100 Dallas Creatives: No. 50 Dallas Arts District

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The midpoint of this list seemed the appropriate time to acknowledge the Dallas Arts District. Decades in the making, the Dallas Arts District signals not only the city's dedication to the arts, but is a significant promise to future generations. It's reshaped how Dallas thinks and talks about the arts, for both good and bad.

In this five-pronged edition of 100 Creatives, we chat with Catherine Cuellar, who runs a nonprofit named Dallas Arts District, which she describes as a homeowner's association of sorts. The neighborhood and its leaders have been shaping the arts scene, from the AT&T Performing Arts Center's interest in presenting both touring productions and local artistic organizations to the Nasher Sculpture Center's investment in the city with projects like Nasher Xchange, and of course the resident companies who are creating the art in the gorgeous buildings, like Dallas Black Dance Theatre and TITAS. It's this top-level leadership that provides a stronghold for the entire arts scene. We can blame it and praise it for things. What happens in the Dallas Arts District is not the only arts scene in Dallas. Hardly. But's an important component of the cultural landscape in Dallas and for that, we've included the neighborhood in this list.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No 51 Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon

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Sara Kerens
Artist Stephen Lapthisophon has made his mark on Dallas in more ways than one. Born in Houston, he attended undergraduate at UT Austin and went on to get his MFA in Chicago, where he also studied comparative literature at Northwestern. In the early 2000s, he was looking for new opportunities to show work and ended up in Dallas, as an artist in residence at UTD. In 2007, having developed a close working relationship with Nancy Whitenack at Conduit Gallery, he made the decision to move here permanently.

In the seven years since then, he has been a dynamic contributor to the Dallas art world. He regularly shows at Conduit in the Design District and helps to bring up the next generation of artists at UT Arlington, where he teaches. His artistic interests and influences are diverse -- ranging from painting to poetry to film. One influence on his work that is often discussed, including by Lapthisophon himself, is his blindness. For twenty years he has been legally blind. In October of 2013, he presented his first major solo exhibition, entitled "coffee, seasonal fruit, root vegetables and 'Selected Poems'" at the Dallas Museum of Art. That exhibit featured works made with food materials like coffee, ground spices and herbs, emphasizing the importance of senses other than sight -- a regular theme of his art.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 52 Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang

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Lucy Dang
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.



By Michelle Foster

Planted in Dallas and blossomed in New York, Lucy Dang is back to her Texas roots and making a name for herself in the fashion world. Designed to "unveil a woman's alluring character while showcasing her natural beauty," her beautiful dresses have an unmistakable, unique charm in their threads. Her clothing exudes a jaw-dropping elegance. Some of the pieces are geared for higher-end wedding guests, while most are more formal, floor-length gowns fit for the most sophisticated of ladies. Her Fall/Winter 2014 collection is bold and romantic, featuring royal purples and monochromatic blacks.

In 2013, Lucy was the winner of Texas Next Top Designer and Belk's Southern Designer Showcase. The folks at Lucy Dang Dallas built their business on a shoestring budget, and the company is growing rapidly, headed quickly toward their ultimate goal: to become a household name in the South.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 53 Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Michael Morris performing at first Hermeneutic at The Black Lodge in Deep Ellum in 2013.
Michael Morris likes film.

Understatement of the year. He loves film. He lives and breathes it. Morris is the man when it comes to video.

Since moving back to Dallas four years ago, he has carved a niche for himself in the local art scene, bringing the history of avant-garde film alive while creating a name for himself as part of its future in contemporary art.

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 54 Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Undermain Theatre
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.

Katherine Owens has made her mark on Dallas as founder and artistic director of the critically acclaimed Undermain Theatre in Deep Ellum, the culmination of a lifelong passion for the arts. This passion began when Owens was a girl growing up in Odessa, Texas, where her father encouraged her creatively.

"My father was a big reader and lover of painting and music, particularly opera," she says. "Where I grew up, that was a little bit unusual. At first I wanted to be a painter. He tutored me and helped me to recognize the styles and names of the paintings. I always drew. It was something that you could do in a private world of your own, which seemed logical in Odessa."

However, by the time she was twelve, her interest in the arts had drifted to the stage. Owens saw Life with Father at the The Permian Playhouse and her dedication to a life in the theater began.

