The New Creatives
Meet the Sacramento region’s top 25 up-and-coming talents
What does it mean to be creative?
Visual artists and designers. Chefs and crafters. Musicians, documentary filmmakers, directors and writers. We tried to figure out what makes Sacramento’s creative types tick—from inspiration and process to dreaming about the future.
It’s nearly impossible to answer the question, but as we pondered the local arts and culture scene—and the people who make it happen—we realized that although this city brims with established innovators, it’s the people bubbling just beneath the mainstream surface that excite us most right now.
Following is our list of 25 of the region’s most notable inventive up-and-comers.
The list is by no means exclusive or exhaustive—nor is it ranked in order of importance or talent. This is just a sample of people and groups who, through hard work and sheer talent, are shaping Sacramento’s cultural landscape.
Also, the list isn’t just limited to traditional arts—but expanded to include foodies, crafters, techies and any other inspired types helping to (re)define this region’s arts, entertainment and culture outlook. In short, these are the people and groups making Sacramento not just livable and sustainable but also fresh, enjoyable—and provocative.
While some of the names here might be familiar, other choices might surprise you. We hope so, actually.
But we also believe they’ll inspire you to check out something new.
Or create your own.
Growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Orlando, Florida, Jaymes Luu spent her childhood eating different variations on classic soul food and her parents’ favorite Vietnamese dishes. Her parents, she says, weren’t afraid to explore new foods and combine flavors, and now, years later, neither is the 33-year-old restaurateur.
Luu, who just relocated her Davis-based Fat Face cafe to inside the new Bows & Arrows space in Midtown, crafts tasty sandwiches (beer-poached figs, cola-braised pork, etc.), but it’s her insanely delicious popsicle flavor combinations that blow up the palate.
With her tiny frame and black mohawk, Luu, who was born in Saigon, exudes a cheerful intensity. She’s friendly and open but also passionate about discovering fresh flavor combinations.
Using organic ingredients—largely culled from local farmers markets—Luu paints a taste-bud rainbow with pairings such as creamy kaffir lime-avocado and tangy strawberry-lemonade. There’s also a blueberry-lemon-yogurt popsicle that starts out tart and finishes with a Creamsicle-worthy sweetness, and a Thai tea-sweet potato popsicle, rich with caramel notes.
Equally familiar and surprising, these $3 frozen confections on a stick epitomize the innovative spirit that dominates modern foodie culture.
And yet, Luu says she doesn’t consider herself particularly imaginative.
“I’m not really creative,” she says one hot midday afternoon while trying to relax on the Bows & Arrows garden patio.
Luu didn’t set out to make sandwiches and popsicles—she studied business and marketing in Florida before ending up in Napa, where she indulged her love for all things food with culinary classes. She moved to Davis in 2002 where, a few years later, she started selling her gourmet experiments at the Davis Farmers Market. The popsicles, she says, are rooted in her childhood—as a kid, she and her older brother froze Kool-Aid in tiny paper cups, always experimenting with flavors and concentrations.
Fat Face opened in Davis in 2009, and the small cafe quickly became a popular destination, revered for its upscale sandwich offerings.
Now, since relocating to Sacramento—she keeps her original popsicle machine on the Yolo side of the causeway and still sells breakfast sandwiches at the Davis Farmers Market—Luu keeps busy in the kitchen, cooking, supervising a small staff and, as always, trying out new recipes.
The creative process, she says, is time-consuming, requiring hours to get the flavor pairings and textures just right.
A bacon-and-egg combination, she says, was particularly demanding.
“It took a while,” she says of the treat, which, despite its name, isn’t savory, but rather a yolky vanilla custard paired with a caramel-ginger bacon.
That one’s not available at the Bows space just yet—Luu used to sell it at the original Davis cafe—but she hopes to try it out on her Midtown customers soon.
Also on future menus: a peach-mango-ginger flavor as well as a mango and sticky rice creation. She also plans to expand menu choices with barbecued beef shank and kimchi chicken sandwiches.
