MasterMind Finalists: The Almost-Chosen Few

Winnowing down Dallas' growing, dynamic community of artists to three MasterMinds was like lining up at a vast buffet prepared by an outstanding chef: too many wonderful selections and too little room on our plates. On the way to naming the winners, our judges narrowed the original list of 45 entrants to 10 tasty finalists. Here are the seven who didn't make the last cut, each of them a MasterMind in his or her own unique way.

ArtLoveMagic

Arts community organizer

The brainchild of Michael Lagocki, Justin Nygren, and David Rodriguez, ArtLoveMagic was founded in 2007 with a mind toward creative development. Focusing on emerging artists, ArtLoveMagic's mission is to foster an artistic community and increase opportunities for young and unknown artists to show their works and perform. With innovators from virtually every field, ArtLoveMagic's "catalog" of performers is stacked deep, and ArtLoveMagic events are interactive whirlwinds of creativity, an amalgamation of creative people making art happen in the moment. In addition to live art events, ArtLoveMagic's magicians teach workshops at schools, libraries and hospitals.

Frank Campagna

Dynamic muralist, gallery owner, studio artist

A MasterMinds finalist for the second year in a row, Campagna is definitively Dallas. For many, Deep Ellum conjures images of the now-demolished Good Latimer tunnel, a gateway into the mysterious dimension of Dallas that is not all Hermes-and-Mercedes, but instead purple-haze-and-serious-guitar. Campagna, 55, acted as art director for that project — the Tunnelvisions Muralalist project — in 2002, and while those tunnels no longer stand, they remain imprinted in the minds of those who first slipped away from home for that first taste of late-night freedom. From 1997 to 2008, Campagna worked with full artistic freedom as the muralist for the Gypsy Tea Room, gracing its red brick walls with hundreds of ever-evolving 12-by-8-foot paintings. Today, much of his focus is turned toward Kettle Art gallery, which he co-founded in 2005. The Kettle is a nonprofit gallery space featuring primarily local and emerging artists, many of whom who have never shown work in a formal setting.

Stephen Lapthisophon

Graphic artist, art philosopher

Legally blind since 1994, artist and University of Texas at Arlington professor Stephen Lapthisophon's aesthetic philosophy seeks to deconstruct and revolutionize the role of sight in artistic culture. An installation artist, graphic artist and art theorist, Lapthisophon uses elements such as music, texture and cuisine that engage all of the senses to "examine the interaction of our sensory processes." Winner in 2008 of the Wynn Newhouse Award for artists with disabilities, Lapthisophon's work is striking in its combination of geometric lines and tasteful color. While elements or themes tend to recur throughout a cohesive Lapthisophon exhibition — the written words and alphanumeric characters in "Spelling Lesson," for instance — he has worked to subvert the idea of the "signature style" by adopting a multitude of diverse media, juxtaposed with unexpected found objects, all with a mind toward the cerebral investigation of linguistic signs and the ways in which we use them.

Lawrence Lee

Sketch artist

Lee grew up watching reruns of classic cartoons that unselfconsciously used racial images and caricatures, denigrating people of color as subhuman, comical savages. Lee has, over the course of his wildly successful young career, empowered those disenfranchised characters in a fantasy world of swirling design and cohesive storyline. Lee's "epic" contains more than 100 pieces, using graphite, ink, charcoal and tea stains to reclaim damaging images and to transform them into a cast of heroes on a mission to save the world from evil.

Shane Pennington

Painter, installation artist

Everything's bigger for Texas artist Pennington, whose billboard-sized abstract paintings make enormous statements about what it means to live. Taught by his beloved grandmother, landscape artist Virgie Cornelius, who lived with Pennington's family as he grew up, Pennington completed his first painting at age 8 under her direction. After her death, Pennington pursued a degree in computer science and worked as a programmer in Dallas before returning to art. Within a matter of years, Pennington was able to quit his day job and focus solely on his artwork, which envisions everything from the natural world to mundane, largely unnoticed daily occurrences. Working primarily in acrylic paint, but also with wire and found objects, Pennington's tour de force is a collection titled Carmen's Wish, a mixture of four massive acrylic-on-canvas paintings of dandelions with a digital video component on permanent display in Chase Tower.

Will Richey

Spoken-word poet, slam poetry advocate

Richey, 33, was on the third day of a 500-mile trek across northwestern Spain when the towers fell on September 11, 2001, and he says that revolutionized his perspective. Overwhelmed, Richey penned poems that began his exploration of cross-cultural dialogue and his own previously unexplored Puerto Rican heritage. From those first few poems, Richey has evolved into an ebullient slam poet. Forging an intense emotional connection with his audience, Richey's mission — whether through his work with his company Journeyman Ink or with programs like DaVerse Lounge or Arts and Letters Live — is to reach and empower listeners, particularly young people who have never before had the opportunity to speak their minds or unleash their hearts. Specializing in creative writing and performance-art workshops, Richey works with students from diverse ethnic and educational backgrounds with a focus on English as a second language and emotional literacy. This lyrical evangelist is all about giving back, and Journeyman Ink is a labor of love.

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