100 Dallas Creatives Down, Thousands to Go

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Collage by Tracie Louck/Photos courtesy artists
Clockwise from Top Left Sarah Perry, John Pomora, Shay Youngblood, Jonathan Norton, Celia Eberle, Heyd Fontenot

Last May I sat staring into my laptop and a blank document stared back. One hundred can seem like such a daunting number. But some of the Observer's sister papers in cities like Phoenix and Miami had come up with 100 creative people to feature in an ongoing series, so Dallas could too.

Initially, the struggle was explaining what we were trying to accomplish. First to ourselves, and then to the people we were planning to feature. It wasn't an award -- we have the annual Mastermind awards for creative types -- and we had no precedent for it to be any kind of honor. They were just interviews, opportunities for the writer and the reader to peek behind the curtain in the life of someone whose work we admire. When you're in a job like I have, you feel pretty lucky to have an excuse to knock heads with some of the city's greatest minds.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 1 Shay Youngblood, Writer About Town

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Courtesy Shay Youngblood

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.
Shay Youngblood is an artist of several varieties. An author and playwright with numerous publications to her name, Youngblood began to write by reflecting on her tumultuous childhood and the women who raised her, or her "Big Mamas," as she calls them. Throughout her adult life, she has traveled on fellowships everywhere from Saratoga Springs, New York to Toyko.

But Youngblood has the drive to see life from all perspectives. She's also a painter, and is interested in collaborating on an opera, a graphic novel, and animation. She's an innovator. When she wanted to see Dallas as a visitor, she became the Dallas Museum of Art's first Writer in Residence. She's figured out how to keep her craft alive, and balance it with life. In her current day job, she works as a career advisor for creatives. We can hardly think of anyone else more qualified to offer that kind of advice.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 2 Rodney Dobbs, Man Behind the Scenes

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Rodney Dobbs on his set for Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.
It's been said that nobody leaves a theater humming the scenery. But if you've ever seen a show designed by Dallas scenic artist Rodney Dobbs, you might leave singing its praises.

Dobbs' sets often help tell the story of a play, without distracting from the actors, or creating obstacles for the action. He's a master of stretching a small budget into impressive visuals, as he did recently with Dallas playwright Jonathan Norton's new play, Mississippi Goddamn, at the South Dallas Cultural Center. For that, he created a 1960s-era suburban home with a working kitchen (or so it seemed) and period-perfect furnishings.

Dobbs, co-founder of the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, designed his first show, the musical Shenandoah, for the old Dallas Repertory Theatre at NorthPark Mall in 1978. He's been sketching, building, painting and decorating sets ever since for more than 250 plays and musicals in theaters in Dallas, Fort Worth and cities around and in between.

With a degree in commercial art from Arkansas State, and experience with carpentry from summers working at his father's construction business, Dobbs moved to Dallas in 1977 for a job in the art department at Zale Corporation. A co-worker talked him into helping build sets at Dallas Rep. By 1980, at age 26, he was running "the Pocket" with theater business partner Joe Dickinson. The little playhouse on Mockingbird Lane is still filling seats nearly every night of the year with comedies and melodramas, with audiences invited to toss popcorn at the stage and hiss and boo the villains.

We nailed down Dobbs for an email interview as he was finishing the scenery for Jubilee Theatre's next production, Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, opening April 3. He has a dozen more shows lined up to design this year on local stages.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 3 Artists/Curators Michael Mazurek and Jesse Morgan Barnett

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Courtesy the artists
Michael Mazurek and Jesse Morgan Barnett (L-R)

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.
Over the span of four months at the beginning of 2014, the Dallas Biennial hosted 12 exhibitions, showing 50 artists. The art of DB14 was all over the city's map, and artists were both local and international. In just two years since its founding, this event grew from a mostly online event into one of the more ambitious and interesting visual art projects in Dallas. But DB14's success should come as no surprise if you're familiar with the event's co-founders and curators, who happen to be two of the more intriguing artists turned curators around.

The work of both Jesse Morgan Barnett and Michael Mazurek tends to be rich in concept and abstraction. They're both incredibly smart artists who give the viewers avenues for thought and conversation. Which is what DB14 did as well. We chatted with them about their work as artists and curators, and whether or not we can expect a DB16.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 4 Lisa Robison, Designer with Purpose

Categories: 100 Creatives

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courtesy Lisa Robison
Helping families Dwell With Dignity.

Most of us wouldn't think that there is a lot of art to working in the nonprofit world, and that's probably a pretty fair assessment. Many agencies that work with struggling families are so focused on providing basic assistance like food and shelter that sometimes life's finer details aren't always considered.

Lisa Robison, a local designer and founder of nonprofit Dwell With Dignity, found a creative way to use her own talents to make the lives of families in need a little brighter. Her organization brings together artists, interior designers and the community to provide design services to families transitioning into permanent housing. We sat down with Robison to talk about how she got the idea for Dwell With Dignity, the logistics of creating art and designing on a budget, and what that all means for the families her organization works with.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 5 Kevin Rubén Jacobs, Irreverent Art World Organizer

Categories: 100 Creatives

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When you ask Jacobs to send you a photo, this is what you get.
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.

