100 Creatives 2014: Leslie Scates, Choreographer and Dance Educator

Categories: 100 Creatives

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All photos by Catalina Molnari
Choreographer and dance educator Leslie Scates learned two important lessons about how to be creative from her mom: "I can always acquire new skills," Scates tells us. "[And] creativity and action are sometimes more important than a clean kitchen and folded laundry."

Scates says everyone in her family had their own means of expressing creativity; it was something her parents encouraged and modeled. "My family of origin also is a basic part of what I am and do. My mother is a pioneer. She became a small plane pilot in her forties. She painted, she learned woodworking, she gardens, and she fly fishes. I have five siblings that all are creatives, movers, thinkers of some kind. We were supported in sports, music and creative activities, assisted in mastering risky physical things - motorcycles, water skiing, skateboards, motocross bikes, jumping off of platforms on swings. And we were allowed to be weird. We were told to think for ourselves, follow instincts, and fight back if necessary."

It's no wonder Scates specializes "contact in improvisational" dance. "Contact Improvisation is a form of post modern dance that I study, practice and teach," she says. "It is an improvised dance, made by two or more people, by following points of physical contact between bodies inside the laws of physics. My description [it's] a blend of modern dance, wrestling and martial arts."


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100 Creatives 2014: Denise O'Neal, Producer, Director, Playwright

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The ten plays chosen for this year's Fade to Black festival cover a lot of ground. A showcase of new works by African American playwrights, the festival includes A Kiss is Just a Kiss by James Earl Hardy of New York City (the story of a man about to end his secret relationship with his gay lover only to find out his wife has other plans); The Psycho's Path by Aaron McDavis from Rowlett, Texas (a psychologist is so emotionally distraught over her own divorce she can't effectively treat patients); and My Pet by Stacey Rose from Charlotte, North Caroline (a wealthy couple goes shopping for a pet, but not the four-legged kind). There's also Kin Ship by Barbara and Carlton Molette from Atlanta, (a government worker assigns people to life on polluted, spent Earth or a more prosperous planet) and Saving Grace by Melanie Earnestina Burker of Houston (a parody about the way black actors are seen in the film industry).

Now in its second year, Fade to Black is the brainchild of Denise O'Neal, producer, director, playwright and self-proclaimed "fearless pioneer of things that are ... long overdue." Last year's plays all had pleasant, nice characters and plots, O'Neal tells us. "This year they have more bite!"

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100 Creatives 2014: Jason Poland, Cartoonist Behind Robbie and Bobby

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What He Does: if you asked me to pick the best comic strip in the city I would definitely put Jason Poland's Robbie and Bobby right at the top of the list. His work is lighthearted and imaginative, but it's also extremely daring the way Poland allows himself to use the lack of limitations offered to a cartoonist on the Internet. To say nothing of it just being cool to see the adventures of a boy and his pet robot.

You can blame Mario Paint for Poland's career. During sleepovers at friends' houses Poland would use the old SNES game to draw dogs being abducted by aliens and flying pants, often cracking himself and his friends up so loud that it woke up angry parents.

While attending the University of Houston Poland applied three times for an open spot doing cartoons for the Daily Cougar. Robbie and Bobby was his third attempt and the one that got him set up doing the strip. Now it's a long-running artistic enterprise.

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100 Creatives 2014: Courtney Sandifer, Filmmaker, Actor, Writer

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What She Does: It might actually be easier to list what Courtney Sandifer doesn't do. The short answer is that she makes films, but the long answer is that she has been involved in damn near every aspect of filmmaking you could possibly imagine. Houston horror fans will probably know her best as the producer of The Haunted Trailer, but her IMDB page reads like she never sleeps. She's been a producer, a writer, a director, an actress, worked make-up, managed locations, props... see what I mean? She does everything but craft services, and probably only because no one asked.

She's also a documentarian, and her latest film in definitely outside the box. Called, So, My Mom Is an Armwrestler, the movie follows Sandifer's mom, who inexplicably took up arm-wrestling when Sandifer was in high school. Her mother even ended up traveling to Russia in 1999 to become a World Champion. After a 13-year hiatus she took up the sport again, and Sandifer is looking to celebrate her mother's talents on film.

