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MasterMinds 2012

This year's winners have art, passion and history on their side. And now they'll also each have a check for $2,000.

MasterMinds 2012

In its fourth year, the Houston Press MasterMind Awards process gathered in more of everything, as we continued to discover things about our area and its creative leaders.

As before, some of the winners come from applications sent in, while our in-house review panel contributed other names of artists they felt should be recognized for their outstanding work this past year. Again, this is not a lifetime award, but goes to creative types who are on the cutting edge right now.

There were a lot of names to go through.

Captain Matthews and Buffalo Soldiers Museum Board President Angela Holder anchor the museum's small operation that presents plays and African-American history 
re-enactments to area schools and church groups.
Photo by Marco Torres
Captain Matthews and Buffalo Soldiers Museum Board President Angela Holder anchor the museum's small operation that presents plays and African-American history re-enactments to area schools and church groups.
Stick 'Em Up! director Alex Luster has been looking for the next full-length project since his documentary about Houston's street-poster artists sold out the River Oaks Theatre.
Photo by Marco Torres
Stick 'Em Up! director Alex Luster has been looking for the next full-length project since his documentary about Houston's street-poster artists sold out the River Oaks Theatre.

We checked in with our 2011 winners and found all three to be thriving.

Foodways Texas, a collective of chefs, food historians and other epicureans seeking to preserve the food history and traditional Gulf Coast/Creole/Cajun cuisine of Texas, used most of its money to put on a symposium in Galveston, in which by-catch and fishing were discussed.

Catastrophic Theatre, which delights in experimental theater productions, was able to put on an extra play in the last year thanks to the money and recognition the company gained from the MasterMind Award, according to Artistic Director Jason Nodler.

Nameless Sound Founding Director David Dove says that his two-pronged music education nonprofit organization is getting ready to celebrate its tenth year of existence. In the last year it has been able to expand its staff and has had a number of sold-out shows.

There's no guarantee that a MasterMind Award will set someone up for life — a very few of our winners have not done so well — but to date, most have prospered mainly because of the recognition they receive.

All of this year winners will be honored in a special ceremony at the Houston Press Artopia Party — celebrating the arts and the people who love them — on Saturday, January 28 at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter Street.

This year's winners of a plaque and $2,000 in no-strings-attached funds are:

The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum: Headquartered in Houston and soon to move to a new home, the dream of Captain Paul Matthews keeps alive the history of the African-American soldiers in the United States, and other important historical events.

Alex "Pr!mo" Luster: Last profiled in a Houston Press cover story in May, the filmmaker is looking for the next step after the solid local success of Stick 'Em Up!, his documentary about Houston's street poster artists, which played to sold-out houses at the River Oaks Theatre.

The Pilot Light Restaurant Group: Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan, a pair of adventurous chefs, turn out astounding meals from their temporary base in the back room of a boutique, while they marshal their money and resources to find a more permanent home.

The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum

It's a Wednesday afternoon and Captain Paul Matthews points out a Civil War relic at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. Somehow, the museum's founder, who wears a thick mustache and round glasses, makes a package of hardtack biscuits, which most people today would call crackers, seem spectacular.

"You see those holes there in the biscuits? That's where bugs and grub worms would crawl into," explains the upbeat Matthews. "And what did those bugs and grub worms give the soldiers? Protein!

"Where do you think 'I'm gonna get me some grub' comes from? You're looking at it right there!" says Matthews, who has a gift for tying pop-culture references (ranging from slang to Tupac Shakur) to captivating dissections of the African-American fighting regiment that was active from 1866 to 1951.

Matthews, a Vietnam War veteran, opened the museum at its current 3,500-square-foot location on Southmore Boulevard in January 2001, more than 30 years after he read two paragraphs about the all-black U.S. Army Cavalry units. Instantly, he wanted to know everything about the soldiers who reminded the Cheyenne Indians of the wild buffalo due to the men's naturally curly hair and ferocious combat techniques.

But life had another plan for the Prairie View A&M ROTC student and future Army battalion sergeant: registering graves in Vietnam.

For three months towards the end of his deployment, Matthews was responsible for telling families of deceased American soldiers that their husbands, fathers and sons weren't coming home alive.

"I tried my best to personalize every letter, but it was hard because I wouldn't know anything about them except for their name," says Matthews, who adds that some mutilated bodies didn't always resemble a human being.

"Then there was that smell, the smell of death," remembers Matthews. "It was rotten and pungent and would hit you like pow! That never goes away. It still brings me to tears."

And you complain about your job that hooks you up with free Internet to mess around on all day.

The experience was too overwhelming for Matthews, who was flirting with enrolling in helicopter pilot training, to continue serving in the military. He eventually moved to Houston, where he spent a good chunk of his 30-year career at Merck as the head of the drug company's military division of pharmaceutical sales.

On the side, Matthews devoted much of his free time to collecting artifacts and information about the Buffalo Soldiers.

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1 comments
Marcofromhouston
Marcofromhouston

Congrats to the MasterMinds! Well deserved for sure!

Nice work, Steve.

 
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