TOP ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Sam Lao, David Lowery, Jeff Gibbons and Gregory Ruppe, Joshua Peugh BOTTOM ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Lydia Mackay, Whitney Holotik, Michael Federico, Maryam Obaidulluh Baig, Jeffrey Schmidt, Christie Vela, John Flores, and Christina Neubrand of The Drama Club. Illustration by Sean McCabe.

The Artists Who Will Have the Biggest Impact on Dallas Culture in 2016

Pay attention. This group of artists will be making big waves in Dallas arts and culture this year.

David Lowery
When Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was released in 2013, he was heralded as Dallas’ next great filmmaker. Then he seemed to drop off the map. In a way, that’s exactly what Lowery did, retreating to New Zealand to begin production of his follow-up, an ambitious live-action remake of the classic Disney film Pete’s Dragon. It may seem like an odd transition: from a dramatic, gritty, Robert Altman-inspired, Depression-era western to a reboot of a children’s film. But it marks an important transition for Lowery from the indie circuit to a big Hollywood production. And if you’ve been following Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon production diary online, you know not to expect your typical kids’ fare when the film is released in August. —Peter Simek

Joshua Peugh
After graduating from SMU, Peugh relocated to Seoul, South Korea, to begin his career with the Universal Ballet Company. There, he gained notoriety as a choreographer, creating work that has been included in festivals around the world. He returned to North Texas in 2013 to form Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and hasn’t let up. In 2015, Dance Magazine named him one of 25 to watch, and later in the year, the New York Times called him an “important discovery.” That has led to continued commissions around the country, but Peugh’s company will continue with its busy schedule of Texas performances throughout the first part of 2016. —P.S.

Sam Lao
The singer-rapper has been relatively quiet since her 2013 breakthrough, West Pantego. Though she has continued to gig regularly (including a cameo at The D.O.C.’s big homecoming show at the Bomb Factory in October), there hasn’t been much in the way of recorded output. Lao has mostly made guest appearances on projects by other people (Picnictyme, Blue, the Misfit). The most recent—the leadoff track from Sarah Jaffe’s Visions EP from last year—shows why most critics have pegged her as the next big musical act to come out of North Texas, highlighting her obvious crossover potential. At her best, Lao is a one-woman version of Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé’s “Feeling Myself.” And in 2016, expect to hear more of her. —Zac Crain

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Jeff Gibbons and Gregory Ruppe
In an art scene that seems to have lost a bit of energy and urgency over the past year or so, Gibbons and Ruppe have remained unflappable. In 2015, the two artists staged a series of collaborative exhibitions featuring sound-based performative sculpture that took place in Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston. Working separately, Ruppe collaborated in group shows in Switzerland and Japan, while Gibbons enjoyed shows at Conduit Gallery and Goss-Michael Foundation. Whether they continue to collaborate or decide to break off on their own, Gibbons and Ruppe used 2015 to establish themselves as two of the area’s most important working artists. —P.S.

The Drama Club
Dallas’ theater scene strikes a happy balance among large regional companies, stalwart midsize theaters, and a steady diet of come-and-go, actor-driven start-ups. And yet, it has been a while since a new theater company popped up that was worth getting excited about. Enter The Drama Club. They’re not exactly new. The group of actors, writers, directors, and designers formed in 2008, but until last fall, they hadn’t produced a play in four years. They returned with a vengeance, presenting a new, modern adaptation of the play Faust that is poised to make just about every Dallas critic’s top 10. Better yet, the quintet that includes Jeffrey Schmidt, Lydia Mackay, Maryam Obaidullah Baig, John Flores, and Christina Neubrand promises more productions soon. —P.S

A version of this article appears in the January issue of D Magazine.

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