The Beautiful You
By Meda Kessler
Warren Cook, creative director
Ben Bender, photographer
Paul Heyduck, photo compositing
While not native to Fort Worth — they moved to Texas from California — Warren and Jules Cook are two of the city’s biggest boosters. The couple run Make Something Beautiful, a video production company focused on story telling in a real and compelling manner. They’ve worked with clients big and small, from national financial institutions to the city of Fort Worth. The Cooks live in the Fairmount neighborhood and have immersed themselves in the close-knit community of the Near Southside. To celebrate the third anniversary of Make Something Beautiful, they scheduled a photography project at the first of the year, inviting friends, artists, musicians and others they have met along the way to participate. “We wanted to let them know our company was about them, that they are what makes this community beautiful,” says Warren. The pandemic stalled the project, but last month, the Cooks pushed it forward. They interviewed their friends to find out how they’ve been affected and how they’ve found beauty in a dark situation. There’s a video as well; check it out along with other projects at msb-creative.com. Enjoy.
Creative director/owner, Make Something Beautiful
For me, this has been a journey of letting go of what I thought life was and resting for a bit. I started doing things that weren’t on my radar before because I was so busy. This time is like a refresh to my soul. The human spirit finds a way to keep going and make something happen. I want to make something that’s beautiful. The people we know, the community we built — that is amazing to see.
Artist/gallery manager, Artspace111
I’ve learned that we all have to adapt. One of the most beautiful things we’ve experienced is live music online from some of our favorite artists. It doesn’t take the place of seeing art or music in person, but to have that during this time has been really important to us. Yes, we are sitting alone in our house, but there are 1,000 other people watching the same thing at the same time.
Radio personality; owner, Love Remixed Brand
We’re taking things back to the basics. People are out and about, figuring out who they are. I think people will take life more seriously now. Like, “I don’t have time to waste; I don’t have time to play around. These are my goals; these are my dreams.” “Let me go at it as hard as possible” versus “Hey, I’ve got time.” No dream is too small.
I am an introvert, but I am in my happy place. I do love people, but I find myself most at home inside myself. I have a deep river running though me that I can get in and be creative, think or write. I create in my mind. I am moved to tears at the beauty that comes out of suffering, out of sacrifice, out of loss. It’s not what happens to us, but what we do with it. I am always proud of
Fort Worth. It has a good heart.
I am doing my best to stay positive. I participated in a global meditation to shift the consciousness of the earth with a group of people believing and praying for things to get better. I never expected to find beauty in technology, but I’ve been connecting with friends and doing music online. I am feeling the impact of being together even though it’s not in person. I have found a beauty in the madness.
CEO, Make Something Beautiful
Life is fantastic. My people never leave. They are here to meet my every need. I let them know when I want to eat, when I want a treat, if I want to play or be pet. My dinner is never late, and we’ve worked on all kinds of projects. Suddenly I am going on so many walks; in fact, too many! I had to shut that down. We sit on the porch a lot, and I get to bark at all my neighborhood pals.
I had anxiety right off the bat. As a society, how long is it going to take to get everyone back shoulder to shoulder? It puts into perspective how fragile everything is. I grew up fishing, and I have started fishing again. I am cooking better food. I am mixing drinks for myself. My daiquiris are on point right now.
Owner, Morgan Mercantile
We’ve gotten a lot of support from people who shop at our store or people supporting Fort Worth-centric things. Those who have the means are supporting local restaurants, doing curbside pickups, doing anything they can to keep these places that they cherish and love alive. It’s really inspiring, and that’s the best hope we have.
Digital media coordinator, Make Something Beautiful
I got a dog last December, so spending quality time with her has been great. The biggest joy in our life right now is, every Thursday, the ice cream truck comes. I didn’t realize ice cream trucks were still a thing because usually we’re at work when they’re here. We love to get the dogs ready and go outside and enjoy a soft serve ice cream with sprinkles.
Owner, W Durable Goods
We’re discovering what we value the most. What’s our breaking point? What are we willing to bend? Everybody is stretching a little bit. I think that’s positive. Everyone has been forced to break from their normal molds and discover more about themselves and what they can do. I’ve seen people doing business that didn’t used to do business together. That’s a beautiful thing; we all gotta eat.
Owner, Holland Collective
This space has given me time to think about bigger things, and stop and breathe. And, you know, cook a lot of bread. The beautiful moments are the ones that are kind of the most unexpected. I thought my big beautiful moment was going to be my wedding, and it still will be, just later in the year. Instead, it became the day we were supposed to get married. We dressed up, ordered a meal and set the table and did a photo shoot with a Polaroid camera. We just made a really incredible night.
