100 Dallas Creatives: No. 79 Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull

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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 kids are our future. Eventually the students of today will be the teachers of tomorrow. At least, that's how it worked for Rachel Hull, the director of education and community enrichment at Dallas Theater Center, who was once just a middle school student interested in acting. Now, she runs one of the country's strongest theater outreach programs, Project Discovery. No, really. Last year, Hull was invited on behalf of DTC to accept the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, from the White House.

In addition to Project Discovery - which gives Dallas-area kids tickets to shows and buses them to the theater - since joining the staff of DTC in 2005, Hull has headed up the Stay Late program and built curriculum for specific shows. It's one of those behind-the-scenes jobs that gives the theater an even greater impact on the community. And in spite of the long hours, you'd be hard-pressed to find Hull without a sunny disposition and a warm smile.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 80 Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel

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Travis Aitken

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 a kid Jeremy Bartel's mother made him and his two brothers dress alike. He never found out why, but needless to say, their family photos are pretty spectacular. Bartel called it quits on twinsies when he was in kindergarten. Up until that point he didn't mind, but once he was surrounded by kids his own age, he was over it. And that's the story of Bartel, or at least the arc - he does what he wants. But not in a Willy-Wonka-Veruca-Salt kind of way. More in a matter-of-fact, I'm-going-to-go-try-this-now sort of way.

Bartel is a local commercial and film director who's been obsessed with moviemaking since childhood. He's on one of the most unique career paths you can imagine, which was sparked by a sense of curiosity that never quits and a frankness that, as trite as it sounds, is incredibly refreshing.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 81 Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner

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Robert Hart
Mark Lowry & Michael Warner

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 Mark Lowry was contemplating the launch of a website covering regional theater he didn't have a whole lot to go on. In 2009, when TheaterJones.com launched, blogs were still a relatively new phenomenon. Even more rare? A blog (or anything for that matter) dedicated to regional theater coverage.

But when you know, you know. Lowry and fellow Theater Jones founding partner Elaine Liner (you may knew her as the Dallas Observer theater critic) saw what was happening at newspapers around the country; they and fellow arts critics were the first round of writers to get the ax in the battle between print and online media. Lowry and Liner did not plan on going quietly.

They wanted a venue for smart, regional arts writing that wouldn't live or die at the whim of corporate ownership. And Theater Jones was born under the belief that consistent conversation about the arts is vital to a local scene (and maybe just a little bit out of a selfish, and perfectly understandable excuse to keep writing).

It's probably not surprising that for the first few years the website wasn't making much money, if any. But eventually they saw a return on a risky investment. Almost six years after the website went live, Lowry now makes enough money from the site to pay not only himself and business partner/developer Michael Warner, but also his writers and photographers (who used to work for free), and in the process has pioneered the creation of a sustainable online model for local arts coverage. No small feat in today's competitive online marketplace.

Lowry, ever modest, would probably downplay his role in the continued viability of the Dallas performing arts scene, but ask anyone involved in Dallas arts - they all read Theater Jones.

Get to know Michael and Mark, the duo giving the Dallas performing arts a foothold on the Internet.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 82 Artistic Tastemakers Elissa and Erin Stafford

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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.

Running a gallery is not easy. Sisters Elissa and Erin Stafford knew this when their father handed them the keys to Red Arrow Contemporary. Both artists in their own rights - Elissa with a degree in printmaking, Erin in painting - they cut their curatorial teeth at RAC, quickly growing the space into one of the most exciting galleries on Dragon Street.

In its first two years, the Stafford sisters created seasons that reflected their personal artistic taste, which is diverse in media and thematic scope. They are constantly in pursuit of new artistic challenges, both in their separate and shared work. And, perhaps most admirable, they are bent on sharing opportunities with other artists in the city. They encourage, support and show the work of local artists, alongside internationally acclaimed artists like Shepard Fairey. Up next, they're planning a curatorial residency, putting their gallery in the hands of other similarly inclined artists.

These two sisters work in tandem to make Dallas a more art-and-artist-friendly city and in spite of the stresses of running a business together, they make it look effortless. When we spoke via email this week, they even collaborated on their responses. The Stafford sisters are working hard to keep the Dallas art scene alert and lively.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 83 Movie Nerd James Wallace

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James Wallace talks with George Romero and cast of Dawn of the Dead

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.

Movie buffs can have such an infectious love for film that it feels like it should be classified as some kind of chemical addiction. They are always talking about movies. They squeeze as many of their favorite lines into daily conversations as if they are playing some personal game of Movie Bingo. They ask your opinions and then defend their favorites with knives, if necessary. And if they're as lucky as James Wallace, the Alamo Drafthouse's creative director, they find a way to turn their love of movies into a full-time job.

"To quote Liam Neeson, one has to have 'a very particular set of skills...skills I have acquired over a very long career,'" Wallace says using a not-so-subtle nod to Neeson's most famous line from Taken.

Wallace's love of movies has always been a driving force in his career. He helped launch the wildly successful movie blog Gordon and the Whale before launching his own movie site I Heart Cinema that aimed to bring creative movie viewing opportunities long before Tim and Carrie League had their eyes on setting up a Drafthouse in our backyard. He wrote film critiques and columns on his blog - as well as several local and national publications including the Dallas Observer - before earning the job that has made him the envy of every self-respecting movie fan in DFW.

