Many a young artist's career has been launched from the walls of Frank Campagna's Kettle Art Gallery since it opened on Elm Street in November 2005. Campagna, 54, has an open-door policy for unknown, un-shown artists. Drop in, and if he likes your stuff, you're up in the next show. It's Campagna's own murals that have added to Deep Ellum's color and character for 30 years. He estimates he's painted 1,000 murals on the outside wall of the Gypsy Tea Room. He organized end-to-end paintings of the now-demolished Good-Latimer tunnel and won contracts for local artists to adorn the new DART station in Deep Ellum. Thank Frank for the acquisition of the three Traveling Man sculptures there.
In cyclones of Arabic words, Simeen Farhat's sculptures tell stories of poetry and pain. Born in Pakistan, with a graduate degree from TCU, she now teaches art at community colleges and makes art in the dining room of her century-old Swiss Avenue apartment. With a jigsaw, she cuts Arabic letters out of MDF, making phrases from Persian poems in Farsi and Urdu (her first language). Pegged together, the words assume tornado-like shapes in red and blue. The abstract messages reveal 38-year-old Farhat's responses to such issues as "honor killings." Her ghostly figures of veiled women spewing Arabic script were featured in a one-woman show at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary. Says Farhat, "I tell my students: Art should always start with what bothers you."
At South Garland High School, Joey Folsom fell in love with acting in a school production of Much Ado about Nothing. He gave up soccer, track and swimming to hang out in the drama department and hasn't stopped acting since. Now 26, he's the founder and producing artistic director of Broken Gears Theatre Project, a 10-member company devoted to plays with social and political relevance. With shows such as Eugene O'Neill's rarely produced The Hairy Ape (budget: $50) and the recent site-specific staging of Philip Ridley's Pitchfork Disney in a spooky old house, the company has been cranking out a string of provocative performances. Folsom recently was named "Emerging Artist of the Year" by the DFW Theater Critics Forum.
Sarah Jane Semrad
She's co-founder of Pecha Kucha Dallas and of Spark Club; is an executive director of La Reunion TX, an in-the-making artists' residency in Oak Cliff; is an event producer for the philanthropy-focused Big Bang conference; and is a founder of Art Conspiracy, an annual event that auctions art to raise money for nonprofit arts organizations. Sarah Jane Semrad, 35, is the major moving, shaking force behind many of the arts groups and events in Dallas that have injected fresh energy and ideas into the local arts scene. Art Conspiracy, which just held its sixth annual bash, raising more than $50,000, was inspired, says Semrad, from "a feeling of helplessness after Hurricane Katrina. It's street-level philanthropy of artists and musicians raising money for other artists and musicians."
These days you find Eric Steele, 29, helping to restore the Texas Theatre, the infamous Oak Cliff movie house (Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested there). As partner in Aviation Cinemas, Steele, who's also an actor, playwright and filmmaker (look for his next indie, Uncertain, TX, to premiere at the Texas Theatre), wants his 1,100-seat movie theater to become a "creative space in general." Steele's also a social media and tech trend consultant, flying to Boston twice a month to offer expertise on the future of everyday technology. One byproduct of social media, he says, is the "movement for localism." That means more interest in locally made films and locally produced plays. Making his own films and owning the theater to show them in is a throwback to the man who built the Texas Theatre in 1931: Howard Hughes.
Brightly colored avocado-shaped creatures line the shelves of artist Zinser's home studio on Lower Greenville. He calls the critters "Macrodons." Made of molded plastic, they are made one by one by Billy Zinser in limited editions and sold as collectibles for $40 each online and at pop-up galleries around town. Zinser, 28, counts Jeff Koons, Banksy and Shepard Fairey among his artistic influences. He envisions making Macrodons into giant inflatables (one of which will be on display at Artopia) that he wants to see spring up unexpectedly in public spaces. There will be piñata Macrodons and plush toys, maybe jewelry or edible versions. "I'm very happy to be making art in Dallas," says Zinser, who's also director of the Marty Walker Gallery. "You have a great audience for your work here and people are willing to participate and support the arts in this city. That's a good combination."