With technology, we’ve been able to spend time with our friends and family without being in the same room. If you’re lonely, there’s always a FaceTime call. I talk with my friends every day; we’re always in communication. It’s been very beautiful to see a lot of people helping each other.
Owner, Crittenden the Studio
We basically just nested with our dogs at home. We did a lot of gardening in the yard, well, Curtis did the gardening. I just kind of wandered around, pulled a weed, and then pointed at something that needed to be dug up. I’m perfectly fine being alone and doing my own thing. I don’t really need any outside influences to fill my spirit. We had a couple of neighborhood social distancing events that happened that were unexpected. Mask-wearing and still distant, but still wanting to show each other they cared enough to come out for a celebration.
Creative producer, “Hello, I’m Tony Green” show
At first, the quarantine was like an extended vacation, and then some depression hit. I started to process how are we going to survive and thrive in this situation? How are we going to make progress artistically? I don’t want to make unnecessary noise in a time when we should be quiet. It’s been cool to see people in the community taking a compassionate and loving approach to this.
I’ve decided that once the quarantine is over and I’m able to see people, I’m going to get all my close friends, wherever they are, and take each and every one of them on a single one-on-one date. I would pay for it and show my appreciation for them and their friendship and how much that meant to me during quarantine. Having that outlet of stimulation and communication was really important.
Owner, Secret Powers
I have had this roller coaster of emotions. I can do this for three more months, no problem; and then some days, I wake up sad or angry or disillusioned. The thing that rises to the surface is how much we fill our lives with things that don’t matter. Now we are doing puzzles and playing cards. We are taking a walk every night. These are things we should have always been doing. It shows the value of togetherness. What were we filling our time with before? Did they really matter?
Owner, Melt Ice Creams
One of the really sweet parts for me is we’ve had a really consistent group of friends that we have met every week for the last two years. It’s such a grounding sense of community for us, and we haven’t missed a beat. We’ve met new neighbors from the distance of our porch and the sidewalk. Another beautiful thing for me, personally, is seeing the support of our patrons to our business. People have been helping with getting ice cream to hospitals. They’ve been writing nice notes to go along with the ice cream. It’s almost like I’m reading notes in their diary.
Producer, Make Something Beautiful
Even though I think we always knew that our friends were important or that our family was important, when the ability to see them was taken away, it heightened that knowledge. To really be able to see everyone connecting with friends and family and neighbors has been really beautiful.
At the end of 2019, I wrote down a list of some of my goals and things I wanted to do in 2020. The way I do my goals is I write down big, overarching goals, and one of those was “Stay at home more.” Obviously, with this, I’ve checked that box. I’ve just really enjoyed being in my own space more. I see myself, even whenever the world starts opening up more, spending more time at home, regardless. I’ve cooked more in 2020 than I have in my entire life. Finding recipes online, trying new things — that’s been huge.
Director of photography
My brain shifts between the art world and the financial world. I was really interested in seeing how the world was taking shape financially. On the creative side, I downloaded an app and have been learning to play the piano. I play until my girlfriend tells me to stop, because she is having to hear me learn. I have learned that I don’t have rhythm.
Co-founder, KFTW 97.5 The Pirate
I miss people and I miss my friends, but I think it’s a blessing to be home. It’s been a good time to have less on my plate, to get some rest, to be more creative and spend time with family. I’m hoping we won’t go back to the old normal but a new normal where we are more caring of each other.
Not being able to have the freedom I used to have has been hard. I miss going to concerts, being out shopping and seeing my friends. I miss peace and quiet because now everyone is always home. I am painting and drawing more, and I have become a baker. I’ve made muffins, cookies, cupcakes, churros. I love baking now. I have cut my bangs and dyed my hair — all the things everyone said not to do to your hair. I did all of those. I think it came out pretty well.
Founder, Eat This Fort Worth
One thing I find beautiful is when I’m outside or on the trails and I see so many families out. It’s so fun to see kids out on their bikes having fun; I just love that. I hope we can keep a little of this and not be rushing around all the time. We usually have the pressures of sports and activities, and now everyone is taking a breath and chilling and enjoying being together, and I think that’s wonderful.
I wanted to do something that could be a calming, loving influence. So, I started a daily show that I’m doing on Facebook. I’ve done 50 in a row. And I haven’t had this much time with my brother since we were little kids. We beat Mario Brothers 3 immediately in the first week. All this time with him, my mom and my niece that I wouldn’t have had otherwise is amazing. About six years ago, there was that Dallas nurse that got Ebola. I had just got back from Europe, and I was like, “Where would I want to be if something like that went down and spread?” And I thought, “Here with my family.”
