Women to Watch Awards Finalists-Arts

Meet the 2019 finalists


Lauren Brooke Brown
Owner/Cosmetic Tattoo Artist
Lasting Looks by Lauren Brooke LLC

Artist Lauren Brooke Brown uses her talents to restore the confidence of women.

After earning degrees and certificates at both UNCW and CFCC, in what she calls “the scariest but most rewarding thing (she’s) ever done,” Brown opened her own cosmetic tattooing business, called Lasting Looks by Lauren Brooke.

Brown uses a tattooing technique called microblading to create delicate, natural-looking, highly personalized eyebrows. Many of her clients suffer from conditions such as alopecia, thyroid disturbances, or from the side effects of cancer therapy.

Since opening the business in 2017, she’s continued to seek training courses and learn the latest and best techniques to offer her clients, many of whom travel from far and wide.

Brown says she cannot think of a more rewarding career choice than helping women regain their self-assurance. She hopes to soon offer realistic areola tattooing for women who have undergone mastectomies.

“It is very important to find a good training course, and I am planning to travel to the U.K. in early spring 2020 to train with Kally Permeant Cosmetics,” Brown says about the project. “Her work is extraordinary, and I want to make sure that I invest in learning the best possible techniques.”

Her plans include strategies to raise funds so she can decrease costs for clients in need of areola restoration work. She is already the producer of a local burlesque show and intends to host an annual event for which proceeds go toward that fund.


Donna Gargett
Executive Director/Founder
Blank Canvas Awareness Art

Donna Gargett advocates for dyslexic people one art piece at a time. She is the founder of Blank Canvas Awareness Art, a nonprofit serving individuals with dyslexia, ADD, and ADHD.

As a dyslexic person herself, Gargett employs her out-of-the-box thinking style to provide a positive, arts-based, educational platform.

“I work with children and adults that have a learning difference, and I help them tell their education story through art,” she says. “Many adults experienced trauma in school because they grew up so misunderstood, and the art became part of the healing process.”

Blank Canvas offers creative workshops to both children and adults. Gargett encourages participants to employ art as a way to share their experiences with dyslexia and to heal from traumas often felt by students who have this invisible disorder. Because dyslexia is a language-based condition, Gargett believes that art serves multiple purposes: to inspire creativity, find strength, build self-esteem, and connect and educate the public.

“I have done children’s workshops with a lot of different art forms from painting, book art to 3-D art forms,” she says. “I have written some poems – award-winning poems – around the topic of dyslexia that many adult artists and children have used to inspire their artwork.”

Blank Canvas also provides specialized tutoring, education, advocacy, and mentoring. RESET Life Consultant, Gargett’s coaching business, targets solutions for those with learning differences.

She hopes to host a “Dyslexia in the Workplace” workshop “to inform employers of free technology that will boost productivity and support for those with dyslexia,” Gargett says. “When 15-20 percent of our population is dyslexic, I think early intervention is imperative, but it is also important we are providing all the solutions for adults, too.”


Kim Henry
Executive Director
Theatre for All

Kim Henry is a founding member and current executive director of Theatre for All (TFA), a performing arts company dedicated to putting people with disabilities at center stage.

The foundation for TFA began after Henry and her co-founder Gina Gambony served in a Laney High School theater residency, during which time they shared many positive experiences with students, who, Henry says, found their “thing” through theater.

But, when the residency ended, Henry recognized that no place outside of school existed for their students, so she and Gambony started TFA with board president Dylan Patterson.

TFA’s shows are completely original, born of the interests, talents, and passions of the members.

In addition to their official companies, TFA offers programs to about eighty New Hanover County students with disabilities, many of whom live in poverty, who otherwise have little or no other exposure to the arts.

“Our audiences don’t ever say ‘That was so great for a bunch of people with disabilities,’” Henry explains. “They say ‘That was so great.’”

Henry’s background in using the stage to connect with people goes extends back years.

“After the war in Bosnia, I was a part of a theatre company that went out there to bring some magic and joy back into the lives of the people, especially the children,” she says. “We made giant puppets and created carnivals that brought the whole town together. It was a profoundly moving and joyful experience!”

As for, Theatre for All, Henry recently started a leadership training program during which five performers participated in a yearlong training to become Theatre Teaching assistants and can now assist in TFA Outreach programs.

“This employment component of TFA is very exciting as it empowers people with disabilities to have meaningful jobs, a basic human right that we all want. It’s also very inspiring and a new experience for TFA students to see a person with a disability in a leadership role,” Henry says. “Eventually, I would like to see an entire arts academy where most of the classes are run by people with disabilities.”


Jamie La Londe-Pinkston
Program Coordinator
DREAMS of Wilmington

Jamie La Londe-Pinkston wears many hats at DREAMS, but her official title is program coordinator. She combines her skills in creative writing with her love for education and advocacy to work with students and families.

Although DREAMS is an arts education nonprofit for youth, La Londe-Pinkston believes that growth for young people can’t be fostered without the involvement of family. She works with families and their kids to navigate goals, whether arts-related or not. She also leads Teen Council meetings and organizes student-led events.

“I am an ear to listen, the mediator, the voice of authority when necessary. Mostly, I just listen to them,” she says. “Every DREAMer has their own story, their own passion.”

She first joined the DREAMS family in 2012 as a volunteer and continues to work with other nonprofits such as NAMI and FIRST Robotics, a competition robotics program for high schoolers.

“I think the marrying of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with the arts is the future,” she says.

At home, La Londe-Pinkston, who holds an MFA in creative writing from UNCW, develops her own creative endeavors, as a poet and fiction writer.

“Currently, I am working on a fantasy novel that focuses a lot on grief and loss,” she says. “Most of my poetry is inspired by my family and the traumas we endured. My mom is South Korean and grew up very poor and faced a lot of challenges as a young person. She’s a survivor and really inspires me …

“As a result of my childhood and own experience, I am an advocate for the mental health community and am myself a peer of that community. I like to think that by giving voice to that subject that it might help other people.”

She served as Art in Bloom Gallery’s first writer in residence and has been most recently published in Rust + Moth.


Gale Smith
Gale Smith Art

The vibrant colors of Gale Smith’s art aren’t the only highlights of her work. In addition to her fine art career, Smith donates her time or gives percentages of her art sales to organizations such as Lower Cape Fear Hospice, DREAMS of Wilmington, and the Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County.

Smith’s talents continue to evolve, both as a fine artist and a philanthropist. Although a longtime oil painter, she is most recognized for her recent copper weaving sculptures, an unusual and abstract art form that she describes as “serendipitous” because she’s “never quite sure where the colors and copper will take (her).”

“It is my desire that the viewer will experience a personal interaction with my art,” she says.

By incorporating light coastal colors, much like those seen in the landscapes of Wilmington, Smith hopes viewers will capture feelings of familiarity and warmth.

She is also an active en plein air artist (outdoor painter) and has helped the arts council and the Wrightsville Beach Museum plan their annual plein air events.

Smith is also past president of the nonprofit Wilmington Arts Association and has served as chair and co-chair of the group’s annual Spring Show and Sale for two years.

To view the Women to Watch Awards Finalists main page, click here.

To view more of photographer T.J. Drechsel’s work, go to tjdrechselphotography.com.

To view more of photographer Chris Brehmer’s work, go to chrisbrehmerphotography.com.

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Categories: Women to Watch