December 31, 2015 Slideshows » Arts

The 20 Most Captivating People in San Antonio This Year 

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In a city of over 1.4 million people, picking out 20 for pretty much anything is a tall task. But that’s what we’ve done for the San Antonio Current’s first-ever People Issue — selected 20 folks doing captivating work in the Alamo City. Getting down to 20 made for some tough choices. But we think our final list — which includes artists and activists, a chef and a Spur — represents the diverse makeup of the city itself. Some of them inspire us, some entertain, some make the city go. All of them help make San Antonio what it is.
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Spot Barnett
Saxophonist and bandleader


We don't have Etta or Aretha. Nor do we have Jimi or Jackie. No Brother Ray, Otis or James. We can't claim Elvis, Chuck or Richard. We can't brag about B.B., Muddy or Wolf. We do, however, have Spot.

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Melanie Cawthon
Outreach & Development VP,
Reaching Maximum Independence


While recovering from a back injury and finding work through a temp agency, Melanie Cawthon discovered the world of nonprofit work. “I’d been in catering prior to that … and they placed me at nonprofit and ministry of the church I grew in,” Cawthon said.

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Chuck Cureau
Master of Ceremonies,
San Antonio Spurs


If you’ve been to a Spurs game anytime over the last eight seasons, you’re probably familiar with Chuck Cureau. At a svelte 6-foot-2-inches with a self-described “light bulb-shaped bald head,” the in-arena host for the Spurs leaves a lasting impression. A bundle of energy that embraces challenges, Cureau even filled in as the PA announcer for the team in his rookie season, despite knowing little about basketball.

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Alvaro Del Norte
Accordionist and bandleader,
Piñata Protest


If singer, songwriter, accordionist and norteño-punk wizard Alvaro Del Norte were going to be made into a fictional lotería card, he’d be El Chingón (colloquial Spanish for “all around badass with an angsty streak”). As ringleader of the nationally acclaimed norteño, mojado punk band Piñata Protest, Del Norte has proven a gifted songwriter, a cyclonic and riveting performer, and one hell of an intuitive accordionist.

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Elsa Fernandez
Owner,
Eye Candy Boutique


Elsa Fernandez takes nothing for granted. After running her own pop-up shop for three months as part of the Center City Development & Operations Department’s effort known as OPEN Downtown Pop-Up Shops, she signed a lease to make her store, Eye Candy Boutique at 531 Navarro St., a permanent part of San Antonio.

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Lorenzo Gomez
CEO,
Geekdom


Lorenzo Gomez makes his gig sound more like a cruise director than a tech executive.

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Anya Grokhovski
Artistic Director,
Musical Bridges Around the World


Anya Grokhovski is an esteemed concert pianist, a musical educator and an important community advocate for the arts. Hailing from a family of professional musicians in Moscow, where she received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in piano performance and pedagogy from the Russian Academy of Music, Grokhovski taught music before coming to the U.S. in 1989. In a recent phone interview, speaking of her first impressions of America, Grokhovski said “[her] first trip to Walmart felt like [she] had arrived in Versailles.”

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Ken Little
Artist and professor,
University of Texas at San Antonio


Around 1959, a 12-year-old Ken Little penned an essay called My Utopia, writing, “I want to be the most famous artist of the 20th century. Now that may sound like some stage struck kid, but I am serious. The idea of becoming a run-of-the-mill commercial artist haunts me. I would rather not be an artist than be lost in the crowd.”

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Joey Lopez
Professor,
University of the Incarnate Word


Joey Lopez lived in Austin for a decade where he got firsthand experience in the tech world. “Even 80 miles away is a whole other world,” he said. “Young adults were treated as having just as much radical potential as anyone else.”

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Rey Lopez
Nightlife promoter


After the success of his first drag show at a straight nightclub (Old San Juan Restaurant and Discotek) in 2011, starring RuPaul’s Drag Race alumna Manila Luzon, promoter Rey Lopez believed he could do it again.

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Angela & Rick Martinez
Owners and operators,
Slab Cinema


The camera pans up a pair of tight-as-Saran-Wrap denim Wranglers careening over pearl snaps stretched to a taut tension across John Travolta’s brawny torso. Women crumble into a communal squeezebox of coos, oohs and ahs. This was my introduction to Slab Cinema: the ombré descension of dusk punctuated by a pockmarked limestone wall, that evening’s canvas for Urban Cowboy.

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Steve McHugh
Chef and owner,
Cured


At 40, chef Steve McHugh is no whippersnapper, and he’s totally at peace with that. After working for Dickie Brennan and Ralph Brennan and chef Chris Brown at Metro Bistro, and after more than a decade under John Besh (the Wisconsin native opened Lüke San Antonio), McHugh opened his dream eatery at the Pearl in 2013. At two, Cured still shines as one of the city’s best restaurants, and it’s by design as McHugh and wife/partner-in-crime Sylvia handle all aspects of the restaurant. From employing team members they would enjoy working with to calling the “salt guy” that supplies the building’s water softener, McHugh does it all in stride while visiting with tables and expediting dishes from the line. Though he always had an entrepreneurial spirit, McHugh gleaned a lot of his chef persona from his time with Besh.

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William McManus
Chief,
San Antonio Police Department


Since officially coming back as chief of the San Antonio Police Department in October, William McManus has been busy. He’s dealing with how the department will handle putting more body cameras on the street, an inquiry from the FBI and the small matter of managing over 2,000 sworn officers.

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Patty Mills
Point guard,
San Antonio Spurs


Now in his fifth season with the Spurs, backup point guard Patty Mills has fully settled into his comfort zone in South Texas. He drinks local java from Indy Coffee Co., enjoys dining at the Pearl and has rocked out at SXSW. He also dreads allergy season, just like the rest of us.

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Naomi Shihab Nye
Poet and author


Along-beloved member of the San Antonio arts and culture landscape, celebrated author Naomi Shihab Nye writes just about everything. From essays to poems, from novels to short stories, from kid’s books to songs, the self-described “wandering poet” possesses a boundless gift for the written word. Nye said she’s been “writing constantly, even submitting work to magazines, since [she] was seven years old.” Perhaps that’s why she’s been so active in arts education around the city, particularly creative writing.

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Jenny Rabb Faz
Event Director,
San Antonio Cocktail Conference


She can plan a party in her sleep.

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Alex Rubio
Muralist and mentor


On December 12, 1989, with his mentor Juan Hernandez on one side and a young Vincent Valdez on the other, Alex Rubio put his distinctive curvilinear marks on a mural commissioned by the San Fernando Cathedral and made an important realization: He was finally a real artist.

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Robert Salcido
Regional Field Organizer,
Equality Texas


Robert Salcido is coming for the hearts and minds of San Antonians.

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Pat Smothers
Political activist


On July 4, 2015, in response to Texas’ new abortion clinic regulations currently being considered by the Supreme Court, a massive new Planned Parenthood clinic opened in the Medical Center. Behind the 22,000-square-foot facility stood Pat Smothers, chair of the committee charged with finding funds for the $7.5 million bill.

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Anna Stothart
Curator,
San Antonio Museum of Art


Anna Stothart thinks back to the summers she spent as a child during the ’80s at the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiú, New Mexico. Years prior, her parents befriended potter Juan Hamilton, a confidant of painter Georgia O’Keeffe. That was when Stothart, hired to be The Brown Foundation Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) last February, found her calling. She just didn’t know it yet.

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