And she dreams of taking on her favorite soul-food dishes and giving them a twist.
“I love mac and cheese and collard greens,” she says. “I’m not vegan, but I’m intrigued with the idea of making everything vegan but good enough that I’d actually want to eat [it].”
From exotic icy desserts to Southern comfort foods—it’s a broad range with a common thread.
“I get my inspirations from eating. I make flavors that I want to try,” she says. “I don’t just create flavors for the novelty of it.
“I don’t want to be weird just to be weird, I want things to taste good.” http://fatfacedavis.com.
When he’s not creating hypnotic music with Art Lessing and the Flower Vato, Dan Quillan composes moody etchings and illustrations. Throughout, his art is both sweetly evocative and spectacularly fresh. http://danqart.blogspot.com.
These days, Bryce Gonzales, a Woodland native, mostly divides his time between Sacramento and Los Angeles, but it’s his production work with the likes of Devendra Banhart and Jon Brion—not to mention his famed, custom-built amps—that puts his work on a global map. www.bryceelectric.com.
Whether wielding a pair of scissors or perched behind the keyboard, Amy Cluck helps to stitch Sacramento’s DIY community together via her crafty Peptogirl Industries site and IndieSacramento blogging hub. http://peptogirl.com, www.indiesacramento.com.
David Garrison grew up in the theater—he appeared in his first production when he was only 6—and spent most of his youth acting and directing. He even won a 2007 Education Play Elly Award for his direction on Steel Magnolias, which incidentally, was also his high-school senior project.
In 2008, however, the Roseville native realized he was unsure about his future. Unhappy with a recent production, Garrison wondered whether he’d continue acting or directing.
Then a friend dragged Garrison to New York where, on Broadway, he saw three productions that changed his perspective.
The first two—Equus and Billy Elliot—were amazing and inspiring, he says.
He found the third one, however—a big-budget rendition of Young Frankenstein—downright horrible.
“It’s good I saw Young Frankenstein, because it was very messy and unprofessional, but it was on Broadway, and I realized it doesn’t matter where you are—there’s bad theater everywhere,” he says now.
“It was actually very refreshing and it [reinforced my belief] that location doesn’t matter. What matters is who you’re surrounded by and what you do with that.”
In 2009, Garrison launched The Alternative Arts Collective, a nonprofit theater group, in his hometown.
In the two years since, the 22-year-old director has grown his small company into an experimental force, melding music, video and special effects with strong direction and compelling stories. A take on Hamlet twisted the original with a female lead, and his Midsummer’s Nightmare featured an audience-splashing bloodbath. One of his favorite productions, an adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s young-adult novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower showcased four actors in all the roles, as well as music and videos from local artists and a series of “Dear Friend” letters left on every audience member’s seat.
“The story was told in a simple way, but I think it was one of our most powerful productions,” he says.
The purpose of AAC is to combine visual art and theater in a compelling way, he adds. Each month the company hosts a Community Pool night, during which local artists can exhibit and sell their works as well as discuss possible theatrical collaborations.
“We’re strengthened every time we do a pool—the whole point is to say, ‘What do you do, and how can we put this together with the theater?’”
The resulting experience, he adds, should take theater into new, uncharted territories.
“I want people to walk away with something or be changed somehow, and that sometimes means that we do things that are a little more intense.”
And also provocative?
“Yes—but any choice we make is justified and it has to further the plot.”
With platinum hair and a decidedly babyish face, Garrison might just seem like another punk kid trying to rock the establishment, but that is, he says, not his goal.
“When we first opened, people said we just went for shock, and that really upset me, because I’ve never been like that with anything we do.”
Currently Garrison’s in the process of relocating AAC from Roseville to new digs on Del Paso Boulevard.
The new location won’t open until January, but in the interim Garrison is busy prepping a Midsummer’s Nightmare sequel (the second sequel, to be precise) that features original music as well as a comic book detailing where the story picks up from the last production.
Garrison says he’s sad to leave the small town where he first fell in love with theater but is excited for a change of address, a fresh start.
