10 Questions With The Woman Behind Huntington Beach's 'Wunderkids'
Wunderkind: A person who achieves great success when relatively young.
Sometimes a kid dreams of being an artist, of sharing his or her passion with the world. And sometimes that dream is stifled by the blind shove of financial necessity. But sometimes someone builds a net for these dreams, harnessing the imaginations of these young visionaries and returning them to a safe place where creative innovation roams and flourishes freely. In Huntington Beach, this net is Wunderkid, a social enterprise empowering young artists and fostering their educations in the process.
Launched in July 2015, the inventive group sees one of its own at the helm, an NYU graduate whose own struggles balancing work and school inspired a solution. Now a successful Los Angeles-based dancer and choreographer by day and Huntington Beach local and enthusiast by night, Denise Troy experienced firsthand the challenges of rising tuition costs and mounting living expenses. Gaining her education in the daytime, then moonlighting as a bartender near the New York Stock Exchange failed to provide the nurturing environment needed in academia. In short, it exhausted her. She watched many peers abandon their dreams to settle for more "practical" career paths. But she rallied and is now giving back to young idealists in her shoes.
Wunderkid's unique platform invites extraordinary young artists to share and sell their limited-edition prints, then directly deposits a portion of each sale into the artist's tuition fund. Synergy between platform, mentorship, and creator cultivates a space where the student can develop his or her work both creatively and technically, and plan for the future. Currently, the crew works with nearly 20 "Wunderkids" scattered across eight different countries.
Naturally, a young Huntington Beach artist signed on as the first Wunderkid, and her work reigns as the website's bestseller.
We caught up with Wunderkid's wunderful CEO and founder to get the scoop on "art that looks good and feels good," as well as her signature dance moves.
Main & PCH: In 145 characters or less, sum up Wunderkid's mission.
Denise Troy: Wunderkid is a social enterprise dedicated to empowering young, student artists. We sell limited edition prints, and with each purchase we contribute a portion of the profit into a tuition fund for the artist.
Tell us about your local Wunderkids.
We currently have two Huntington Beach Wunderkids on the site, and we have another Huntington Beach student in the process of entering the program.
Sienna Browne is a Senior at Huntington Beach High School. She possesses an incredible aptitude for art, and she was the first artist I signed into the program. Her art is beyond innovative, and her use of color transcends her years. Sienna recently completed an extraordinary piece in honor of Huntington Beach, and it's currently our best seller on the site.
Fernanda Angulo graduated from Huntington Beach High School in May 2015. She possesses this insane gift for detail work. I also just love how her brain works. She has this cultural perspective in her art that makes it seem like she's traveled the globe drawing inspiration. I was shocked to hear that she had never even been outside the country.
Danii Falagan is a Junior at Marina High School. Dani is an artist through and through. She takes risks in all facets of her life, and her technical skill is simply astounding. I'm so excited to get her work up on the site, as I know people will be shocked to know that she is still only in high school.
What top three characteristics are you hunting while curating the Wunderkid collection?
Unique perspective/voice, technical ability, and desire/passion to pursue an artistic career.
What do you love most about what you do?
There are so many components that I love about my work with Wunderkid, but by far the most rewarding moment for me is my first reach out with a perspective Wunderkid. There is something special about being able to speak with a new artist and tell him or her, "I believe in you. I think you have an important perspective to share with the world." To see the kids' faces light up is without a doubt the most fulfilling part of the job. I often say if I could just talk to teenagers all day and just do that, I would.
Give the emerging artists out there a slice of advice.
Be true to yourself. Yes, it is great to emulate others when learning techniques. Those exercises are invaluable, but when you're ready to start creating for yourself, pull from within. You are uniquely you, and your story is one that should be heard.
What's your go-to dance move?
I have a hefty amount of "go-to moves" after all these years, but here are a few of my favorites:
Who's your favorite choreographer (besides yourself), favorite dancer, and favorite artist?
Bob Fosse is without a doubt one of the most influential choreographers for me personally. His unique sense of style always inspires me to think outside the box. This is my favorite Fosse number:
There are so many dancers that I admire, and I've been extraordinarily lucky to hire some of them for jobs. I'm always endlessly excited by really young dancers that already just "have it." I'm obsessed with this young kid named Aidan Prince.
You just know that he's meant to dance, and that's a thrilling thing to be able to witness. And of course, on the other side of the spectrum, I love me some Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
Where to begin?! It's hard to name a single favorite artist, but here are a few artists (famous and not-so-famous) that have been major inspirations to me throughout my life: my grandmother, Gustav Klimt, Georgia O’Keefe, Teil Duncan, Gray Malin, and Banksy.
What are your goals for Wunderkid and your vision for growth?
I hope Wunderkid can serve as a support system for young emerging artists. The art world can be really competitive, daunting, and overwhelming, and pursuing an artistic field takes a huge amount of courage, as it's not an easy path. I am working toward making that journey a little less intimidating. Beyond that, I hope to continue to expand our reach with young people in different fields because at the end of the day, we're here to champion pursuing your passion regardless of what it is.
Why do you love Huntington Beach?
I've lived in Kansas City, Dallas, NYC, Baltimore, and Los Angeles. I kept moving because something was always missing, and then I found Huntington Beach. Huntington Beach is my oasis. Even though my commute can be long to L.A. for choreography jobs, there's nothing better than after a long shoot day, driving home and returning to a quieter pace. The people I've met here are so supportive and genuine, and I feel so lucky to have found this community.
Is there anything else you want readers to know?
I hope that everyone reading this is able to see how impactful each purchase on the Wunderkid website is. These kids all dream to pursue art in a meaningful way, and each purchase lets them know that not only someone out there believes in them, but also that their dreams are possible. That's an extraordinary gift to give someone (not to mention you'll walk away with a beautiful piece of art). It just feels good all around.