Kevin Rubén Jacobs isn't your average Dallas curator. In a city that worships blue chip artists and lets money do most of the talking in the art world, Jacobs is far more interested in shaking things up. He's a young, energetic curator who, just a few years out of his undergraduate studies at University of Texas at Arlington, has already worked as a curator at Goss Michael Foundation and started both his own alternative space, Oliver Francis Gallery, which he describes as having "the in-your-face sensibility" you might find in New York's Lower East Side.

He's tenaciously irreverent and critics have praised both his taste and enthusiasm. After a short hiatus, he's recently rebranded Oliver Francis Gallery as OFG.XXX, because a visit to his space after a day spent in the Design District feels adventurous and off color, in all the best ways.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 6 Contemporary Curator and Artist Danielle Avram Morgan

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Danielle with daughter Eleanor at the Keith Haring: The Political Line show in San Francisco, 2014

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.
Danielle Avram Morgan is a photographer turned video artist turned curator, all of which she likely does a great deal better than the average person. Hers is a name you'll see around Dallas now that you know. She's involved in much more than you're probably aware of. In the last few weeks, it's possible you saw the Dallas Medianale exhibit, Call and Response, which she co-curated with Dee Mitchell, or the Kristen Cochran show at the SMU Pollock Gallery, where Morgan is currently a curatorial fellow.

Her interests vary, but her taste is always interesting and on point and she's sharing it with Dallas. With Morgan around we're all getting a little bit smarter and more cultured bit by bit.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 7 Fashion Maven Julie McCullough

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Elliot Munoz Photography

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.

Julie McCullough says that she "stepped into" fashion design but has been blazing quite a trail since arriving in Dallas in 2001. Originally from Michigan, McCullough moved to Chicago to attend school at Columbia College. Eventually, she decided she wanted to experience something different and "packed up the Uhaul," and moved to Texas. The woman behind the yearly fashion event, The Pin Show, McCullough, while working on designs of her own under the labels Make and Folksie, showcases homegrown designers and even, at times, musicians.

The Pin Show is much different than the run-of-the-mill fashion show, often featuring not only amazing clothing, but everything from photo shoots, interesting bars and runways, hosted in various venues ranging from glamorous ballrooms to large, barren warehouses. Keeping with tradition, this year's event will take place in Deep Ellum's much anticipated new space, The Bomb Factory.

McCullough finds Dallas to be the perfect home for her clothing lines as well as The Pin Show because of the constantly growing scene of overall creativity within the city - be it surrounding music, art or fashion. McCullough calls the Dallas community supportive, and it shows considering the show is in its 8th year. The Pin Show's multi-talented team takes matters into their own hands by handing press, photography, show production, hair and make-up so that featured designers and guests can sit back and enjoy the show.

Following The Pin Show Presents: Scene last weekend at Trees Dallas, McCullough is looking forward to The Pin Show in April, as well as continuing work on her own line, Folksie, and even beginning work on a line of Chef's wear. With a new studio in the Design District, McCullough plans to continue working with other local creatives to keep Dallas' scene of fashion, art, music and design growing.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 8 Ben Fountain, Man of Letters

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Mark Graham
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.
Ben Fountain is one of the most successful writers to call Dallas home. His 2007 collection of short stories, Brief Encounters With Che Guevara, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and his first novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, was published in 2012 to similar critical acclaim, becoming a finalist for the National Book Award. But it's well documented -- see this 2008 New Yorker piece by Malcolm Gladwell -- that Fountain's path to success was not a direct one. He moved to Dallas in the '80s to practice law but quit in 1988 to write full time; although a few short stories received some recognition, it took 18 years of consistent writing before he had a major work published.

Dallas hasn't been regarded for a vibrant literary scene in the past, but that seems to be changing slowly. We now have an independent bookstore in Oak Cliff, The Wild Detectives; we've got Wordspace, a nonprofit literary arts group that programs events year-round; and last year another local writer, Merritt Tierce, earned effusive praise from everyone from The New York Times Book Review to Carrie Brownstein for her debut novel, Love Me Back (Fountain was also a big champion of hers).

I spoke with Fountain about the effect, if any, that these developments have had on the life of a writer in Dallas, the long road from lawyer to acclaimed writer, his writing habits and what he's working on now.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 9 Allison Davidson, Advocate for Art Accessibility

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.

It's true that art is not just a beautiful part of life, but it can be valuable for mental development. And not just at young ages, but late into life. Even so, accessibility programs are few and far between. Which is what the Meadows Museum has been working to change with programs, like Connections at the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University, which works with people in early stages of dementia.

In a culture that relentlessly worships and accommodates youth, the work done by Allison Davidson and the team at the Meadows brings attention to an underserved population of people interested in art, presenting programs that offer thoughtful, engaged access to the museums for people with autism, dementia, or other forms of physical or mental impairments.

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