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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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 73 Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur

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Another secret to comedy? A good backdrop.

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.

Aaron Aryanpur is more than just one of DFW's most admired comedians. He's an admirer of comedy. The graphic artist turned award winning stand-up has an interesting hobby for a comedy fan. He draws black and white caricatures of his favorite comedians, then seeks out their autograph for his collection that features faces and scribbled names like Penn and Teller, Dave Attell, all five Kids in the Hall and the late Mitch Hedburg.

What's the secret to winning Funniest Comic in Texas and landing a spot on the new Fox show, Laughs? For Aryanpur, it helps to bounce ideas off other comics and meet his personal deadlines.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 74 Original Talent Celia Eberle

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Kevin Todora

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.

Celia Eberle's work as an artist knows no restrictions. A lifetime Texas resident, Eberle considers herself a product of the "pine curtain," a reference to growing up in Longview. For the past 25 years, she's shown her work in and around Dallas, building an oeuvre that's imaginative, surreal and occasionally creepy. Many times, one of her mixed media sculptures has sent an unconscious tingle down my spine.

It's not often that a brilliant talent like Eberle's flourishes in Dallas waters, which tend to ebb and flow when it comes to financial and artistic support. But Eberle docked herself in this mid-country art outpost -- or actually just outside it, in a little town named Ennis -- where she's seen the tide go out and come back in. We're lucky she stuck around, because it's lifetime artists like Eberle who buoy up the city's reputation and keep the local scene lively.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 75 Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez

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The Basement Gallery

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.

If you drove past The Basement Gallery during the day, you might not know it was there. But if you're a young artist in Dallas looking for a place to have your work shown, there are few places as friendly as Daniel Yanez's little corner of paradise.

For the past two years The Basement has acted as a laboratory of sorts, allowing artists to experiment and push the boundaries of their craft in an environment that adapts to their vision. But it took quite a bit of elbow grease and luck for the gallery to become what it is today.

After scouring Craigslist for months on end, Yanez finally found a space to call his own. "It was kind of jacked up, but I was like 'let's go check it out, see what it's about,'" he says. "I called up the building owner who is Chris Anderson a really great guy, I met with him and he showed me the basement."

The space had been unused for years. Spider webs, forgotten boxes of refuse, garish wallpaper and dirty floors would probably best describe the contents of the gallery as it stood when Yanez first saw it.

"(Anderson) had shown it to a few other people, but they didn't want the space." Yanez says about his first impressions of his gallery. "When I came down here I was like 'Wow!' I saw the potential and was like man, this could be a really great spot ... and the price was right."

About a month and a half later, The Basement had its first show, and it's only gotten better since then.

"It's still continuing to blossom, the possibilities are endless," Yanez says. Let's hope for our sake he is right, because The Basement is truly one of the coolest spots in Dallas' underground art scene.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 76 Music Activist Salim Nourallah

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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 you drive down the streets of Knox-Henderson's residential area, it's hard to imagine that behind one of the quaint, cottage-style homes is a state-of-the-art recording studio. But that's exactly where you'll find one of Dallas' most acclaimed musicians and producer, Salim Nourallah's Pleasantry Lane Studio. The unmarked studio is barely visible from the street and the only adornment to the inconspicuous garage is a large, red Hit Parade cigarette sign from the '50s.

But the moment you open the red door and cross the threshold, the idea that the space was ever a one-car garage is baffling. The spacious control room is unique in its '60s mod design. On one side of the room a row of guitars Nourallah has accumulated over the years from his first, a red Rickenbacker 330, to his old '63 Guild Mark 2 acoustic, which he plays at every show. In the tracking room is a 1967 Yamaha U3 his brother Faris, with whom he first opened the studio, wrote his first four records on.

After marveling at the decked-out control panel and peeking inside the tracking room with plastered with posters of bands such as The Beatles and The damned, I sat down with the singer-songwriter and producer who swept the 2006 Observer music awards for his album Beautiful Noise winning Best Album/Best Song and Best Producer. Nourallah went on to win seven consecutive Observer Awards for Best Producer, working with bands and artists such as the Old 97s, Rhett Miller, Deathray Davies & Carter Albrecht.

Nourallah does far more for the community than churn out great records. In spite of his busy schedule, he continues to participate in multiple charitable organizations, started Rock Camp, where kids ages 9-18 have the opportunity to better their craft and record in a real studio, and continues to stand up for local musicians and call for community change.


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