100 Creatives 2014: Sylvia Narvaez Blanco, an Artistic Hired Gun

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Photo by Sylvia Narvaez Blanco
What She Does: Sylvia Narvaez Blanco has been painting for the past four years. Drawing and doodling were always a part of her life, but it was painting that really drove her to where she is now, mostly doing commissioned orders for a variety of clients.

Her first public work was painting the side of a DMX ramp for an event with Red Bull Urban Rhythm. She's also painted a mural at the Houston Food Park on St. Emmanuel Street -- her first large-scale work -- and a second one on Navigation Street for Frenetic Theater. Aerosol Warfare Gallery, Shape of Things Art Gallery and East End Studio Gallery have all hosted her paintings in group exhibitions.

Her work is unique. It's oddly flat, like classical Japanese art, but uses strange twilight colors to give it an otherworldly edge. The minimal details allow large shaded areas to broadcast like an amp at 11, especially on the bigger pieces. It's whimsical, but darkly so.

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100 Creatives 2014: Pureum Jo, Opera Singer

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Photo courtesy of Houston Grand Opera
Pureum Jo
Pureum Jo, a soprano from South Korea, came to the United States while still in high school and all by herself. "I am quite independent and brave," she says. She was determined to be a global singer and to do so she believed she needed to speak English.

"English is like the international language. So I wanted to get it as soon as possible. I wanted to learn the American or Western culture when I was younger. I auditioned for Julliard pre college. I got in."

She was at Julliard for pre-college, undergrad and master's and is now in her first year as one of Houston Grand Opera's Studio Artists. "I heard about many young artists programs. I heard from friends. I realized HGO was the best thing. This was my dream," she says. .


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100 Creatives: Camilo Gonzalez, Interdisciplinary Artist and Educator

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Courtesy of Camilo Gonzalez
Camilo Gonzalez grew up using both old- and new-school technology. "I grew up with 16mm stuff, but I also grew up with a phone in my pocket. My grandfather was a chemical photographer, so I grew up seeing that. And I still carry a pencil and a little notebook around in my pocket, but at the same time I'm a total [tech geek.]"

New technology might make it easier to produce some forms of art, but producing good art? Gonzalez says that's just as difficult now as it's ever been.

"[Young people] grew up with a phone [that's a camera] and all of this amazing computer and photography equipment, but they aren't critical about [what they create or see] at all. It's like reading: Okay, you can read; how do you decide what to read, what's good and what's bad? That's what's missing with art, I think. Anybody can take a picture, but now what?"

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100 Creatives 2014: Kendall Kaminsky, Playwright

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Courtesy of Kendall Kaminsky
Playwright Kendall Kaminsky
What did you do last weekend? Laundry? Dinner with friends? Last weekend, University of Houston theater student Kendal Kaminsky had the world premiere of her play The End of Side A. The 22-year-old was selected from several other playwriting students to develop a full-length play. Working with UH Professor Rob Shimko, who directed the premiere, Keminsky wrote The End of Side A. The play, Kaminsky says, focus on a college-age brother and sister who discover some tapes their father recorded years before. She first began thinking about the project after seeing a documentary on the audio vérité movement; that gave her the idea to use found sound.

Kaminsky came to playwrighting "late" she says. "I was a senior in high school. I had been acting but I knew I didn't want to continue acting. I liked writing but I knew I wanted to write dialogue not prose. It took me a while to put two and two together, but I finally did my senior year. Along with The End of Side A, she's written two short works that she entered in the UH 10-Minute Play Festival.

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100 Creatives 2014: Christopher Turbessi, Pianist

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Photo courtesy of HGO
Christopher Turbessi
Early on, Christopher Turbessi played percussion but quit after a couple years. ("I hated it; not for me.") Then he went on to the French horn and stayed with that for a while.

He finally found his way to piano when he was 12; he calls that a late start. He discovered he didn't just like playing the piano. He liked performing his music along with a number of musicians, which could be anything from several pianists playing together to a sonata for violin and piano or with singers. "I really like working with other people. I really prefer that."

In his senior year in college at the University of Michigan (where he went on to get a master's degree in collaborative piano), he was asked to play for an opera. That led to his being part of the young artists program in Syracuse, New York, for two years and another in Norfolk, Virginia, before arriving in Houston -- where he is a second-year member of the Houston Grand Opera's Studio Artists.


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100 Creatives 2014: Chuck Norfolk, Filmmaker

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Hector Luna
What He Does: Chuck Norfolk is a titan of the local film industry. He's written, directed, produced, and acted in at least a dozen features and shorts, a real hands-on member of the local scene. He's most notable for The Haunted Trailer starring Ron Jeremy, Joe Grisaffi, and Lauren Leal, where he wore most of the production hats. He also wrote the recent horror film Conjoined, a tale of murderous sisters connected at the waist, with his bother Tim, and produced the acclaimed revenge film Jacob

The Norfolk Brothers (Chuck, Tim, and Steve) have always been story tellers. Chuck and Tim wrote their first feature screenplay 20 years ago and tried to push from the screenwriter angle to get our stories told. Fourteen years and nine features and a bunch of short scripts later they realized that the screenwriter door is a tough door to get through, and so Chuck decided to start producing his own scripts. This led to several, admittedly terrible, short films, but gave him experience behind the camera to get better.

