Last Year's MasterMind Awards Winner: Nova Arts Project

Earlier this week, Hair Balls reported on Hightower High School's Broadcast Academy, which, since winning a Houston Press MasterMind award last year, has continued to do great things. For another winner, things have taken a different turn. 

The Nova Arts Project, an alternative theater group, received a $2,000 award in last year's competition for introducing new audiences to live performances. But this summer, one of the co-founders of the group, Clinton Hopper, left Nova Arts and the theater industry.

"We've had some downtime since then as we try to figure out how to move forward, what are we doing next, how are we going to move on after his leaving," Amy Hopper, who started the group with Clinton and Jenni Rebecca Stephenson in 2005. "He did a lot to drive the company forward and drive the artistic vision of the company. We need to find our new vision."

After winning the MasterMind award, things were going well for Nova Arts, producing two shows by early summer. The first was "Going Dark," a play about two students at a school where kids can make their emotions manifest. Kind of like the X-Men, Hopper says. The other production was a one-man play called "Thom Pain," which received great reviews.

Because of another production, however, the group had to call the police.


It happened after a Nova Arts-produced Opera festival where composers from different countries came to Houston to have their work presented in front of audiences and judges. Previous winners also performed, and one of those was based on a true story about Iranian teenagers who were executed for being gay. Hopper, who also teaches at Texas A&M University, received hate mail at her house.

"We called the police and filed a police report, and we got extra security when that Opera was done," Hopper says. "Even some of the performers had to use pseudonyms in the program because they still go back to the Middle East."

Fundraising has been another problem. This is from a Press article about the project published last year:

The group followed a pattern many small arts groups feel they need to follow -- nonprofit status, board of directors, build a brand, build an audience, plan a season and try like hell to keep on schedule and budget. But now, the group is ready to challenge that model, streamline operations and approach bigger donors.
That didn't work out.

"We're a pretty small outfit, so bigger grants were never really in our reach," Hopper says. "And some of the smaller, incubator grants have disappeared. [The money] comes and goes."

But Hopper says Nova Arts will return, planning a production for the fall of this year.

"This was our year of change, but maybe it was also our year of being like Destiny's Child," Hopper says. "They formed and got popular and then everyone took a year or two to do solo albums. We've all been doing our own things, but this fall, we want to come back and be a company again."

The Press is handing out $2,000 MasterMind awards again this year, and the winners will be honored on Saturday January 30, 2010 during our Artopia Party at Winter Street Studios. And be sure to check our our Artopia Preview Party on January 15, 2010 at Reign Lounge.

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Paul Knight
Contact: Paul Knight