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Emerging Texas Artists Get a Big Break at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival — A Showcase Like No Other

Some New Talents to Check Out This Year

BY // 03.19.24

This is first in a series of stories on The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival in 2024. Come back to PaperCity The Woodlands for new stories in the lead-up to the beloved arts event.

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival — set for  April 12 through April 14 at Town Green Park, along The Waterway, this year  — is set to showcase eight emerging artists. Being chosen as one of these artists can be a career-changing opportunity and new artists are vitally important to the festival too.

“It’s critical to involve new artists to engage with attendees and sell their work,” The Woodlands Arts Council executive director Jenny Carattini-Wright says. “This provides opportunities for local artists, potentially launching lucrative art careers and supporting the creative economy in The Woodlands and surrounding areas.”

To qualify as emerging, artists must not have shown art at an outdoor festival in the past and must live in Texas. At The Waterway Arts Festival, these emerging artists get booths near each other, in a prime place near the base of Town Green Park.

Let’s meet the first four emerging artists for 2024:

Steve Parham

Photographer Steve Parham has been a resident of The Woodlands since 1982, but he’s been a photographer even longer. Since a 1964 summer visit to the New York World’s Fair.

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  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024

“I bought a Braun 35mm camera from my cousin for eight dollars,” Parham remembers. “It had a scratch on the lens that rendered images in soft focus. That camera opened up a whole new world to me, and over the years a camera has been a constant companion.

“During my Navy days, one of my photos of a Navy Destroyer made the cover of a US Navy journal.”  

From that Braun, Parham switched to a Yashika twin-lens reflex, similar to Vivian Maier’s Rollieflex and spent much of his off-duty naval hours ensconced in a photo lab learning basic darkroom skills and building from there.

This Parham piece is named "Hope."
This Parham piece is named “Hope.”

“Finally, I switched to Nikon cameras, but for me the technology increasingly intruded between the subject and me,” Parham says. “And then one day in 2014 I wandered into a Leica store and picked up a rangefinder camera with manual controls for focus and exposure.

“It was modern but with an old school, highly personal feel. It was like I had come home, and I have been with Leica joyfully ever since.”  

Parham appreciates photography for its ability to freeze time.

“I like to capture moments,” he says. “The beauty of that is that that means I live in the moment and you notice things, ordinary things, that you know quite frankly I find quite interesting and beautiful. The festival offers the chance to share these moments with others.

“Perhaps some folks will stop by and take a look at the images, the detail. And perhaps some will find a moment or two that interests them in some special way.”  

Tonya Zitman

An art “hobbyist” for more than 25 years, it took an accident to move assemblage artist Tonya Zitman into working full time as an artist.

“I had a major accident where I shattered both my wrists,” Zitman tells PaperCity The Woodlands. “I had a lot of time to think and I realize these are my hands to create and I realized I want to pursue my passion. My therapy was doing my beaded artwork. So I was picking up little beads.

“I have a lot of recycled jewelry that I use and I make different art forms using the different recycled material of wooden material and metal using the beaded artwork.”

Her beaded artwork is called Assemblage art, and is created in three dimensions.

“I compare it to a painter who uses paint on canvases,” Zitman says. “Except I mostly use recycled materials like jewelry found in thrift stores and some store bought beads. Then it’s glued onto various wooden and metal shapes I use. Instead of using canvas like a painter does.

“I create art through using mainly repurposed elements.”

Assemblage artist Tonya Zitman with two of her pieces.
Assemblage artist Tonya Zitman with two of her pieces.

Zitman is excited to be part of The Waterway Arts Festival.

“I love how it’s a celebration of creativity, where diverse talented artist come together to showcase their art that is sure to inspire and uplift all that come to view it,” she says.

Elif (Melek) Burduroglu

Burduroglu has been painting for 14 years, and has been a Texan for two years. She moved here from the East Coast, but is no stranger to The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival.

“My sister lives here,” Burduroglu tells PaperCity The Woodlands. “She’s been here for 14 years and I am familiar with this wonderful festival because twice when I was visiting my sister, I was lucky to attend the festival as a spectator. And I was blown away.

“Since I moved here, I’ve been painting full time. I’m a self taught artist and have been painting since I moved to U.S. from Istanbul in 2009. I’m loving and enjoying this beautiful city, its people and its art community.”

Burduroglu paints mostly abstracts, female portraits in mixed media and acrylic abstracts. Her work is very textured. 

Burduroglu paints mostly abstracts, female portraits in mixed media and acrylic abstracts.
Burduroglu paints mostly abstracts, female portraits in mixed media and acrylic abstracts.

“I tried to scrape and build a lot of layers, and then scrape again and then build more layers until it’s like it looks coherent,” she notes. “But I can see the underneath layers. It looks simple, but actually when you get closer, it’s like, to me it has so many layers that it’s appealing.”

Burduroglu is looking forward to meeting Waterway Arts Fstival goers.

“I’m very passionate about painting and work very hard to create subtle and beautiful art,” she says. “Painting is my greatest joy and maybe my best way of communicating, and it would mean a lot to me if I find an audience that can connect with my art and feel the love and passion that was put in each painting.”

Jimmie Shealey

Painter Jimmie Shealey moved to Texas after a 30 year career as a firefighter in Atlanta. 

“As a firefighter, we worked 24 hour shifts,” Shealey says. “At times I would paint in between emergencies, but I would also have several days in between our shifts to paint. I would paint mostly on my off time.”

He has always painted, but his work revolved primarily around commissions while in Georgia.

Since his move to Texas, this former firefighter has become a full-time painter and gotten involved with one of the local art leagues where he has shown some paintings.

Moving to Texas after I retired from the fire department has allowed me to explore new areas of the art world that I hadn’t been involved in,” Shealey says. “It has helped me grow into the type of artist I’ve wanted to be. I have had much more time to devote and have had the creative freedom to able to create what I like to with my art.” 

His recent paintings are figurative portraits.

“I love the detail of the realism,” Shealey says. “I love to capture a moment.”  

He’s excited about meeting other artists at The Waterway Arts Festival and showing his art. He also looks forward to seeing how it is received by the public. Shealey hopes to expand his portfolio with contacts for commissions as well.

Look for part two of this series soon, with more emerging artists. Tickets for The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival are on sale now.

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