“When I first saw [the space] on Del Paso, I just fell in love with it,” he says. “It’s not a theater yet, but it will be when we’re done with it,” www.facebook.com/TheAlternativeArtsCollective.
Sometimes Shaun Turner’s guerrilla graffiti artist gets attention for all the wrong reasons. The Midtown Business Association buffed out his 20-foot depiction of a three-headed man painted near Sugar Plum Vegan, even though it’d been approved by the restaurant. Even when his work fades, however, the impact of his vivid, emotional images endures. No, he doesn’t have a website—that would, after all, defeat the whole purpose of “guerrilla.”
From her Pretty Trashy clothing line—which, with its silk-screened images and vintage fabrics, feels like wearable mixed media—to endeavors as one of the Bows & Arrows co-founding entrepreneurs, Trisha Rhomberg redefines what it means to be hip and enterprising in Sacramento. She also curates art and fashion shows as well as other must-attend events. www.bowscollective.com/trisha.html.
Here’s the thing about Amanda Cook: She’s an artist in every sense of the word, but it’s taken years for the 27-year-old Citrus Heights native to feel comfortable with such a label.
“I’ve [taken] art classes but never felt like an artist,” Cook explains over a cup of coffee on a recent weekday morning. “I’d see someone do these amazing photorealistic pieces and think, ‘I don’t even belong in this class.’”
But she continued and along the way moved to Midtown, where she started dabbling in graphic design and photography.
The move, along with the shift in mediums opened up new possibilities and, eventually, a new sense of confidence.
“I started doing graphic design because that seemed like a sensible route,” she says. “I also think in more of a design way—when I was painting, that’s what I wanted [my art] to look like: super flat with perfect lines. Now, when I do it on a computer, I can get it just the way I want it.”
At American River College, Cook took a class that combined fine art with computer graphics and felt like she’d finally hit the ideal mix.
It’s there she started using photocopies to transfer her images to fabric. Although the project was well-received in class, the resulting art would have stayed on Cook’s bedroom wall if a friend hadn’t insisted otherwise.
“Trent Liddicoat saw them and wanted to put it in a group show [at Sol Collective]—he said, ‘I’m taking it off the wall and doing it,’” Cook says. “I’m just that kind of person—you have to push me into doing stuff.”
Still, sometimes she pushes herself, too.
Cook, who also works at Tower Theater, writes a popular blog, Best Summer Ever, which combines photography with details of her daily life.
The site, she says, was born out of a simple desire to enjoy Sacramento’s notoriously blazing season.
“I was just sitting at Tower thinking about how much I hate summer and I decided, ‘This is going to be the best summer ever,’ and we actually started this ‘Best summer ever!’ chant right there in the box office.”
That was 2010. The chant morphed into the blog and, earlier this summer, an art show and corresponding party (for Midtown Monthly magazine) at Bows & Arrows. These days there’s even a Best Summer Ever Band—a cover band in which Cook sings.
The blog is more than just a compendium of random photos and musings, it’s also a place to hone her craft.
She starts with a simple photo (“I want to capture a moment with my photos—I don’t want someone to pose”) and then transfers the image to Adobe Illustrator, which she uses to create a new series of lines. The image is then printed out on a transparency sheet and transferred to fabric.
The resulting pieces are whimsical and sweet with a distinctly vintage feel.
They are also distinctly her.
“I feel more confident about [my art] now because this is unique to me—this process and what I’m doing,” she says. “When you see one of my pieces, you’re going to know that I did it, and in art that’s something that’s really hard to come by.” http://bestsummereverblog.blogspot.com.
Stephanie Sauer arrived in town in 2002 to study at Sacramento State, where she majored in Chicano and Latina literature and art and minored in creative writing.
While there she discovered the hands-on, tactile world of book arts—and a new outlet for her studies in language and history.
Sauer was working with Esteban Villa at the time and, at the prodding of a friend, turned the local writer’s words and sketches into The Noun Painter, an artful deck of cards.