Director of Marketing, Tandy Leather
We transitioned to work from home pretty seamlessly. I have never spent this much time in my house, but I will look back on this time as extremely precious, because I’ve literally gotten to live with my sister for two months. We get to hang out and do everything together and get a lot of quality time we wouldn’t have had otherwise. I would never have thought that would be so meaningful to get to be with her and my parents and sit on the patio enjoying the stillness together.
Owner, Melt Ice Creams
Everyone’s experience has been so different. Some friends I talk to are bored out of their minds staying at home, but for us, we’re working really, really hard, 20 times harder, to lose a little bit less money than if we just shut down. We’re all kind of in it together; the virus doesn’t differentiate. I hope people start to see that we’re all more similar across the board instead of focusing on differences. I think you’ll see a lot of innovation coming out of this.
Lead singer, Henry the Archer
This is affecting the art community. But the beautiful thing is, we had an art community. And we still do; it’s just different, and we’ve got to learn different things to adapt to keep doing what we love. That’s part of growing — evolving through change. And that gives you inspiration.
I’ve been running for a couple of years, but I’ve started trying to do a streak while in quarantine. Yesterday was my 65th consecutive day of running. I had a third of my kneecap removed 10 years ago, and I’ve had three knee surgeries and my foot rebuilt. I never thought I’d be able to run at all again. Hitting those thresholds and pushing through them has given me a lot of confidence. You don’t know what’s going to happen with your health, but you can be more confident and test yourself.
Director of events and communications Near Southside Inc.
There’s something powerful about stopping and assessing. This whole crisis has been a beautiful reminder of how the community connections we have been building for decades really matter. They mean something. When people were fearful or alone or in food shortage or financial crisis, their community came to the rescue, and that’s because they knew each other, they cared about each other.
I wasn’t so much freaked out by it as I was just surprised by the sudden closing of things and the necessity to maintain distance. Bars are going to open back up; we’re going to have live music again. We’re going to be back. We’ll be back as good, if not better than before. We’re going to be safer.
Fort Worth City Council representative, District 9
I think building a community is the most beautiful thing to have come out of this. I was concerned about this lockdown being a setback to the Near Southside, but the community has shown its strength in coming together and helping one another in such myriad ways beyond anything I anticipated. You’re never going to have to explain to anyone again why this is a good idea.
Host “Hello, I’m Tony Green” show
I’m not as much as an extrovert as people think, but I’ve definitely had my fill of downtime. I had to get creative — “What am I doing not to be bored, and what am I doing to actually feel fulfilled?” I want to actually still feel like I’ve done something at the end of the day. What’s next is still so unknown, but I’m really just hopeful that we’ll make it happy. We’ll still make music. We’re still going to have to paint; these walls don’t build themselves. We’ll still have to record these stories on video. I just hope we all think of creative ways to do those things, and I see a lot more collaboration happening in the future.
Fort Worth creative director, Ilfusion; creator, RiffaMania
People want to frame this as an outside force forcing us to change our lives and our livelihoods, and there’s a very real need to address some stuff. It’s more of a soft trial run for in 20 years when something horrific does come along, we can just flip a switch and knock it down.
It took me two weeks to wrap my head around the quarantine. And then it’s been wonderful ever since. I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been; I’ve done six paintings! I haven’t had a lot of obligations or places I had to be. It has been liberating in a way. The sad part for me is not seeing other people. My cats run away when they see me now because I’ve hugged them so much.
Video Editor, Make Something Beautiful
I like this — staying home, staying with my cats. I’ve built Legos and even did a stop-motion Lego video for the community, and that will be coming out soon; that was fun. I’ve cooked a lot. I don’t know if my cooking is good or not, but I eat it. I look forward to the day when I can go to movie theaters again and be onstage at Hip Pocket Theatre. I do think in this weird time where the world has shifted, it would be nice if people took doctors and scientists more seriously and listened to the advice they are giving. I do. You should.
I think this has really humanized all of us. It has elevated people — the essential workers. It’s made us notice them, the first responders, the grocery workers, the farm workers. It has made us appreciate them. We are faced with something scary, and it has reminded us that we are all human. We are really diving into the art of who we are as people, the connection. The reality that we are all the same.
Owner, Taco Heads and Tinie’s Mexican Cuisine
At the very beginning of all this, I was really depressed. I didn’t know what to do or what would happen with my career and businesses. I learned it’s OK to chill out and be at home with my dogs and just not do anything. We hung out on a Saturday, and it was beautiful outside. I feel like whatever greater power there is was telling the world to slow down. Just relax and focus on what’s important.