Richardson's Drafthouse hasn't been open for a full year but Wallace's direction and event ideas have already drawn huge crowds to the theater chain that's already a mecca for movie-heads. He helped organize pre-opening screening party of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy ending "The World's End" featuring appearances by director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost . He started a series of live table reads of famous movies like When Harry Met Sally... and Toy Story with the Dallas Screenwriters Association. He organized a series of secret screenings in which the audience doesn't know what they are buying a ticket to see until they sit down in the seat and the house lights dim.

Wallace talked to the Dallas Observer for the 100 Creatives series about what it takes to run a movie theater that prides itself on doing more than just screening movies and selling popcorn buckets.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 84 Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez

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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.

Is there really an underground art scene in Dallas? Are there artists who deserve recognition that the mainstream art press and art patrons completely bypass? And if major publications suddenly began paying attention to the up-and-comers would it validate or negate these raw, edgy movements? Would it disturb the young creative process if their avant garde art shows were swarmed by the suburban upper crust who read about their "adorable art show" in the Morning News? Is that attention the young artist wants? Doesn't that scene deserve a publication written in its voice, by its own members?

These are the questions we imagine running through Javier Valadez's head in the early stages of THRWD. One of the city's only local zines, THRWD is the brainchild of Valadez and former Dallas Observer contributor, Lee Escobedo. It's an amalgam of art and prose focused on fringe culture. It's cool, but not pretentious; smart, but not pedantic. And it adds a necessary voice to the cultural dialogue in Dallas. So, in case you hadn't gathered this yet: Valadez and THRWD, we think you're pretty rad.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 85 Party Planning Print Maker Raymond Butler

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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.

I'm standing inside a stairwell thumbing through my phone contacts when I hear a slight creak of metal hinges followed by an overly-dramatic voice saying "excuse me, sir." Raymond Butler's face is peeking out from behind the cracked-open door of Swag Dealer, the printmaking shop where he works. As usual, he's smiling his toothy grin.

After inviting me inside, Butler looks down at his hands and shorts. "Man, you caught me in my work clothes," he jokes. His shorts are plastered in hastily wiped-away ink and his shirt sports several Toadies designs all over it--I discover later that Swag Dealer does the printmaking for the Fort Worth natives.

The 26 -year-old Dallas native is a lot of things: a printmaker, a photographer, a collage artist, a curator, promoter and financial backer. Hell, the list of what Butler isn't is probably shorter. And the dude may be on the younger side, but he's already making some serious waves in what you could call (but probably shouldn't) the "underground art scene."

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 86 Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards

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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.

Ryder Richards. It's a name made for the arts. And Richards delivers. He is an artist, a writer, a curator, and an educator.

It all began in Roswell, New Mexico, where as a kid, Richards would sketch out battle scenes, progressing to love notes for the ladies in middle school, then to drawing Bob Dylan while reading philosophy in college. Eventually that brought him to North Texas, where he earned a MFA in Painting from Texas Christian University and a Visiting Scholar position in Art at Eastfield College.

Richards earned quite a bit of attention during his time as Gallery Coordinator for Richland College in Dallas where he challenged the status quo of college art spaces, turning it into a more experimental space. Now he's focused on his art, working both solo and in collaboration with artists and collectives. It's not often that an artist finds time to participate in both his own creative pursuits and further the creative output of other artists, as an educator, a critic and a curator, but Richards finds time for it all.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 87 Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart

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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.

Don't let Nicole Stewart's stature fool you. She may be petite, but she is all power and passion (and a little bit Pilates). For Stewart, pursuing a career in the arts was a no brainer. Her maternal grandparents, Juanita and Henry S. Miller, founded The Dallas Opera, contributed to the creation of the Dallas Theater Center and the Dallas Symphony. As a young actress, she left Dallas for over a decade to pursue both the stage and the screen, but when she was living in Los Angeles, she stumbled into the storytelling arena.

"That's what really lit a fire under me to get excited about personal storytelling on stage," she says. Stewart soon returned to Dallas and began a storytelling series called Oral Fixation, an hour-long evening of true, personal stories, each with a new theme and performed by a cross-section of Dallasites. Not only did she want to create a space allowing the oft voiceless to have a voice, it is also a way in which Stewart can continue her grandparents' legacy.

Thanks to Stewart, the world's oldest art form has seen a revival here in Dallas and at just 35 years old, we're excited to see what she does next.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 88 Movie Maestro Eric Steele

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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.

While the Dallas filmmaking scene may not have the hipster gravitas of Austin, we can claim quite a few of the most interesting and provocative indie filmmakers in the Lone Star State. One of those cinema wizards is hometown wiz Eric Steele, who additionally works as a writer, producer, theater owner, film festival founder, and the list goes on.

But arguably Steele's greatest achievement has been in turning Dallas into the birthplace of the next big thing in the film industry. Steele, along with his partners in Aviation Cinemas, have turned the historical Texas Theatre into a bastion for experimental and original films all of the world. And once a year, the Aviation dudes deliver even more indie film magic with the Oak Cliff Film Festival, which recently completed its third successful year.

The festival is a three-day celebration of the kind of innovative film that Steele himself has dedicated his life to producing. His most recent film, Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, which he wrote and produced, is an 85-minute long motivational speech turned gut-wrenching maelstrom of what occurs when a human overcomes impossible tragedy.

His thought-provoking take on the silver screen and efforts to stimulate interest in the cinematic arts makes Steele one of Dallas's most creative residents. But he is not looking to rest on his laurels anytime soon. Steele and the guys with Aviation Cinema are looking to bring a richer film experience to the big D, and we had a chance to delve into the mind of this daring jack of all trades.

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