100 Dallas Creatives: No. 63 Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi

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Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.

When Kelsey Leigh Ervi graduated from Baylor University, moving to Dallas would've been an obvious choice. Quite a few alumni of the theater department land in Dallas, fine tune their mechanics and fly away to a bigger city. And local theaters are happy to be used as a launching pad for the careers of these aspiring actors, comedians, director. But moving to Dallas was a redirection for Ervi, but one she says gave her a home base she plans to keep for quite some time.

Just a few years into her career, she's made her professional directing debut at WaterTower Theatre, where she also has a day job as the Assistant to the Producing Artistic Director. More important, she's found a community. She's adding a fresh perspective to the theater scene here and proving that young people can get jobs -and good ones! - in the theater.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 64 Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia

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Self-Portrait
Part of 40-photo essay about all the possible ways this hat may be worn, which showed at Conduit Gallery for TepeQuetzalandia in 2013
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.

No matter the medium, the work of Roberto Munguia seems riddled with mystery. It's not that it's enigmatic, although interpretation is often difficult, it's that he creates complexities. Throughout his career, Munguia has worked in numerous media from ink drawings to encaustics to clay. Simultaneously he been investigating language, sculpting words into poetry. And he's done much of this artistic inquiry in Dallas.

He remembers a time when the Dallas Museum of Art was still in Fair Park and the gallery scene was next to non-existent. He belongs to the city's artistic old guard, but his work continues to be fresh. I've long been an admirer of Munguia's work and it was nice to put a face and a story, with his rich, varied approach to art.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No 65 Writerly Wit Noa Gavin

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Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.

Dallas Comedy House performer and writer Noa Gavin started her comedy career by creating the popular comedy blog community Oh Noa! and the League of Fuckin' Bitches as an outlet for her sense of humor that she couldn't showcase in her original job as the co-operator of a chain of marital arts stores.

Since then, she's earned a spot on the DCH roster of long-form improv comedy club regulars who helped create one of its most signature groups, Atlantic Pacific Billy -they reenact movies - and one of its first sketch shows Various Artists. She also writes regularly for the NickMom humor blog and recently started a short story project with fellow APB members Nick Scott and Alicia Sherrod. We got the lowdown on how she pulls creativity out of herself and why comedy is better (and cheaper) than therapy.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No 66 Intrepid Publisher Will Evans

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Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.

The hyper-connected world we live in makes art and music from the far reaches of the globe easily accessible to everyone, but "for some reason, literature is the only art form that is constantly being made to defend the right to be disseminated and experienced outside of its original culture," observes Will Evans. And he aims to do something about that.

Of course there is a barrier to entry that doesn't exist in visual art or music - and that's language. Evans, who recently launched a small publishing house in Dallas he's calling Deep Vellum Publishing, is about to start doing his part to cross that barrier. This year Deep Vellum, which is functioning as a non-profit, will publish five original works in translation and he's already turning heads in the international publishing world.

We pride ourselves in Dallas on our burgeoning arts scene but as Evans sees it, we're missing a crucial segment of the art world by turning our back on the literary scene. So if you ask him well, why Dallas? There's your answer. The organizations and resources exist, the Writer's Garret and Wordspace, for example, we're just failing to capitalize and discuss what's already happening in our community.

"There's no reason not to have more of the type of local literary community that people could identify similarly to Minneapolis--a very similar city (far from the coasts, tons of big business) that is internationally recognized for its dynamic arts scene, including a huge literary arts community," says Evans of Dallas.

We couldn't agree more and while Evans is dreaming really big, he's already influencing the conversation. And he hasn't even published his first book.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No 67 Community Architect Monica Diodati

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Scott Mitchell

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.
Dallas isn't exactly known as a haven for grassroots movements. Farmer's markets face constant obstacles despite rising popularity, the downtown sector is renowned big business, and mom and pop shops seem to be restricted to some of Dallas' smaller neighborhoods.

But Dallas is knee deep in a transition stage. And, admittedly, transitions can be rough--legislation takes time to catch up, new ideas are constantly bubbling up and new blood constantly pushes forward.

In Dallas, there isn't blood much younger than Monica Diodati. Even at such a young age, this local advocate has been the mastermind behind both the Design District Market and the burgeoning Little D Farmers Market in Trinity Groves. Oh, and she's only 25.

The two events differ slightly in their production but fulfill a similar purpose. While the Design Destrict Market aims to assemble craftsmen and artisans to sell their wares in a block-party like atmosphere, the Farmer's Market is bringing local, farm-fresh produce to one of the fastest growing areas in Dallas. The next Design District Market takes place Saturday, August 23 at the Dallas Contemporary and the next Little D Farmer's Market will be September 7.

Both of these recurring events mark a shift in Dallas that has been going on in more progressive parts of the country for years now--a movement towards community-oriented markets and gatherings. And they are part of a small, growing group of similar events in Dallas.

But Diodati isn't doing this just for a kick-ass time and some sweet, organic veggies. While she may be able to plan a poppin' neighborhood shindig, Diodati's goal is to bring the 'hood together and foster cohesion and community.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 68 Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault

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Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.

As Paige Chenault opens the door to the Birthday Party Project's new office in Addison, she greets me with a warm smile and hug. The office is full of boxes packed high with birthday presents and goody bag treats, as well as volunteers sorting through them. Cheanult's entire staff is wearing BPP T-shirts that read, "Eat. Sleep. Party. Repeat."

