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Photo by Jay Paul
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Photo by Will Godwin, courtesy Need Supply Co.
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Photo by Isaac Harrell
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Artwork courtesy Eliza Childress
These artists under the age of 30 are united by one thread: They are the new multihyphenates. They are actors and painters, musicians and filmmakers. Most of them are finding that the journey is its own destination. Sooner or later, you're likely to hear more about them.
Made in Richmond
Born-and-raised Richmonder Praheme hit a special benchmark on Aug. 11. He turned 28, and it was the last day of shooting for his first full-length feature, Troop 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions.
The filmmaker grew up a creative youngster named Patrick Ricks in Sherwood Park, the son of Joseph Earl, a real estate agent, and Shirley Ricks. Praheme — a nickname he picked up to distinguish himself from "20 other Patricks" — went through Richmond public schools and graduated from Richmond Community High in 2001.
During his senior year, a teacher instructed his creative writing class to make videos of their stories. This gave Praheme the idea of making a video documentary yearbook to sell to the 48 graduating seniors.
Here, in film terms, dissolve to a montage sequence of Praheme's development as a filmmaker: He graduates from Howard University, cum laude in film production. He forms Praphetic Praducations LLC. In 2010, he earns a master's in film production from Florida State. His mother dies, and Praheme returns to Richmond. He's a production assistant for the film Lake Effects.
In November 2010, Praheme begins writing what turned into 30 varied drafts of Troop 491. The story concerns Triston, who grows up next to the projects and is pushed into the Boy Scouts by his mother, where he meets adolescents from all social strata. Triston witnesses a murder and ultimately goes to his Scout friends for help.
Praheme's father invests retirement funds to make the film, as Praheme enters into a mentoring period with Tim Reid of Millennium Studios.
Fade in to the present: Praheme's film, budgeted at less than $300,000, started shooting in July, using hundreds of extras for Scouts, parents and crowds, as well as a cast of six boys aged 12 to 14.
"There's about 10 things you're not supposed to do in filmmaking," Praheme says, laughing. "We've done at least seven — including working with children and animals."
He'll edit the film through the autumn. Finding a distribution company is the next challenge.
Going the Distance
Nelly Kate Anderson knew she approached life differently when her second-grade teacher at Portsmouth's Westhaven Elementary put her in a cubby for disturbing class. After finishing her work, she tried to write songs and would hum the tunes. "She would've loved for my parents to medicate me," jokes the 28-year-old singer, who goes by Nelly Kate.
Her father, Louis Anderson, introduced her to the stylings of Bruce Cockburn and Paul Simon. She began playing piano at age 5. And while learning other people's music, Nelly Kate composed her own.
Her compelling solo performances are characterized by athletic grace. She went to James Madison University on a track-and-field scholarship. Nelly Kate excelled in the steeplechase and considered running professionally. Her creative interests span music, photography, writing and animation. These elements have cross-pollinated in her varied endeavors.
William Tate, a JMU associate professor of interior and industrial design, recruited her as part of a team planning an architecture school dedicated to responsible community building. The school didn't gel, but she was able to work with social entrepreneurial projects in Rwanda and Sarajevo.
After this, Nelly Kate began an exploration of electronica and collaborated with Evan Moritz, today a busy Baltimore theater director. She also partnered with cellist and alt-acoustic singer Wes Swing, whom she met while working at a Staunton teahouse. She's used old typewriters, obsolete Casio keyboards and homebrew music boxes in performances; she shoots on film and records on tape. Nelly Kate also has played alongside Merrill Garbus, an experimental musician who performs as tUnE-yArDs.
She thought Richmond's arts and music scene would be insular, but she found the opposite to be true. "The history of the town and everything about it appeals to me," she says.
Nelly Kate has made four self-released recordings of varied lengths. The latest, ISH ISH, combines complex, dark lyrics against an upbeat musicality.
For Swing, she made a stop-motion video using clothing buttons and her bathroom as the studio. It's the beginning of something — but she doesn't know what.
Nelly Kate explains, "I want to delve a little bit further into noises and sounds and how those things can correlate with visual elements."
Eliza Childress says her first original work was at around age 4, when she drew a mermaid, naturally bare-breasted. Her father, Philip, tried to dissuade her from nude art at such a young age, but the 24-year-old says, laughing, "I finally convinced him that it was actually a man."
He'd been a freelance photographer who traveled with AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd ("before and after the [airplane] crash"), and Hank Williams Jr.
The Henrico County native recalls that her Carver Elementary School art teacher, Terry Adams, always encouraged her, as well as her stepmother, Tamara — even when her first artistic obsession was Garfield the cat.