"It was so captivating to me," she says. "The theater just seemed like the only place to be." Soon after, she started working at Odessa's very own replica of the Globe Theatre. "If you could catch a ride down there, they'd put you to work," she says. "I started working there as a spear carrier, dresser and assistant director."

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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 55 Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Oil and Cotton
Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick are the chic chicks that run Oil & Cotton.

Kayli House Cusick met Shannon Driscoll at a volunteer meeting for the very first Better Block Street Festival in Oak Cliff. They immediately clicked. And for that year's fest, they wanted to fuse Shannon's background as an art conservator and leader of adult craft workshops and Kayli's work as a children's arts curriculum writer. So, they took over an old warehouse to create a "pop-up" art studio. And Oil & Cotton was born.

Now, they run a space at the corner of 7th and Tyler Street where kids and adults alike can take classes in everything from printmaking to sewing. Their "make do with what you got" philosophy inspires creativity not just in their own lives, but in the lives of everyone who visits their studio. They're teaching Dallas residents to be expressive and resourceful, and they're making the art of making fun.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 56 Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio

Categories: 100 Creatives

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About once a year, the city of Dallas is treated to the offbeat, immersive theater of the Dead White Zombies. Seeing one of the troupe's shows is unlike any play you've seen before. You don't settle into a plush, comfortable seat. There's nothing comfortable about the shows at all - that fall into a category between traditional theater and performance art. Most prominently, the group mounted T.N.B. (typical nigga behavior) in a former drug stash house in West Dallas. That show -about, among other things, the black male experience -was filled with guns, drugs, sex, and violence. Walking out the response varied from "WTF" to "Awesome!"

At the helm of the self-described Pirates of Dallas theater is Thomas Riccio. A theater professor and scholar, whose studies have taken him all over the world, Riccio's primary interest is in the ideas of ritual and the immersive narrative that is everyday life. We once called him "The Weirdest Theater Mind in Dallas" - a reputation he continues to uphold. See it for yourself when the Zombies invade Dallas in November with a play called, Karaoke Motel, the details of which have not yet been announced.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 57 Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry

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"I don't know if I've made any significant contributions other than following the advice of an early mentor to 'keep making art'," says Val Curry, sculptor and installation artist about making art in Dallas.

But he's probably wrong about that. This guy is one of the most interesting people you will meet in Dallas. He just keeps making art that has people talking, whether it's the giant outdoor cat sanctuary he has built in his backyard, his window installation with Robert David Reedy at Urban Outfitters Mockingbird Station, or his recent show at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary that displayed his view of the Universe--and it's one that's full of spirals and waste--Curry has a unique take on the world, and it is through his art that he communicates it.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 58 Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz

Categories: 100 Creatives

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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.

Edward Ruiz. Confetti Eddie. The man with the giant dinosaur outside of his studio. You might know him by any of these names, but did you know that Dallas is Ruiz' hometown? Well, it's true. The Oak Cliff-born visual artist, now a fixture in Exposition Park, has cemented himself as a magical force to be reckoned with. Drawing on his art, design, and theatre background, Ruiz has learned to fuse the technical and the entertaining to perform his art and illusions. And he just wants to share it with all of us.


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100 Dallas Creatives: No. 59 Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks

Categories: 100 Creatives

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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.

"Sorry if the reception's bad, I'm headed into a national sequoia forest," Toby Halbrooks says, answering the phone in California. The musician come filmmaker is currently in the golden state to work on his latest venture with fellow Dallas darling, David Lowery. This time it's a project for Disney, a remake of the 70's children's film Pete's Dragon. They are writing the script together, and Lowery will direct.

The pair, along with producer James Johnston, forms the team Sailor Bear. Sailor Bear's first release, a short film called Pioneer, won the Grand Jury prize at seven film festivals and catapulted Halbrooks headlong into the world of independent film. Prior to that, Halbrooks had been working as a commercial producer and director.

"David and I started working together in 2006. I met him on this commercial and we became fast friends after working all night on the job," he says. "Within a couple of weeks we were writing together. I never set out to be a film producer. It just happened. James has known David for even longer and when we all met we decided to do Pioneer together."

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