“I did 300 of them—they were all handmade,” she says now with a rueful laugh. “But I loved it, and my vision for this has now taken over my life.”
Indeed, Sauer, 28, has thrown the whole of her artistic energy into Copilot Press, a small indie press for small, elaborately crafted hand-bound texts. In addition to Villa, she’s published works by Jose Montoya and Doug Rice.
Sauer describes her venture as an “arts practice” and, certainly, the term “press” is too narrow to describe its scope. Sauer also works in film and in 2010 received a Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission grant to produce her debut short film, The Ancient Documentaries of Southside Park.
The black-and-white “documentary,” which recalls vintage herky-jerky film images of the 1920s, marries reality and drama to create a compelling narrative on the Royal Chicano Air Force, the Sacramento-based collective that, in the 1970s, helped to raise the profile of the Chicano arts scene.
The film, which features Sauer as an “archaeologist,” is visually compelling but also unexpectedly lighthearted.
“The project is part history and mythos,” she says.
It took her a while, she admits, to settle on the film’s tone—its whole style, really.
“I have no idea what I’m doing with film—I just play around,” she says.
Accordingly, even the promotional videos for Co-Pilot Press books are novel and engaging.
“The videos show you how to open the books and interact with them—that’s really important.”
Raised in Rough and Ready, a small mining town just west of Grass Valley, Sauer now lives in West Sacramento but spends a lot of time outside the Golden State.
Sauer spent July holed up in Saratoga Springs, New York, for an artist’s residency at the prestigious Yaddo. This month she’s in residency at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. The entire East Coast stay is devoted to a book-length manuscript that will accompany The Ancient Documentaries of Southside Park film. The book, she explains, will replicate a museum exhibition catalog.
Soon, she’ll return to Sacramento. The city, she says, provides constant inspiration.
“I once read that Sacramento is, historically, the most integrated city in the U.S., and that’s really evident to me,” she says. “I don’t mean that as some generic, cleaned-up celebration of multiculturalism, but rather as a place where people from all over the spectrum actually do interact with one another in ways that are interesting and, at times, messy. That’s what interests me.” www.copilotpress.com, www.stephaniesauer.com.
online gaming guru
If the revolution will be digitized, then it’s the masterminds behind KlickNation—the Sacramento-based Mark Otero and his San Francisco-based partner Ken Walton—who will lead us into the time-wasting abyss via online-game communities such as Superhero City and Starship Command. Game on, soldiers, game on. www.klicknation.com.
Sacramento has more trees per capita than any other U.S. city, so Kevin O’Connor’s Tree House restaurant seems like a genius idea that’d just been waiting for the right person to make it happen. Highlighting California cuisine, Tree House marries the trendy food-to-table ethos with gourmet flair and an impossibly gorgeous backdrop. Don’t bother trying to find the leafy restaurant or read its reviews on Yelp. Instead, check out Facebook to get information on upcoming dinner opportunities. www.facebook.com/treehousesacramento.
Kari Shipman’s Juniper James blog isn’t just a fashionable read with useful tips on incorporating recycled vintage finds into any wardrobe—it’s an online hub for local style news. It also earned the Sacramento blogger a bigger audience, blogging for the Thrift Town chain. http://juniperjames.wordpress.com.
Doug Rice once told an interviewer, “A book should be experienced in more than one way, and the reading experience should be visceral.” Accordingly, when he’s not teaching writing, literary theory and film at Sac State, Rice creates hybrid texts that meld prose, photographs and poetry, and also runs the eclectic Nobodaddies Press. Coming soon: Between Appear and Disappear, which mixes fiction and memoir as well as a collection of photographic self-portraits. www.facebook.com/pages/Doug-Rice/122066837827626.
Whether it’s turning her achingly evocative poetry into performance art or piecing together books—some digital, some letterpress, all gorgeous—Wakefield excavates beauty from the darkest of places. www.amihuman.net.