BPP visits 12 agencies each month and each kid who has a birthday that month receives a cake, birthday gift, and a birthday badge. The other kids in the agency celebrate, too. In June alone, BPP celebrated with more than 500 kids.

A retired wedding planner, Cheanult has the innate talent for planning a big event, but also the passion and kindness for being a part of other people's celebrations to back the talent up. But from speaking with her, it became apparent it's not the birthday the nonprofit is celebrating. It's the children.

As Chenault begins to speak about the birthday parties and the individual children, her eyes become watery.

"I have a lot of favorite stories. Each of our agencies are so very unique. We meet with," she pauses. "God, I'm going to get emotional." She continues, "We get to party with kids that are coming out of domestic violence. We get to party with kids whose moms are being rehabilitated from sex trafficking. We get to party with families that are truly just in this chronic homeless system. And so I feel like we have this unique opportunity to serve these kids and meet their needs right where they are."

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 69 Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams

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Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.

One doesn't quickly forget their first visit to WAAS Gallery - or the first time meeting the gallery's extraordinarily creative owner and curator Brandy Michele Adams.

Based on a handful of exhibition openings I've attended at WAAS, the gallery always feels like an open, welcoming space for artists to show their work. And, likewise, Adams always seems welcoming, positive and effervescent. A self-aware "rare bird" and self-taught painter, Adams possesses a style that is remarkably unique. She accurately describes her style as Rainbow Bright meets Alexander McQueen.

Born in Florida, Adams was raised in Dallas and spent her formative years in the area before heading to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a make-up artist, studying at Los Angeles' Westmore Academy of Cosmetic Arts. This post offers a great recap of Adams reasons for leaving, then returning to Dallas and opening WAAS.

Even after a brief conversation with Adams, you come away believing that she believes art has the power to educate, enrich and transform a community. Adams has described her gallery as "an artist helping artist kind of gallery." And WAAS is an independent art gallery that features established artists and up-and-comers, and as their about me says serves as "an incubator for art."

Adams is a natural host - in the gallery or on stage. And she served as the emcee several art-related events in Dallas over the past year, most notably RAW's Dallas events. And she's the one who will greet you at the gallery, which is a two-story building built in the 1930s located between Fair Park and Deep Ellum (2722 Logan Street) with more than 3,000 square feet of show space, allowing plenty of room for interesting larger art installations.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 70 Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer

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A. Minzer
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.

Curiosity and experience are essential to creation and Karen Minzer has both in spades . Citing everything from psychedelic culture and the Weathermen's antics to John Cale and Laurie Anderson as influences, Karen Minzer either is, or has been, in touch with more aspects of underground culture than most have even heard of.

"And Allen, Allen- always Allen," she says when asked who has inspired her. Allen Ginsberg naturally, who Minzer met after a letter she wrote prompted a personal invite to study with him as a poetics apprentice at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder. Lucky for Dallas, Minzer wound up here.

Minzer has at one point or another worked as a journalist, author, poet, spoken-word performer, television show producer and, most recently, curator of the like-minded at Wordspace, a Dallas-based organization dedicated to the written word and "cross-pollination with the other arts."

Minzer first arrived in Dallas via Austin in 1978. A self-described gypsy, she immediately became a part of all of the great, artistic circles of the time, publishing magazines, doing photo shoots, and hanging out with a veritable who's who of Dallas-based artists, poets and musicians.

Those were days of smoke-ins and happenings and Minzer was there for most of it. "I found an emancipating free-associative vibe among the artists that was exhilarating," she says of her move to Dallas from Austin in '78, "Whatever Austin is - it was Dallas that seemed to be the most influenced by the avant garde."

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Dallas.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 71 Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor

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Contemporary Ballet Dallas

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.
When it comes to classical dance, most people have a pretty solidified opinion on whether or not they're a fan. If dance has a reputation for being boring or lacking innovation, it's largely unwarranted. Certainly there is no lack of inspired performers and choreographers.

Ballet - one of the most highly technical and rigorous schools of danceĀ - probably takes the brunt of the wilting reputation. And, like many other forms of high art, dance is often only accessible by those of us who have disposable income to spend on fine arts. Tickets to the theatre are expensive, and dance studios don't always venture into neighborhoods where populations who need exposure to the arts most live.

But in a second floor dance studio off Mockingbird Lane, Valerie Shelton Tabor energizes the local scene, working to bring ballet to audiences that may never have enjoyed dance before. As the Artistic Director and a choreographer at Contemporary Ballet Dallas, Tabor is bringing innovation and accessibility to an art form that deserves modern audiences.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 72 Classical Thespian Raphael Parry

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via Shakespeare Dallas
To be, or not to be?
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.

Dallas' thriving theatre scene can be attributed to a number of factors. The city's investment in a world-class arts district and a continuing influx of coastal expats certainly help create venues and audiences, but the creative forces of actors and directors in Dallas drag the arts scene forward, sometimes kicking and screaming.

Raphael Parry is one of those driving forces. Since the 80's he's been a key player in the Dallas theater scene. Not only did he co-found the 30-year-old Undermain Theatre in Deep Ellum, but when he left that space in the hands of Katherine Owens, he took up a post as the Executive & Artistic Director at Shakespeare Dallas. Since 2002 he has helped bring the Bard to a broader audience in Dallas than ever before. An award-winning thespian in his own right, Parry has dedicated himself to presenting Shakespeare to the people of Dallas in a way that is accessible and audience-friendly without sacrificing the integrity of these historic works.

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