20 Under 25: Bright new talents 

Shining a light on Tampa Bay's promising young artists

Kaneesha Heath, filmmaker, 21

Todd Bates

Kaneesha Heath, filmmaker, 21

When we last compiled a list of promising artists under the age of 25 — in our arts preview issues of August, 2005, and January, 2006 — the covers featured actor Jackie Rivera and dancer Calvin Royal, respectively. Jackie is now a bright star in South Florida's regional theater scene, having graduated in 2009 from the New World School of the Arts in Miami and co-founded a theater company there with her classmates. Calvin rose to be a corps member at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre in NYC.

I have no doubt that many of the 20 young artists we're featuring in this, our first such feature in five years, will match their success. You'll see a wider range of ages this time, including an 11-year-old pianist, a 16-year-old filmmaker, a 14-year-old singer/guitarist, and two extraordinary teen-aged ballerinas, both named Hannah. Some genres not included before, like rap, spoken word and fashion design, are included this time. The Patel Conservatory of the Arts at the Straz Center is well-represented, those ballerinas a testament to the amazing success of the school's still-new dance program led by Peter Stark. Arts high schools like Blake in Tampa and the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg again show their mettle, with teachers like PCCA's Keven Renken continuing to be an invaluable source of support. The University of South Florida and the University of Tampa are both grooming an impressive number of artists, with USF's Digital and Video Electronic Arts (DVEA) program graduating students who have gone on to win international acclaim. And in any number of cases, the success of these young talents is a testament to the loving attention (and patience) of their parents.

But what struck me most in talking with all of these artists is their sense of focus. In describing two DVEA students featured in this article, program director Anat Pollock observes that both "began their studies with a passion and a directive to create from a pure place residing deep within them. They were ready before we even started." To some degree, you either have it or you don't — but that "it" is not just about skill. It's about sheer will.

Meet the artists: Just click on the stories below.


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