Also be on the look out for Kids vs. Zombies, a film she wrote for her own two kids. It's about a brother and sister who work with their friends to save their parents and town from a bunch of strangely infected, green-gooey zombies. Sandifer is in discussions with a former cast member from The Walking Dead to play a major role, and plans to make some casting announcements early this summer. She's a busy lady.

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100 Creatives 2014: Lloyd Gite, Gallery Owner

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Courtesy of the Gite Gallery
A trip to Africa in 1976 set Lloyd Gite on the road to owning an art gallery. At the time, Gite had just finished his undergrad studies in journalism and was about to start a grad program, so becoming an art gallery owner wasn't part of Gite's plan.

"I went to Africa and I immediately fell in love with what I saw," Gite says. "I started to bring back art for myself. Friends saw what I was bringing back and they liked it and asked me to bring paintings for them. Over the years the paintings sold so well, that started paying for my trips.

"I knew about a year before I left the television that I was probably eventually going to get fired. They had brought in new management. My last day of my job, I got on a plane to Africa and never looked back." He opened the Gite Gallery soon afterward.

The Gite Gallery is different from other galleries in town on two fronts: focus and setting. "We're the only gallery in the city of Houston that sells exclusively art from Africa. There are some galleries that sell African-American art or African artifact and statues, but none that sell [contemporary] African paintings."

Also, the gallery isn't an open space with artwork hanging on white walls; it's rather like a well appointed home. "I bought a house that was built in 1943 and I put furniture in each room. Each room has a different color. So the art isn't on display like in a museum; it's exactly like it would be in your home."

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100 Creatives 2014: Henry Yau, The Children's Museum of Houston's Publicity and Promotions Guru

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All photos courtesy of Henry Yau
This is Henry Yau at work.
Henry Yau's job description doesn't really cover all of various duties and responsibilities he has as Public Relations & Promotions Director for the Children's Museum of Houston. Sure, the part about maintaining the museum's visibility in the community is covered, like working with the museum's leadership, overseeing promotional campaigns and handling the press (making sure we spell the name right: it's Children's, not Childrens), but there are lots of activities that aren't listed. For example, dressing up as a mad scientist for an appearance on an early morning television news show (see above) or organizing a pie-in-the-face contest to celebrate the number Pi or overseeing a superhero selfie session.

Yau was born and raised in Venezuela to Chinese parents. He came to the United States as a teen, landing in Houston when he was in 10th grade. After studying broadcast journalism, Yau was working an overnight shift. "I didn't like it very much. My friends would be going out to happy hour and I would be going to bed. One day a friend told me about a position at the Children's Museum. The job description was very vague; it said something about writing press releases and taking pictures. I thought, 'Well, I can do that.' Little did I know that that was the tip [of the job] - there's so much that goes on in a non-profit."

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100 Creatives 2014: Angeli Pidcock, Fantasy Writer and Mentor

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What She Does: One of the many new talents I discovered at Comicplaooza was author Angeli Pidcock, Angel to her friends. The fantasy author has been writing since she was a little girl. Her first work was a knock-off of Disney's The Cat From Outer Space that she hammered out on her mom's old Smith Corona typewriter. Pidcock maintains that hers is actually the superior work because her cat walked on two legs and could talk instead of using telepathy.

Her major published work at the moment is the Writer and Role-Players Primer, a writing technique book meant for aspiring fantasy writers and dungeon masters who might run into a little writer's block. The book is full of visual and verbal prompts to aid in character development, and serves as a great tool if you're looking to craft a really nuanced cast filled with flaws and triumphs.

Pidcock will shortly be releasing her own fantasy novels. Coming this fall will be Riftwalker Chronicles, an urban fantasy novel about the divide between the human world and the world of the Fae. Dedicated guardians called Riftwalkers maintain the barrier and keep the peace, and one young man finds out that he's next in line to serve in this sacred duty.

