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Innovation Is Happening in Unlikely Places in Dallas-Fort Worth

9creatives

As we explore and examine what it means to be innovative, we should take a look at the creative people here who are rethinking how we do things. The people who are powering Dallas by bringing the energy, production, new thinking, and intellect that powers new things being built, new ways of solving old problems, and finding new opportunities for economic growth. These are people not only driven by personal wealth building, but people who have a vision for the collective good of the city and its inhabitants.

When you frame innovation through the lens of people doing unique and different things that make our city better, a story emerges.

Here are nine people you should know.

Carol Zou, program manager of the Vickery Meadow Trans.lation project

Carol Zou

Carol Zou

Zou, like many Dallas residents, is a transplant. She is included in this list of innovative Dallasites for one simple reason: her approach to community empowerment is radically different from the way underserved communities are traditionally reached. She is a warrior in the thought of empowering communities by giving them skills and tools and getting out of the way. This is what she has done with much success in the Vickery Meadow community. In the brief time that she has been here, she has helped residents launch a radio station, a chef-training institute, a social media campaign highlighting residents, and hosted a public art exhibit. There is hope, energy, and productivity happening in Vickery Meadow, and Carol Zou is the real catalyst.

Owen Wilson-Chavez and Bernardo Salazar, data scientists

Owen Wilson Chavez

Owen Wilson Chavez

Bernardo Salazar

Bernardo Salazar

Owen Wilson-Chavez and Bernardo Salazar are doing one of the most important things in the realm of Dallas innovation. Together, they are helping to build a data infrastructure for the city of Dallas. Both are data scientists at BC Workshop, and they realized that Dallas is lagging other cities in civic data reporting, civic data usage, and consequent innovation. They believe that without a proper data infrastructure, Dallas can not be a “smart” city. Innovators see a gap and proceed to fill that gap, and these two are doing just that. They have even launched a Data Happy Hour that takes place at least once a month bringing together designers, UX pros, nonprofit heads, and data professionals to discuss potential projects and new developments in civic innovation.

Tisha Crear, entrepreneur/visionary

Tisha Crear

Tisha Crear

Tisha Crear is the definition of a visionary. She sees potential and profit in areas that most people do not. A Dallas native and New York University graduate, Crear has formed something called the SuSu Incubator. Her concept for SuSu is to bring together a collective of minority artisans and creative business pros to not only make money but to revitalize underserved communities. Much like Chicago’s Theaster Gates, Crear has given energy to the importance of vibrant physical spaces in blighted areas of the city. She is also putting her money where her heart is by building a juice and healthy food bar in the Marsalis area of East Oak Cliff, opening in early 2016.

Clyde Valentin, director of SMU Meadows Arts and Urbanism Initiative

Clyde Valentin

Clyde Valentin

On November 19, a techno mothership landed smack in the middle of the Tower Building in Fair Park. Inside that mothership was a live multimedia futuristic extravaganza produced by Complex Movements called “Beware of the Dandelions.” Words are hard to come by in expressing exactly what “Beware of the Dandelions” was, but I’ll try: it was mind-blowingly innovative. The force who brought this multimedia art installation from Detroit is none other than SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ Clyde Valentin. Valentin is a Brooklyn native and brings that Brooklyn hip-hop swagger to Dallas in one of the most unlikely of all places, SMU. What he has done is bring innovation to Dallas in the area of placemaking, art activism, and community building. Valentin’s creative energy is much appreciated, and has already lit a spark in the Dallas community.

John Walsh and Anne Holcomb, owners/operators, Serj

John Walsh and Anne Holcomb

John Walsh and Anne Holcomb

John Walsh and Anne Holcomb are the owners/operators of Serj Books at the corner of St. Paul and Ervay. Both are transplants to Dallas—Walsh is from New York City, Yonkers to be exact, and Holcomb is from Chicago. This  team has brought innovation to the city of Dallas through a retail concept that includes coffee and local food, a bookstore, and a community room in the back of the coffee shop. Walsh’s philosophy is to move beyond the transactional nature of buying coffee. He wants it to be a moment of real human interaction and connection. So when you buy coffee, you get the joke of the day. It is highly corny, but also very endearing. Humanity is at the core of the Serj concept, and that makes its approach different. Watch for their new dinner/theater space, which will open in a couple of months. (It will be located downtown on Pacific, directly across the street from Cafe Momentum.)

Gray Garmon, architect/professor

Gray Garmon

Gray Garmon

Gray Garmon is a fifth generation Dallasite and third generation architect. This University of Pennsylvania trained architect came back home to make a difference and that is exactly what he is doing. In his short time being back in Dallas, Garmon has launched SMU’s first Interdisciplinary design degree program. Garmon, along with user experience designer Mariah R. Hay, also launched the Dallas chapter of national organization Creative Mornings, which brings the local creative community together once a month to explore various topics related to creative work and innovation. Garmon is young, but his impact to this city is major.

Keith Govan (aka DJ 5-D), DJ/producer

Keith Govan

Keith Govan

Music producer Keith Govan, better known as DJ 5-D, is an innovator because he has given the city of Dallas two very fun and uniquely different nights of music at his resident Crown & Harp. Thanks to Crown & Harp’s Moody Fuqua, and DJ 5-D, Dallas can boast to having an effervescent showcase for DJs who still love vinyl with its Bring Your Own Vinyl (BYOV) night and a monthly showcase for local beat maker/electronic music producers, which is called Beat Buffet.

These nine people are integral parts of a changing and more innovative Dallas. It is what they uniquely bring to our city that makes all of us better. Let us keep welcoming these types and encouraging more of them to come here to make it a genuinely great place to live, work, and play.


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Kevin is a cultural strategist, music geek, marketer, researcher, and lecturer who runs a marketing consultancy called CultureLab. He founded CultureLab in 2006 and built a firm that is based on his u(...)

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