MasterMinds 2014

A stage visionary redefines the way South Florida sees theater. A thrift-shop connoisseur turns his love of collecting into an art career. A musician describes himself as "half Cuban Native Indian, half German Anunnaki wolf."

You can say a lot of things about 2014's MasterMind Award finalists, but you can't call them boring.

This year, New Times celebrates the fifth edition of the MasterMind Awards, presented by the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. We will hand out three grants of $1,000 to outstanding local creatives. For the 2014 awards, New Times received more than 100 submissions, an impressive pool of talent from which a group of editors and critics selected nine finalists and 20 honorable mentions. (Check out profiles of all our picks at cultistmiami.com.)

The three winners of this year's awards will be announced onstage at Artopia, presented by Miracle Mile and downtown Coral Gables, this Thursday, February 27, at the Coral Gables Museum. The nine finalists will show their own work at the event in a display of some of Miami's best and most noteworthy talent. Here are the people you can expect to see.

Kevin Arrow

There's a fine line between collector and hoarder. But Kevin Arrow has elevated his love of finding, keeping, and chronicling Miami's random stuff to a literal art form.

Arrow, 51, has spent decades perusing thrift stores, capturing photo slides, and picking up stuff off the street since he arrived in Miami in the 1970s. Some of it informs his artwork, such as the zines he produces. Some of it, like his collection of more than 80,000 photo slides ("I stopped counting years ago," he says), is a work of art in its own right. And some of it is just interesting stuff he has to have, such as the collection of "super-rare record singles" he discovered on a recent thrift-store trip.

"Whenever I go [thrifting], amazing things would manifest for me, and a lot of times these things make their way into my own work," he explains.

Arrow has always been a collector. "Some people think they want to be a doctor, or a fireman, or a pilot. I was taken with the idea of spending a life in creative pursuit. So I... learned as much as I could about other artists, different artworks, and eased that into my other interests, like anthropology."

Along the way, he continued collecting the stuff that appealed to him. "My interests are pretty ­bizarre," he admits. "Obsolete media, Himalayan culture, humor — all these things inform my work."

What he'll do with those things is anybody's guess. In "Overhead," a recent exhibit at Dimensions Variable, Arrow showed a series of light boxes filled with found photos and other images he's collected, presented on walls onto which he projected even more imagery. In his video Gianni Versace, he paired the music of Miami band Harry Pussy with Super8 footage of the South Beach hotels that were demolished to make way for the titular fashion designer's Ocean Drive mansion.

His Instagram feed, @arrowfuentes, is a digital counterpart to his real-world work. And one of his current projects is the telling of a love story through unconventional means: surveillance tapes. "Someone's phone was being tapped for a law enforcement sting operation, but what really revealed itself on the tapes is that there are two teenagers calling each other, falling in and out of love, breaking up and making up over the phone," he explains. "They talk about iconic locations for teenagers in the mid-'90s."

But of all Arrow's obsessions, possibly his greatest interest is the city of Miami itself. "It's such an interesting amalgamation of people," he says. "It's a very diverse city. The detritus and cast-off things that people no longer need — I find the most unusual things here in Miami." — Ciara LaVelle

Regina Jestrow

When Regina Jestrow bought a sewing machine, she didn't have grand visions of turning an ancient craft into modern art. She was just feeling homesick. The Queens native had grown up sewing with her mother, a professional seamstress, and after relocating to Miami for work, Jestrow found needlework reconnected her with her roots — even if her early projects were hardly finished products.

"I was never really good at making clothes," she says. "Nothing ever fit, and everything was backwards."

A decade-plus later, she has not only mastered the tricks of the thread but also married expert quilting with crazy geometric patterns to create one of the most intriguing styles on the Magic City art scene.

"There's always this kind of anxiety about high art versus low art," she says. "I don't think 'arts and crafts' is low art at all. I think it takes skill; it takes time. It takes passion."

The 35-year-old artist never considered following her mother into sewing. Instead, she found a creative outlet in photography, pursuing a life behind the lens with studies at the Fashion Institute of Design in New York City.

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New Times Staff