That's just a warm-up, though. Pidcock's real baby due out next year is the first in a seven-book series detailing the forging, life, and final resting place of the legendary sword Excalibur. Pidcock is a huge fan of Arthurian mythology, and The Journey of Excalibur seeks to become the sole, complete fictional narrative of all aspects of the iconic blade, even explaining how the Sword in the Stone and Excalibur are really one and the same and why Arthur was chosen to wield the weapon in the first place. We'll be looking very much forward to it.

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100 Creatives 2014: Jennifer Mathieu, Author of Young Adult Novel The Truth About Alice

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Photo by George Hixson
Jennifer Mathieu, a former Houston Press writer turned teacher and novelist, has just released her debut novel for young adults, The Truth About Alice. While the book is aimed at teens, Mathieu says she doesn't consider herself an young adult author. "When I sit down and write, I picture teenagers reading my books," she tells us. "I think teenagers are some of the most fascinating people on the planet and I certainly think of them as my audience. But at the same time, I don't think of myself as a young adult author. I'm just an author, just a writer. I hope all sorts of people read my books."

In The Truth About Alice, Mathieu, who teaches English to 11th graders in north Houston during the day, focuses on a high school in a small Texas town. One girl, Alice, has been the target of ugly rumors. The "slut stall" in the girls' bathroom is filled with nasty postings about Alice. "Alice got an abortion last semester" and "Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers" among them. More stories about Alice are spread through the school: "Alice had sex with two boys at one party." When the school's star quarterback dies in a car crash, word gets out that it was because he was sexting with Alice at the time.

The story is told from alternating points of view as four students tell everything they know, or think they know, about Alice. But as they talk, the teens reveal their own motives to slant the story and disclose their own secrets; readers discover the "truth" about Alice might not be true at all.

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100 Creatives 2014 Scott Chitwood, a Haunted Comic Writing

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What He Does: For almost a decade Scott Chitwood has quietly been building an incredible indie comic company, Red 5, and since I first met him at Comicpalooza three years ago I have been endlessly impressed by the work his company and he himself has managed to produce. His latest offering is Haunted, a post-apocalyptic tale about demons from another world arriving on Earth thanks to the Large Hadron Collider. Now the planet is swarmed by ectoplasmatic horrors and humanity's survival is accomplished only with brutal individualism.

It's a great read that Chitwood writes with a gripping frenzy. Chitwood says he was inspired by Bill Murray and the movie Ghostbusters to craft the book. He wondered what the world would have looked like if Gozer had not been stopped by the Busters, and many years later we have Haunted.

Red 5 was started by happenstance on a trip to Skywalker Ranch Chitwood took to be a part of the celebrations surrounding the release of Revenge of the Soth on DVD. His friend Paul Ens was working for Lucasfilm at the time, and over dinner Chitwood mentioned that he had always wanted to start a comic company. One thing led to another, and by 2008 titles like Atomic Robo were being nominated for Eisner Awards and the rights to Afterburn were being purchased by Hollywood. It's a company on the rise, and Houston is happy to have it and its talented founder.

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100 Creatives 2014: Anat Ronen, Urban Artist

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Photo by Alex Barber
Urban artist Anat Ronen
The first big Houston commission Israeli native Anat Ronen received was to paint the Galveston Causeway. "A company that paints the highways called me from my ad in Craigslist," she tells us. "They usually just paint the highways all one color, but sometimes they have murals. A Russian artist got stuck in Russia and couldn't come to Houston, so they had to find someone else. They told me, 'Worse-case scenario, we paint over your mural.' That was my first big job."

Since then Ronen has completed hundreds of projects locally including murals in and on private residences, schools and businesses. Ronen also participated in the "Call It Street Art, Call It Fine Art, Call It What You Know" exhibit at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art last summer and the "One Degree of Separation" show earlier this month at Silver Street Studios. "I don't particularly like doing shows," she says. "In order to grow, you have to put yourself out there, I know, but it's really not my thing."

What She Does: "I call myself an urban artist. Basically I love to do public art, but not the airport type of public art. I like to do street art, big murals or work out in the open for everyone to enjoy. When I do public street art events, like Via Colori, it's almost like performance art because the people get to see you at work."

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