Dallas Observer Masterminds 2015: Meet the Winners of Our Annual Art Awards

They break down barriers and find new ways to communicate. They take risks, but maintain the self-discipline required to create. They venture to the boundaries of art to bring back new discoveries, and they dedicate themselves to preserving what's already here and valuable. In countless ways, they keep Dallas' culture burning brightly. They're our Dallas Observer Masterminds.

Each year, we assemble a panel of creative thinkers from the local art community to help us identify a new set of Masterminds to praise and celebrate at Artopia, our massive annual party taking place at 8 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Hall at Fair Park (1001 Washington St.). You're invited, by the way. It's an art, music, fashion, magic, dance, food and drink blow-out for all. The Masterminds also get a check for $1,000 -- our way of saying thanks for the joy they bring to our community.

To parse through the nominations and pick the six finalists, I leaned on a number of culturevores. The panel included last year's Masterminds: Heyd Fontenot, director of the artist residency CentralTrak; Bart Weiss, the creative force behind Dallas VideoFest; Jeff Swearingen and Bren Rapp, the dynamic duo who've turned children's theater into adult-sized laughter at Fun House Theatre; Vicki Meek, the arts leader who runs South Dallas Cultural Center; Janeil Engelstad, the wonderful woman who heads up Make Art with Purpose; and David Lozano, the arts advocate and artistic director of Cara Mia Theatre. And I asked a small handful of the Observer's arts writers to participate, including theater critic Elaine Liner, copy editor Caroline North, dance writer Danielle Georgiou, and contributors Justin Hunt and Jennifer Smart. We ordered pizzas, threw back a few lagers, and discussed who deserves a few clams for their creativity. They had a week to research or ruminate over the nominations and what you see before you is the result of a final vote.

There are, of course, many more Masterminds in the city than we can recognize in one year, and to all of them, we say thank you for bringing beauty to Dallas, and we hope to see you at Artopia this year and in years to come.

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Lauren Smart
Contact: Lauren Smart