Chuck attributes his ability to handle the many different duties he usually has on every set through his ability to focus and his partnership with producer Courtney Sandifer, another Jill of all trades with her hand in many film pies.

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100 Creatives 2014: Reginald Smith Jr., Opera Singer

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Photo courtesy of HGO
Reginald Smith
Reginald Smith Jr. is a studio artist in his second year with the Houston Grand Opera, which means he's part of a small elite group getting an intense course of study and a chance to appear in operas while readying for what he hopes will be a longtime career. At this season's Studio Artists performance, HGO Music and Artistic Director Patrick Summers singled Smith out as someone who's going to be doing great things.

Smith grew up in Atlanta and says he was always singing along with his two brothers and two sisters. He was in school choir from second grade all the way through college. An eighth grade teacher spotted his talent and told him he should consider going to the city's School for the Arts. His major there was vocal music. "I just wanted to be a good choir singer.

Then in the tenth grade, he attended his first opera. "I thought I've never seen an opera before and it's ten bucks and even if it's boring, I can get out of school. So I went to see it and my first opera, and it was Tosca, a great opera."

"The thing that I can remember that was so amazing to me was that all of the main characters died. When the soprano sang Avante a Dio, most people sort of run and jump off the back of the building. She stood on the ledge and sang Avante a Dio and then jumped backwards. I thought, 'Man, that's pretty intense. I kind of like this stuff.' " Soon after he looked up more about Puccini, and the opera started taking his lessons much more seriously. "It was really then that I thought maybe I should consider more singing. "

What he does:

"I sing the best music in the world. And I think that goes for opera music, that goes for art songs. It goes for French, German, Italian, English. I love singing concert works like Beethoven's symphonies. But also doing wonderful things like 'Unforgettable.' I think I have the best job in the world. I get to sing great music and experience wonderful opportunities in new and interesting places and I get paid to do it! "

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100 Creatives 2014: Luke Hamilton, Dancer, Choreographer and Actor

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Photo by Kyle Ezer
Luke Hamilton, Choreographer
Bayou City Theatrics resident choreographer Luke Hamilton showed signs of being a performer early in his life. "When I was five years old, I was on a soccer team. I scored a goal, turned to my Grandma and took a bow. She said she knew right then and there that I was supposed to be a performer."

Soon after that, Hamilton traded soccer teams for chorus lines. Dancing, singing and acting lessons followed, all of which convinced him a career onstage was the right thing for him.

"I discovered my love for theater at an early age. When I figured out I could make a career out of playing dress-up, something I did often...as a kid, I was sold on the idea."

Somewhere along the line, Hamilton started choreographing as well as performing. His work in the Houston Family Arts Center's Fiddler on the Roof won Best Choreography for a Musical at the Houston Theater Awards in 2013. That was an especially difficult task since the show included 64 performers and there were several scenes with the entire cast singing and dancing onstage. Hamilton was only 20 years old at the time, making him the youngest Houston Theater Awards winner ever.

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100 Creatives 2014: Jera Rose Petal Lodge, Metalsmith and Jewelrymaker

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Photo by Amanda Shackleford
Jera Rose Petal Lodge, one of five artists currently in residence at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, has been making things her whole life, she says. "I was always really into sewing and would make jewelry with whatever I could get my hands on, but I didn't think making jewelry could be a career until I was in my early twenties. I took a couple of years off after high school and saw a friend taking a metalsmithing class, and when I saw what she was making, I knew that's what I wanted to do."

Lodge graduated from college in 2012 and has been working independently for only two years. In that time, she's decided that metalsmithing and jewelry design is how she wants to make her living, but she isn't sure if that's a good plan.

"Right now, I say this looks like it's going to be my work, but at the same time I never take days off so that doesn't look sustainable. In the three months I've been in Houston, I've never taken one day off. Can I really not take any time off for the next ten years? I have to think about that."

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100 Creatives 2014: Lauren Burke, Dancer and Choreographer

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Photo by Jacqueline Nalett
Dancer/choreographer Lauren Burke
Lauren Burke has had a busy couple of years. She was named the 2014 Outstanding Dance Student of the Year at the University of Houston (her picture is currently on UH Dance department's promotional material). She was awarded a prestigious scholarship to attend American Dance Festival 2014. She was one of only 19 who were chosen for New York choreographer Netta Yerushalmy's work. (Some 400 dancers auditioned.) She was named the Best Emerging Artist at the most recent Houston Fringe Festival, where she performed her own work. And she's currently dancing for not one but two of her favorite local dance companies, Urban Souls and FrenetiCore.

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