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5 Artists to Watch

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George Sakkestad

Filmmaker Ben Morgan.

Benjamin Morgan

If anyone in this town is poised to top the "It" list, Benjamin Morgan (cover boy of the March 17 issue of Metro Santa Cruz) leads the pack. The 29-year-old filmmaker is hot off the completion of his second film, 420, a cinema-verité take on the lives of a group of at-risk Santa Cruz teens. Morgan wrote, directed and filmed 420 and now is in the midst of setting up a San Francisco screening.

Morgan is also busy enlisting the support of Bay Area deep pockets to fund his upcoming projects, including Live and Learn, a production company for teens. Meshing a passion for filmmaking with a socially conscious vision--his day job at a treatment facility for at-risk youth greatly influences his work--and backing it up with sharp writing and an eye for detail, Benjamin Morgan has laid the groundwork for people all over this town to say, "I knew him when."

The Preteens

Described as inhabiting the no-man's zone between the pop haze of the Breeders and the sonic assault of Fugazi, this Santa Cruz trio produces power-punk stylings in DIY fashion. With a queer sensibility, the Preteens already are generating a word-of-mouth hype that practically rivals Palo Alto's the Donnas. With a debut album in the works (yes, the hype grew from live shows only), a slot in this year's San Francisco Gay Pride Celebration and live gigs galore, the Preteens just might look back at '99 as the year they made it big.

George Sakkestad

What Is Art? founder Lopi LaRoe.

Lopi LaRoe

Originally intending to make art more accessible to the masses as well as providing a much-needed space for musicians, artists and poets to strut their stuff, Lopi LaRoe has made an indelible impact on the local artistic community. A poet, performance artist and musician in her own right, LaRoe is probably best known for establishing the tiny art haven What Is Art? on Pacific Avenue.

Now in its fourth year, What Is Art? has become a staple for experimental music, existential dance and performance poetry. Not satisfied with What Is Art? the physical space, LaRoe is also the mind behind What Is Art? the TV show--airing Tuesdays at 10pm on Community Television--featuring live music shows from all over the Bay Area. Anyone with this much ambition--and follow-through--is bound to be a consistent influence on the arts scene.

Edmund McMillen

Artist Edmund McMillen is himself a work in progress. Described by our "Notes From the Underground" columnist Matt Koumaras as "an awesome talent," McMillen is the father of the zine This Is a Cry for Help, in which he takes sick and twisted to a whole new level. But a mere tadpole--he's a senior at Soquel High School--McMillen molds his sketch artwork into demented images of the holiday dinner table and body parts gone awry for a finished product that is stylish and bound to irk concerned parents around the county. Plans to study computer animation at the San Francisco Art Academy loom, but McMillen is already proving his artistic capabilities--and that he's a major talent.

George Sakkestad

Eric Conly (right) and his Dangerous Neighbors mates.

Eric Conly

A theatrical mastermind with comic timing galore and physical attributes that allow him to shapeshift into characters socially inept, satirically dignified or painfully everyman, Eric Conly is one of the brightest performers in the Santa Cruz stage community.

As a member of the theater troupe Dangerous Neighbors, Conly plies the fine art of comic shtick with intelligence and flair, and he wields a wicked satirical edge to boot. Last year's production of Inferno of Love and last March's Durang/Durang showcased Conly's bountiful talents. Along with the Dangerous Neighbors gang, Conly has been expanding his fan base--they've recently taken their show to San Francisco--and is fine-tuning a production to take the Santa Cruz stage by the fall.

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From the May 5-12, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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