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Lorenzo Gomez
CEO,
Geekdom

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

Gomez is the CEO of Geekdom, the co-working tech startup space that celebrated its fourth anniversary in early December. He describes the business as a place where members of SA’s feisty tech community lend each other a hand and let their ideas coalesce.

Giving people a place to work is important, but Gomez said the real mission is bringing people together — an especially important task given the grinding, solitary nature of work in the entrepreneurial trenches.

“What Geekdom is is part co-working space and part community. Without the community it’s just a cold, boring, soulless space,” Gomez said.

And that community has produced results: Gomez said the group’s member companies are worth about $40 million combined. As they grow, so too does their impact on San Antonio. That’s what Gomez truly hopes the company does: lift all the boats for a place that’s historically lagged economically behind similarly-sized cities like Phoenix and San Diego.

“Every time we help a company get to a point where they can hire their first employee, we are realizing our mission. That is really what inspires me everyday to keep doing what we’re doing,” Gomez said.

Gomez’s long-term vision is for Houston Street to evolve into a mini-corridor for tech Downtown. The dream is to “run into more tech people than tourists” by the Alamo. The best way he knows to do that, he said, is by nurturing a spirit of cooperation, shared success and reciprocity at Geekdom.

“If you’re not helpful you’re really not going to last in our ecosystem, and that’s how we want it,” Gomez said. “I actually think it’s a reflection of San Antonio.”

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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.”

In 1991, Grokhovski moved to San Antonio to take a position as staff accompanist at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She recalled being warmly welcomed. Now, she thinks of her arrival to the Alamo City as something destined, noting that it “feels like home to [her] now.” So naturally, wanting to test her San Anto mettle, I asked her where she likes to eat Mexican food. “You’ll probably laugh at me,” she joked, “but I always eat at Las Palapas.” I did laugh, but assured her that it’s better than Taco Cabana. Plus, Grokhovski gets points for detailing the perfection of Palapas’ roasted salsa.

For Grokhovski, speaking generally, it is music that has consistently helped her connect with new communities and individuals. And it’s this sense of cultural and personal connection through music that is at the heart of Musical Bridges Around the World (MBAW), Grokhovski’s greatest contribution to SA. MBAW, a nonprofit founded in 1998 on a small scale, puts on designedly diverse musical performances and educational programming. With an eye toward bridging cultural gaps and uplifting at-risk communities, MBAW has produced radically innovative collaborations and reached thousands of SA youth. The organization will present its third International Music Festival next February.

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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.”

Little may have lightened up since then, but his artistic ambitions certainly never waned, and through the decades he’s crafted a career deeply rooted in the arts, often juggling multiple roles at once, from sculptor (his new series of signature bronze masks will be shown in Houston next year), to public artist (he just installed a commission for Frost Bank), to musician (he’s hoping to record a new album in the next year).

But regardless of what’s stacked on his plate, the one place you will always find him is the classroom. Since 1974, Little has taught at universities in Florida, Montana and Oklahoma before moving to San Antonio in 1988. Today, he teaches sculpture at both graduate and undergraduate levels at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Here, his lessons extend beyond ceramic technique and into an intuitive realm, where students learn to “listen” to the materials. And his standards are high.

“Walking into the classroom and talking to my students is almost on a parallel level with walking into my studio and making things. I’m asking them to submit themselves to certain standards about what they need to do, and to make an effort in what they need to do — a similar effort to the one that I make,” Little said.

And just what would he say to that ambitious 12-year-old student he once was? “Chill out, it’s all going to work,” he chuckled.

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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.”

Lopez is an associate professor with a convergent media concentration in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of the Incarnate Word. He is also a founding member of the Convergent Media Collective, which aims to help nonprofits effectively use social media.

“We consulted on BiblioTech when it first came out,” he said. “And we began working the hacker space 10BitWorks. They call it a maker space now, that’s the trend.” 10BitWorks is an educational, volunteer nonprofit where people can learn everything from software programming to robotics.

“I started working with them a lot heavier and one issue is they wanted a laser cutter,” Lopez said.

So, instead of just raising money for a laser cutter, Lopez said he pitched a two-tier system, where people could donate money to learn to use the machine or because they wanted others to be empowered to learn to use the laser. They raised $12,000 in 45 days and bought it, and it’s been used by the community — young and old — ever since.

One of his missions, now, through meet-ups, is to bring “facilitators” together for good, so that people don’t duplicate social work outside of what he calls the “Pizza Slice,” an area of San Antonio from Interstate 10 to Downtown to Highway 281 where he said the majority of San Antonio’s wealth can be found that is predominantly Anglo.

“We’re being efficient. We’re collaborative,” Lopez said.

So far they’ve had two of the meet-ups.

“We want to bring together artists and technologists interested in advocacy in the community, in that other 70 percent on the west, south and east sides of San Antonio [that aren’t in that ‘Pizza Slice’],” he said.

For Lopez, lessons learned in life have showed him his mission is to help empower people through technology and advocacy where it’s needed most.

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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.

“I went knocking on the doors of the gay clubs to see if anybody would be interested in taking me in,” Lopez said. “Nobody wanted to work with me because, at that time, the clubs didn’t think it was an investment to bring in those girls [RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants].”

Eventually, the Silver Dollar Saloon gave Lopez an opportunity to shine and generate a loyal following during their Thursday night drag shows. He created Rey Lopez Entertainment (RLE) and started booking both local and national talent.

Today, Lopez has become known for his annual birthday celebrations, where he brings in several of the country’s premier drag performers to celebrate his big day and for his weekly “Drag Me To Fame” shows, where local queens get a chance to compete. The first RLE Birthday Bash, held at the Bonham Exchange in 2012, was the first event in the country to unite a dozen Drag Race contestants and was attended by over 1,200 fans. This year’s RLE Birthday Bash at the Aztec Theatre marked Lopez’s 40th, and brought together 12 Drag Race alumnae. “I’m surprised by how many people I’ve been able to reach, and by how many people know of the shows, but I’m not gonna give myself all the credit because I know those girls are very popular,” Lopez said.

In September, Lopez presented one of his biggest events yet, bringing together 30 entertainers for Out in the Park at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. “It’s been four years and it’s been nothing but surprises and good things,” he said.

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