Central to Creativity – Matt McLeod

Matt McLeod is a painter, sculp­tor and mural­ist, specializing in fine art for residential, commercial and pub­lic art projects. His art hangs in many homes and businesses throughout Central Arkansas and beyond. Arguably his most visible work is the new mural at the corner of 6th and Main in the Creative Corridor.

Growing up in Little Rock, Matt graduated from Central High School.  After grad­u­at­ing from South­ern Methodist Uni­ver­sity in 1987, Matt spent a fifteen-year career in adver­tis­ing, before becom­ing a full-time artist. Matt spent the last eleven years in fine art, devel­op­ing paint­ings into his bold, vibrant style — what he calls Ener­getic Color.

Matt’s energetic color is included in sev­eral pri­vate and cor­po­rate col­lec­tions across the US and has brought significant recognition, includ­ing pieces in the Delta Exhi­bi­tion at The Arkansas Arts Cen­ter and a paint­ing on the front cover of the first Arkansas Artists Cal­en­dar, cre­ated by The Arkansas Governor’s Man­sion Asso­ci­a­tion.

In 2011, Matt was the fea­tured artist for River­fest music fes­ti­val. Matt was the fea­tured artist for MusicFest El Dorado, in 2012. In 2013, Matt was the fea­tured artist for The Thea Foundation’s Annual Spring Fine Arts Fes­ti­val. In October 2015, Matt opened a gallery in down­town Lit­tle Rock, spe­cial­iz­ing in highly col­lectible regional artists and res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial commissions.

In addition to his mural at the corner of Main and Scott Streets, Matt is currently at work on a mural on the side of the Besser Hardware building in the 1000 block of Main Street.

Creative Class of 2015: Scott Walters

scottwaltersOctober may have ended yesterday. But since this is about Creativity, the Creative Class stretches into November for one day this year.  Scott Walters uses his position as Rector of Christ Church to build connections and raise awareness of a variety of art forms and creative disciplines.

Through his leadership and encouragement, two different public gallery spaces have been created at Christ Church, an Arts at Christ Church series has been launched (featuring all types of music from Grammy winning soul to Renaissance chamber), the basement has been turned into The Undercroft music venue with regular performances, and a partnership with the Arkansas Literary Festival has been undertaken.

Concerned with the built environment, he has led walking tours of downtown which have focused not only on the history of the neighborhood but also looking at its present and envisioning its future possibilities.  Because Christ Church is at a hub of development in the River Market, Creative Corridor, SoMa, MacArthur Park and Hanger Hill, he is exploring ways to more actively integrate the church into its greater community.

Interested in historic preservation, he is currently shepherding an effort to restore the historic stained glass windows at the church. A student of poetry, philosophy and urban planning, he can often be found engaged in discussions about those topics.  But he is just as likely to discuss comedians, YouTube videos, and the local music scene.

Creative Class of 2015: John Willis

JQW 2015John Willis is a throwback to the era of singer-songwriters who did not focus on genre, but instead letting the mood and theme of quality songs lead them to the appropriate style.

His new single “Enough” is available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/johnwillis2

After the success of his solo EP “King of the Cocktail Party” he and Late Romantics, his relatively new band have a new EP, “Bad Boyfriend.”  Willis spent his early musical years as a classically trained pianist playing private parties and backing several successful performing artists around Little Rock, including Cody Belew and Bonnie Montgomery.

With his release, King of the Cocktail Party EP, Willis stepped into his own light as a front man with an intoxicating blend of piano-based pop, jazz, and parlor music that has elicited comparisons to Harry Nilsson, Leon Russell, Rufus Wainwright, and Feist.  As a composer and performer, he has been featured on AETN and the UALR Songwriter Showcase.

Raised on a steady diet of old-time gospel sung in his father’s church, Motown and early ’70s singer/songwriters beloved by his mother, and Chopin, Debussy, and Gershwin tapes given to him by an elderly mentor, Willis has grown up to create a sophisticated musical style that is both instantly familiar and at the same time fresh.

Willis is actively promoting his new release locally and planning a tour in the coming months with his band. Though he still delights cocktail party audiences as one of Little Rock’s favorite piano guys, he is enjoying the success and sharing his stylish mix of piano grooves and heartfelt ballads with lush, vocal harmonies liberally dosed throughout. These well-crafted songs are as much a nod to the past as they are a well-placed note hovering on the musical horizon.

Creative Class of 2015: Kathryn Tucker

KFTuckerFilmmaker Kathryn Tucker returned to her native Little Rock three years ago after spending time in New York (four years) and Los Angeles (six years). In NYC, she worked for Miramax Films. She left Miramax to help make an independent film (Loggerheads) in North Carolina that was accepted at Sundance. She then moved the LA for 6 years and became of member of the Director’s Guild of America (DGA).