Nicholas Wray’s portfolio deftly covers fashion, portraits and commercial work, but it’s his cinematic travel shots—some so surreally gorgeous in their color, scope and composition, that they look more like paintings than photos—that so artfully capture a vision. www.nicholaswray.com.
As the co-founder of See Jane Do, a Grass Valley-based multimedia production company that promotes community activism, Jesse Locks is the powerhouse brains behind a virtual-technology industry that uses radio, TV, the Internet and old-fashioned word-of-mouth to promote social change and awareness. http://seejanedo.typepad.com.
Katie Kaapcke’s art works on two very distinct levels. On the one hand, the 34-year-old explores concepts of gender and sexuality—be it via paintings, mixed media or her graphic novel-in-progress—in a manner that’s very adult—almost academic in its scope.
On the other hand, her work is frank and guileless—childlike, even.
Take, for example, pieces such as “Malaise” and “Skin Deep.” The latter, featured in Dissection, a current San Francisco art exhibition, is an oversized, cartoonish rendition of the human brain, diagrammed with arrows pointing out physical parts of the mind, such as the “malaise vein” and the “fluidity veins.” The piece’s theme is sophisticated yet, with its broad strokes and bright neon hues, looks as though a child painted it for the express purpose of having it tacked up on a refrigerator door.
“This work is very much who I am and how I see the world,” Kaapcke says. “The intention is to challenge the viewer to look at gender and sexuality in a new light. Everything about gender and sexual fluidity is magical.”
OK, maybe not everything.
They can also be a bit, well, horrific, she admits, at least when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
“Dating kind of sucks,” Kaapcke says with a laugh. “Seriously, I can’t even make this stuff up that happens to me.
“It’s really not fun, but it’s great inspiration—I have more stories than I have time to write.”
Kaapcke skims the surface of her experiences in the first installment of Poor Little Dyke Girl, a slim comic zine. Eventually, she says, she plans to find a publisher and mine more of those experiences in a full-length graphic novel.
Kaapcke, who grew up in the East Bay and Bakersfield, studied journalism and dance before switching her major to communications. Eventually, she ended up in San Francisco, where she worked in graphic design before moving to Sacramento last August to work with her younger sister, Elizabeth Kaapcke.
Here, the siblings rented studio space and created art, every day, side by side. Kaapcke says she found the experience fulfilling, and the two still share a studio, although lately haven’t found the time to be there at the same time.
Indeed, her schedule’s been full. In addition to writing the comic and finishing pieces for the art exhibition, Kaapcke recently created poster art for Sister Spit and snagged a spot on the Bay Area troupe’s Sacramento show last winter.
She calls the chance to read with the lesbian-feminist spoken-word group “surreal.”
“It was a dream of mine to work with them, and it’s been amazing to have their support.”
Kaapcke still loves San Francisco, and though her move to Sacramento was, initially, temporary, she now sees it as long-term.
She’s still getting to know the city but likes its “slower” pace.
Despite being more affordable and livable, she adds, Sacramento does offer a few challenges.
“There’s been a lot of talk lately about changing the art scene in Sacramento,” she says. “There’s a lot of amazing [art] talent emerging from both Sac State and Davis, but the venues and support are missing—I think curators need to rethink their approach and really reach out to new or unknown artists.”
Kaapcke adds that she’s not necessarily going to sit around and wait for someone else to make that happen.
She’d like to be curating shows by next year, but in the meantime plans to get her comic into local bookstores and set up solo art exhibitions.
Whatever the pursuit, the end goal remains the same.
“I just want to be creating as much art as possible.” http://katiekaapcke.carbonmade.com.
If Andy Morin’s beats and samples in Death Grips don’t blow your mind, then the producer’s work with various Sacto artists, including pal Zach Hill, should ignite the explosives. http://thirdworlds.net.