After regular classes she attended the Center for the Arts at Henrico High School, followed by VCUArts for a couple of years. "Wonderful professors, and I was motivated but broke," she says. "I took time out, and that turned into dropping out."
Childress started designing posters for bands in a hand-drawn and painted style that is reminiscent of Japanese prints and the work of Gustav Klimt, her artistic hero. Through show promoters, she created posters for hundreds of bands from all over the world, which led to commissions.
Audrey Waple, a former Richmonder who worked on set design for the recent Rock of Ages movie, remembered Childress' work; through Tyler Thomas, another mutual friend, Waple contacted the film's designer, KC Fox. Then Fox hired Childress to create posters for the faux metal band in the film.
Commissions sometimes come by chance; Childress called the Fox television network about a 1099 tax form, and she got an offer to work on a show. She still creates posters and works with Chicago's Numero Group, a Grammy-nominated firm that has reissued obscure recordings in elaborate box sets.
And, just for fun, she creates visual interpretations of people's dreams. "I don't know why," Childress says. "But people want to remember these recurring images."
She also DJs at clubs using records bought at thrift stores — often more for their cover designs than the music.
"It's a fun life," she says.
Caroline's World of Wonder
Caroline Miller started her animation career with Post-it notes. She made a flipbook-style cartoon of a jet taking off, inspired by her father James, a recently retired Air Force aviator.
Now 23, Miller is the media specialist for the technology and innovation department of the Science Museum of Virginia. She creates the "Question Your World" animations for the museum. Her offices are visible from the water and oceans exhibit, where she often notices kids watching her; she'll stand and hold up an APPLAUSE sign.
Cowboy Woody and Buzz Lightyear opened the gates.
"I was 6 when Toy Story came out," she recalls. "Seeing that made me think, ‘I want to do that.' I'd sit in front of the TV and click frame by frame."
As the third child of a military family, Miller grew up everywhere. In Germany, she'd get up at 4 a.m. to see English-speaking cartoons. She later enjoyed the animated series Pepper Ann and especially Doug. A recent spot for the Fort Lee Federal Credit Union shows her sense of fun and enjoyment of drawing.
Miller worked as an artist and photographer on books about theme parks in California and Florida by her brother Alex. Also, she illustrated Alex's children's book Beyond the River, about a little fish following big dreams.
One long-term project, which started as a senior thesis for her filmmaking major at Virginia Commonwealth University, is a 15-minute, lavishly illustrated film that explains the Tooth Fairy's origins in a massive, ancient Irish tree. "I wanted to make one that looked like old Disney animation," she says.
Miller is also an ardent runner (this year's Monument Avenue 10K time was 48:52) and coxswain for a rowing crew, a duty that requires her to be "up at six every morning," she enthuses.
In the meantime, she works on various animation, online and live-action projects, though she's not yet entered the festival circuit. "It'll be interesting to see how this develops," she says.
Greasepaint and Canvas
On the opening night of the stage version of The Rocky Horror Show, actor Terence Sullivan stood at the top of the steps as Dr. Frank N. Furter, all 6-feet-9-inches of him (counting heels), and about ready to invite Brad and Janet upstairs.
Suddenly, the smoke effects set off a fire alarm at the Firehouse Theatre Project. Sullivan, 25, had to stall for time while technicians raced to fix the problem. Naturally, he led a reprise of Madonna's "Vogue," before returning to the script and his version of the line"Antici…pation." The audience roared its approval.
Although he's played more traditional roles, "I wanted to get away from the standard male leads," Sullivan says, instead taking "roles that frankly would scare the shit out of me." He previously thought Roger in Rent (also at the Firehouse) was his greatest challenge. Then came Dr. Furter. He chuckles, "I quickly found out that Rent wasn't my biggest challenge."
Sullivan trained for the stage at a Baltimore magnet school for classical voice; then at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, a liberal arts school emphasizing performance. In 2007, his mother, Alison, was diagnosed with cancer. He left the stage and returned home, continuing his studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
"This felt like the more solitary place that I needed," he says, "to work out what was happening." She died at age 46, an event that left Sullivan "ruined." As he struggled to put himself back together, he became the assistant to the design director at Vanity Fair. A job with The Martin Agency brought him here, where his arts career began moving.
Besides his stage pursuits, Sullivan has exhibited a set of paintings that mimic movie stills. Another exhibit is scheduled at Quirk Gallery in 2014, and in the meantime, Sullivan is creating posters for the Firehouse's upcoming season.
"I paint for a while; then I perform," he says. "They don't overlap. When I get into the studio, I don't know when to quit."
Check out Sullivan's artwork on his website.