During that time she worked with a wide range of movie stars, including Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Anniston, Adam Sandler, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes and Ryan Gosling. Among her projects in LA were This Is 40, Oblivion, Gangster Squad, Knocked Up and the TV shows “Glee,” “Private Practice,” “Bones,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “7th Heaven.”

She returned to Little Rock (where she was a 1996 graduate of LR Central High) three years ago and has produced an award winning short (“One Please”) and a feature (All the Birds Have Flown South) written by the Miller brothers. She is currently completing a screenplay for a movie she will direct in 2016 and is under contract with AETN to produce and direct a documentary bio of former Gov. Mike Beebe.


Creative Class of 2015: Frank Thurmond

thurmond_frankFrank Thurmond is a writer-musician-actor-filmmaker-teacher. He is, in short, a multi-hyphenate!

Thurmond was born in Paragould and grew up in Crossett and Little Rock, where he attended Hall High School.  He studied English and music as a Donaghey Scholar at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and pursued graduate degrees at Southern Methodist University and Oxford University. Thurmond is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has been a visiting writer in residence at Lyon College in Batesville.

Most recently, he released Ring of Five: A Novella and Four Stories.  Thurmond’s first book was a memoir entitled Before I Sleep: A Memoir of Travel and Reconciliation, which recounts his adult experience of meeting his previously unknown birth father.  He is a member of the bands ODYSSEY and JET420 and can often be found playing at local stages.
The film The Dealer’s Tale, which he wrote and produced (and is directed by Justin Nickels) will screen as an Official Selection at the Indie Memphis film festival on Friday, November 6th.  When it screened at the El Dorado Film Festival, Thurmond was awarded the Best Screenplay Award at the El Dorado Film Festival.
He has been featured at both the Arkansas Literary Festival and the Little Rock Film Festival.  Previously, Thurmond’s writing has appeared in various publications, including the International Herald Tribune; The Best of Tales from the South, Volume 6; Toad Suck Review; and in William Safire’s language book, No Uncertain Terms.

Creative Class of 2015: Mark Thiedeman

mark thiedemanAfter attending Catholic High and Parkview Arts & Science Magnet High School, Mark Thiedeman studied filmmaking at NYU.  Though he started his film work in New York, he returned to Little Rock a few years ago to continue making films in a more expressive and less expensive environment.

It is a proverbial chicken & egg question as to whether Thiedeman helped usher in the expansion of the Arkansas film industry, or whether he benefitted from it — probably a little of both.

Thiedeman is a true auteur, serving as director, writer, editor and often producer of his works. His feature films are The Scoundrel and Last Summer.  His shorts are “A Christian Boy,” “Cain & Abel” and “Sacred Hearts, Holy Souls.” The latter, which won the Best in Arkansas award at the 2014 Little Rock Film Festival, is being turned into a feature film.

Stephen Farber in The Hollywood Reporter has called him “a director worth watching.” In Filmmaker magazine, Howard Feinstein said of Thiedeman, “a star is born – and I mean a director.”

Creative Class of 2015: Stephanie Thibeault

stephaniethibeaultStephanie Thibeault is a dancer, teacher and choreographer.  She is currently an Associate Professor of Dance at UALR, where she established the B.F.A. degree in Dance Performance.

Starting her career with Kinetics Dance Theatre and SURGE Dance Company of Baltimore, Thibeault worked as a professional dancer, teacher, and choreographer in the Baltimore/Washington area before serving as a dance faculty member at several institutions, including University of Maryland, Dickinson College, and Wichita State University. Along the way, she has had the opportunity to perform with wonderful artists, including Mikhail Baryshnikov and Parsons Dance Company.

Having performed and presented work in New York City, Baltimore, Washington (DC), Lisbon (Portugal), and numerous other cities, large and small, Thibeault’s teaching and choreography have taken her around the globe, from the U.S. East Coast to Canada and Europe, and from the American Midwest to Hawaii and Taiwan. Stephanie Thibeault holds her M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Maryland.

Thibeault’s choreographic work has been recognized with awards, and she has been selected for guest artist residencies and commissions by various professional companies and universities. Having received an Individual Artist Fellowship for Choreography from the Arkansas Arts Council in 2010, she continues to experiment with different processes and forms as she creates new work. A commission from Ballet Arkansas in 2012 produced American Dream, which took Thibeault back to her classical ballet roots while moving her forward into expressive simplicity.

She is currently working on the 2015 Fall Dance Festival on the UALR campus in November, which coincides with the B.F.A. student’s Fall Dance Harvest dance concert.