Rapper Task1ne’s songs are in your-face, oft-controversial (he doesn’t shy away from complicated subjects and words—check out tracks such as “Not Listening” and “N*igga” for details), but the artist born Corey Pruett also proves that a good beat and hypnotic melody goes a long way toward soothing the sting. www.myspace.com/task1ne.
film production team
This four-person team specializes in brainy high-definition features, animation, documentaries and music videos. Among the highlights in their impressive portfolio are clips for local artists such as Pregnant, as well as Epic Dust, a visually stunning seven-part Western series with a vintage feel but emphatically modern sensibility. www.cinemacaldera.com.
Anand Parmar is only 34, but he’s already thinking about what Sacramento’s next generation of artists will do.
That is, after all, his business. It is his passion.
As the music and events director for Sol Collective, the art space he co-founded with wife Estella Sanchez, Parmar works with youth, showing them how to use art and music as a way to express conflicts and frustrations, hope and aspirations.
So in 2008, after a fire badly damaged Sol Collective’s original Del Paso Boulevard location, Parmar didn’t wait to continue his work.
Sol Collective eventually ended up on 21st street near Broadway, but in its year-plus hiatus, Parmar simply packed up his gear and took it on the road.
“I had this big suitcase filled with six laptops, headphones and keyboards, [so] I drove around to high schools and junior highs and continued working.”
There he showed students how to produce their own beats.
“I taught them how to use Pro Tools—I basically just gave them the avenue to say, ‘I can do this, I can make the same kind of music I hear on the radio.’”
Born in Zambia to Indian parents, Parmar grew up in Sacramento. After high school he worked in massage therapy and acupuncture but also promoted shows with Twelves Wax, helping to bring artists such as Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli to town.
Then in 2005, when his wife wanted to open the nonprofit Sol Collective as part of her master’s thesis project, Parmar decided to join her. Now, in the six years since (including the fire-forced break), Sol Collective’s expanded into a multicultural space mixing music, visual art and spoken word.
Parmar also co-produces the gallery’s Global Hood Music Series, which puts an emphasis on musical acts with a cultural component. In their spare time, Parmar also deejays, and he and Sanchez share a band, World Hood, for which he produces the music and she sings.
The days are long—Parmar’s job duties also include less glamorous aspects such as show setup and cleaning—but gratifying.
“I’m still mentoring the same kids from six years ago and watching them blossom,” he says.
Currently, he says, the Kids Crew, a group of young artists that’s “torn up” the gallery with its vivid, life-size art work, is making him excited for the future.
“That crew is the generation that will replace us—I’m 34, going to be 35 and then 40,” he says. “I’m always asking, ‘Who’s next?’”
And although Parmar says there are plans to expand Sol Collective with centers in locales such as Puerto Rico, Sacramento remains the home base.
“There’s an amazing amount of creative people here,” he says. “We can feel overshadowed by other, bigger cities, but I’d rather be in a place like this where I can help to develop a scene.” www.solcollective.org.
When he’s not sculpting warm, tactile beats out of seemingly cold and robotic machines, Ruben Reveles uses a camera to bring new life to otherwise ordinary landscapes. Images from a recent trek through Mexico—a dog peering through an alley wall in Zacatecas, a vibrant Jerez street scene, et al.—highlight beauty in unexpected places. http://rubenreveles.com.
From its humble roots on Broadway, Brian Crall has grown his Sacramento Comedy Spot into a veritable Midtown performance empire built on workshops, shows and crazy competitions. His is an army of laugh makers, shooting from the hip and off the cuff. http://saccomedyspot.com.
Margaret Morneau and Ally Krumm
As the founders of the Resurrection Theatre, Margaret Morneau and Ally Krumm, stage productions that cover the spectrum from modern classic (Talk Radio) to, delightfully unexpected (An Adult Evening of Shel Silvestein). http://resurrectiontheatre.com.
She’s still in high school but already this teenage folk-punk singer has the poise and songwriting chops of a road-weary, life-worn artist. She also took home the Judges’ Choice nod at this year’s Jammies award ceremony. A young Billy Bragg-Ani DiFranco-styled dynamo, her work is political and personal, making Wood one to watch—and hear. www.facebook.com/pages/Parie-Wood/153191018081020.