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Jeff Gibbons and Justin Ginsberg are two of the Dallas Observer 2015 Mastermind winners. Photo: Can Turkyilmaz/Dallas Observer

Talent Scout: Dallas Observer’s Lauren Smart On 100 Creatives And 2015 Masterminds

by Anne Bothwell 15 Jan 2015 6:20 PM

The Dallas Observer announces its annual Mastermind awards, recognizing six artists or groups who’ve made a splash in the last year. The weekly is also wrapping up a year-long project, a list called 100 Creatives. Lauren Smart, arts editor at The Observer, tells KERA’s Anne Bothwell how difficult it was for the staff at the weekly to narrow the field.


Lauren Smart

How did you decide who would make the list?

LSI really started when I decided what 100 Creatives was going to mean.  We came up with this phrase, cultural entrepreneurs. What made a cultural entrepreneur? And when we started to talk about it, it was usually people who were doing something in addition to their own art practice. Anyone creating their art, but then also using that creativity to spark artistic practices in other people.

 You have traditional artists and actors on the list, but then you also have fashion designers, you have a birthday party planner…

LSIt was really difficult to narrow down which artists would make the list, more than anything else. Paige Chenault runs the Birthday Party Project and what she’s doing is going into homeless shelters and throwing birthday parties for kids who would never have a birthday party.  That is something so unique, she was a shoe-in. But when it came to painters, sculptors or anything like that it was hard to whittle it down to whose changed or impacted the Dallas art scene in a unique way. The straightforward artists [on the list] tend to be older. They tend to be have been professors or teachers or mentors for younger artists.

Anything they all have in common?

LSI think the thing that tied everybody together was this ability to harness their creative energy and change or shape Dallas. So Dallas I guess is what unites everyone.

Do you have a favorite?

LSI hate to say I have a favorite, but I do have a favorite. It would be Kettle Art’s Frank Campagna. Which I think I even admit in the post about him. For me, and for a lot of people, he’s become this father figure, this person that people look to for acceptance and community. I named him the “Godfather of Dallas Art”. There’s a lot of personal bias, or love, for that [choice]. Frank owns Kettle Art Gallery in Deep Ellum and he’s been a fixture in the Dallas art scene since the ’80s. He’s a mural artist. He’s raised kids here. He’s been a part of the music scene and the art scene. Pretty much every mural in Deep Ellum – or a good number of them – are Frank Campagna’s. So he’s one of these people who has a vast knowledge of the Dallas art scene. But he’s also super interested in creating a community that young Dallas artists can look to, whether they’re on their way up, on their way out, on their way back in. He’s one of those people who wants the community that we all want.


katelyn harris

Tap Dancer And Rhythmic Souls founder Katelyn Harris. Photo Can Turkyilmaz/Dallas Observer

The Dallas Observer is also announcing its Masterminds awards this week…

LSThe Masterminds has existed for five years. We have $6,000 to give away. So we pick six artists who’ve done amazing things or had breakout years.

This year’s winners:

    • Christopher Blay: Fantastic installation artist who’s interested in fences and borders and communication voids in the art scene.
    • Merrit Tierce: A surprise this year because no novelist has made the list before. And she had a break out novel this year, Love Me Back. It’s a lovely, lovely book.
    • Jeff Gibbons and Justin Ginsberg: They were the brains behind Deep Ellum Windows, which put pop-up exhibitions in empty warehouse spaces in Deep Ellum.
    • Wordspace: A literary arts organization that programs events, from Laurie Anderson to author readings. They’ve launched a lot of local writers into a bigger scene.
    • Katelyn Harris: A tap dancer by training, she runs a company called Rhythmic Souls, which is part instruction, part performance company.
    • Cora Cordona: The artistic director of Teatro Dallas. That is a 30-year-old company that was the first Hispanic based  theater company in Dallas.   She has been this mentor for Dallas Hispanic performing artists.

Do you follow up with any of the Masterminds?

LSI wanted to do a story on what previous Masterminds had done with their money. And my boss said, “Please don’t do that.” He was worried it would be illicit activities or it would be boring. He was afraid they would simply have paid their rent with it and it wouldn’t be much of a story. Which is true, at the end of the day. $1000 isn’t that much money.

But it helps.

LSYeah. That’s what we wanted. We just wanted to offer a little bit of something that helps.