The Greatway: UNO alumnus spends free time cultivating creative communities


Kamrin Baker

Graphic by Okina Tran/The Gateway

In the effort to promote positivity and trust surrounding journalism, the Gateway aims to write a series of good news stories throughout the year. Titled “the Greatway,” we hope to establish a foundation of service and pride in the UNO community. If you know anyone doing something great on campus, drop us a line at our Facebook page!

“The Creatives Collaborative is a community organization dedicated to bringing together and building relationships between artists and entrepreneurs. Community over competition. Together, we enhance creative communities as a whole,” according to the Omaha Creatives Collaborative mission statement.

It doesn’t take a mastermind to dream of a utopic industry where developers and entrepreneurs work alongside one another and accelerate their craft as a whole, but it does take a special someone to make it happen.

When Nathaniel Jensen (class of 2016) was a student at UNO, double majoring in business administration and marketing and management, a friend influenced him to come to a Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) meeting. There, he met heads of companies, local entrepreneurs and a network of like-minded peers who had drive and ambition.

Fast forward a few years, and Jensen has strayed from his original nine to five career to be a freelance photographer. His business savvy knowledge combined with his experiences from CEO led him to crave as much possible knowledge when he began to develop his photography business.

He would meet with fellow freelancers and pick their brains over coffee—until someone dropped into his Facebook Messenger inbox and asked him to make a Facebook group for the entire Omaha photography community. Things quickly fell into place, and before he knew it, his new page had upwards of a thousand members—all asking for advice and sharing their proudest new Lightroom presets.

Better yet, they would meet up IRL to make tangible connections with one another.

Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Jensen

“I would always scheme to ask people I was really inspired by to come and speak to a bunch of us and share their knowledge,” Jensen says. “It was more niche than CEO, but there was a need in our community.”

That’s only half the story, though. The Omaha Photographers Collaborative became a casual landing pad for freelance photographers in the area, but other creators in Omaha were in search of an even more niche space to connect.

In walks the Creatives Collaborative.

Photo courtesy of the Creatives Collaborative via Facebook

“Now, what I’m trying to do is take that idea [the Photographer’s Collaborative] and rebrand it to encompass other creatives,” Jensen says. “There is obviously still photography, but I’ve created pages for videographers, designers and musicians, as well.”

While already doing its job to strengthen individual local art communities, Jensen believes the Collaborative will be a marathon endeavor; a journey that will develop over years of consistent effort and fellowship. His next step is to delegate industry experts to lead and administer each denomination of the Collaborative.

“I really want to focus on building all the groups to the point I’ve reached with the Photographers Collaborative,” he says. “I would also like to intertwine them and have people see that there are a lot of overlaps between our crafts. We’re all in the same boat, so maybe we can work together and be nice to each other instead of competing.”

Jensen appreciates and understands the influence the Creatives Collaborative can have on others, but he also admits that a lot of the good stuff that comes out of the end product benefits him greatly.

“This all started as a DIY networking opportunity for me,” Jensen says. “There is also a huge education aspect. Last winter alone, we had 25 photographers conduct mini workshops, and while, yes, that is awesome for so many people, I’m also there, and I’ve also learned an enormous amount just by showing up.”

Jensen also admits that his idea for this community is not unique.

“There are definitely lots of national photography and creative groups out there that have more than, like, 70,000 members,” he says. “Those are great for learning what everyone is doing, what lenses are the best, stuff like that. But when you’re looking for something specific, you need local people. A guy in Pakistan or something isn’t going to know that you go to Mulhall’s to shoot on a rainy day.”

The collective appreciation for the Midwest is definitely a main tenant of the Collaborative, but Jensen has also established a community of folks who dig a good adventure. This fall, he is taking a handful of members on a field trip to Lake of the Ozarks (last year, it was Estes Park) to work together and create shared meaning in their fields.

The field trip acts as an in-depth workshop, but also as a space for creative professionals to unwind. Jensen says the greatest lesson he has learned is the need to cultivate a healthy and engaging personal life.

It seems, the entire underlying purpose of the Creatives Collaborative stems from, yes, a need for wedding referrals, but also, a need for self care.

“People don’t take care of themselves enough,” Jensen says. “Burnout makes it difficult to make good work. If you’re so obsessed with growing your business, you won’t have anything else to grow. The Collaborative helps everyone work on themselves—together.”

To learn more about the Creatives Collaborative, check out the main landing page on Facebook.