence map. It came together as a beautiful graphic print, screen printed for each graduate. In addition, I printed the map onto a piece of wood from a Habitat for Humanity home slated for demolition, which was cut with a jigsaw into puzzle pieces, each of which became a second souvenir for each participant.

I feel I have a piece of many puzzles–the Omaha community, the artistic community, my role as a father, my relationships within my network of people trying to do good with their craft, and more. I get a lot out of collaborations like this, both from the initial honor of being asked, but through the process of creating something that ultimately honors the community I serve. I look forward to future collaborations with the Omaha Chamber and Leadership Omaha, as the big picture in our community puzzle continues to expand.

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