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Cover image courtesy of Vision & Verve Cover design by Ryan Burger

These folks have just about every visual medium covered. As the filmmaking/photography collective Vision & Verve, Wesley Kirk, Penny Halcyon, and Kendall McCrae can film, photograph, write, and edit scenes for photoshoots, music videos, documentaries, and other creative projects. 

Creative director Kirk founded Vision & Verve two years ago as a Fort Worth-based business with a national reach. Until then, potential clients had a hard time deciphering what Kirk’s areas of focus were. (His creative talents ran the gamut from hand-built props to artsy short films and commercial photoshoots.) The rebranding allowed him to focus on film and photography. Now that the venture has a reliable base of corporate clients, the steady flow of funds can go toward local art projects that push Fort Worth’s artistic boundaries.

Fort Worth’s art scene has grown considerably over the past few years, spurred in large part by small art collectives and nonprofits (“Collective Vision” May 29, 2019), but those groups are often bootstrapped for funds to pursue the types of projects that Vision & Verve has readily available resources to see to fruition. Over the next year, Vision & Verve will produce a bunch of short films, photography series, interactive art shows, and other fanciful ideas that will be hand-built and produced using funds from the for-profit venture. 

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Kirk has an affinity for handmade props and made-from-scratch costumes. 

Those things “tickle my fancy,” he said. “I don’t use Photoshop at all because it’s so much more fun to make it for real. If there’s a childish element [to the project], even better.” 

(From left to right) Penny Halcyon, Wesley Kirk, and Kendall McCrae pull their collective talents to create adventurous visual projects as Vision & Verve. Courtesy of Vision and Verve

The concept is what matters, he continued. The medium simply serves as a means of getting there. Halcyon embodies the DIY approach. When a handcrafted object captures her eye, she’ll throw herself into a completely new craft, like woodworking, to learn how it was made. For Vision & Verve, that creative muse led her to a different kind of “woodshedding,” she said. Mastering Adobe Premiere Pro’s complex movie editing software is no small feat. Halcyon saw a need for the skillset and accordingly immersed herself in film editing.

Kirk described McCrae as the “verve” in Vision & Verve. McCrae enjoys being in the thick of it, he said, and she’s learning the wide range of skills needed to direct corporate videos as well as quirky short films that are made from excess funds following commercial work. Appreciating Vision & Verve’s dense talent requires unpacking and a brief look at each member’s personal projects. 

Visitors to the Fort Worth Community Art Center’s recent concurrent shows Family Reunion II and Collective Takeover (which were organized largely by the nonprofit Art Tooth, of which I am a member) saw a large photograph from Kirk’s series The World We Knew Is Gone. The desolate image shows Kirk in a slim spacesuit gazing across a barren desert, his horn-rimmed glasses just noticeable behind his space mask. It’s a scene that invites contemplation. 

After a painful breakup with his then-fiancee, Kirk took to the road to transmute his flood of feelings into the photography series and short film script. Halcyon later acted in and narrated the short film by the same name. After showing at the FWCAC last October, the film is currently being re-edited by Halcyon. Kirk quoted a popular saying about films never being truly finished but only abandoned. McCrae would like to see the short film entered in the Lone Star Film Festival next year.

Kirk enjoys collaborating with local museums to create educational and interactive activities. He’s in the middle of renovating his home into Eureka Studio, a rentable workspace for photographers and painters that will host a monthly art series featuring one artist or photographer. Follow Kirk @Wesleykirk

Photography is editor Halcyon’s “love medium,” she said. She is building a body of work through film that she plans to show in the near future, she said.  

“A lot of [the images on Instagram] are self-portraits,” she said. “A lot of the stuff I post on Facebook are documentary shots of people who are close to me.”

College courses in anthropology have informed her photography, she said, by putting a “crack in the shell” of assumptions and social norms most people never notice, let alone question.

Those courses can turn your “worldview upside down,” she said. “A lot of my self-portraiture is informed by cultural aspects. I think about gender, the body, and censorship. At the same time that I am talking about these difficult issues, I’m also using a platform that censors the female nipple. I have to go through these motions of obstructing parts of my body when men don’t have to do that.”

Without going into detail, Halcyon said that she is reaching a point of stability in her life that will allow her to focus on the “physical manifestations” of her work, notably art shows, next year. 

“I have an eagerness to learn,” she said. “I put my hand in different pots. I’ve painted and drawn. With Vision & Verve, I fell into doing video editing, and it snowballed.” Follow Halcyon @Pennyhalcyon.

Producer McCrae described herself as a “Jill of all trades” when we chatted in Denton, where McCrae grew up and currently lives. 

“Because we are such a small company,” she said, “my role is pretty vague in description. I’m there to do whatever needs to be done.”

Each project presents new challenges and learning opportunities, she said. The financial advisory group United Capital recently hired Vision & Verve to put together individualized marketing videos. To capture United Capital’s work culture in film required visiting 10 cities and 25 offices in four months. 

McCrae said she worked with the production coordinator, who “did most of the production work, and I took on a production assistant role. She would tell us what the company wanted, and I had to figure out how long we needed to be there, how much equipment we’d bring, and how we would plan little trips within the trips. I learned more about the organizational side of it.”

Whether filming a music video or doing corporate work, McCrae said she “wants to bring out the humanity in the people [Vision & Verve] is helping.”

When McCrae isn’t working on projects for Vision & Verve, she explores photography and painting. Her passion project is a fashion line that she hopes to launch one day. She plans to hone her clothing skills by handcrafting custom outfits in 2020. 

The lines between pet projects and Vision & Verve projects can seem blurry at times, especially as the trio of artists becomes strongly associated with the new filmmaking/photography venture. McCrae said the friends have grown comfortable pivoting between commercial work and contemporary art. 

“All of those interests bleed into what we do under the Vision & Verve umbrella,” McCrae said. “What we do together is amazing. In our separate arenas, we shine on our own. Not everyone has that ability to get into a room and collaborate successfully and still be successful on their own.” 

Follow McCrae @breathlesssmahoney.

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