OEAAs spotlight Omaha talent and public voice

The 12th annual Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards are recog-nizing local artists and performers, including a current UNO student. Photo by Debra S. Kaplan

Will Patterson

The Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards are returning for their 12th annual ceremony on Feb. 18. The awards will be taking place at the Omaha Design Center from 6 to 11 p.m. Tickets are currently available for purchase on the OEAAs website.

Mikala Harden, president of the OEAAs, said that she believes that they are helping spotlight the plentiful arts community in Omaha. Last year, over 500 people attended the awards ceremony.

“We have amazing artists in Omaha, and I think it’s really important and exciting to be able to recognize them on an annual basis for all of their great accomplishments,” Harden said.

The four major categories of the OEAAs are music, performing arts, visual arts and technical. Within each of these categories are more specific awards.

The OEAAs are unique com-pared with most local award shows due to the public interaction. The process for nomination heavily relies on public voting, which is then tallied by an accounting firm to create a ballot.

This ballot is sent out to the OEAA academy members, local “specialists” that are actively in-volved in the Omaha arts scene. This academy is composed of fine arts journalists, fellow artists and other industry professionals.

University of Nebraska at Omaha student Zhomontee Watson is one of the nominees in this year’s OEAAs. She received her nomination for her performance in the Omaha Community Playhouse production of “Sister Act” in September 2016.

Watson said that the nomination came as a surprise because of how long ago the performance was, which was just in the qualification time period for this year’s OE A A s .

“I don’t want to look into it too much. I just kind of want to go in for my first time and just play the field,” Watson says. “I know whoever is in the category is extremely talented. I’ve become very close with everybody.”

In a press release earlier this month, the OEAAs also announced their decision to make all their categories gender inclusive. This meant merging the actor and actress categories into a single actor category.

“The world is a moving toward a more progressive place,” Harden said.

Harden said that their decision to only have one award in each category is following in the footsteps of other major awards shows. She uses the example that their other categories, such as music performances, don’t have gender specific categories.

“We really wanted to move forward on diversity and not pigeonhole people in categories,” Harden said.