Feature: Designs & Dreams


The Designers Choice Fashion Preview supports Timmons Arts Foundation’s mission to help at-risk kids dream big about the arts.

Photography by Cindy Momchilov :: Makeup by Tamara Thomas


Here’s the thing about kids and dreams, said Theresa Timmons-Shamberger, executive director of the Timmons Arts Foundation: You can tell children to “dream big,” but if they’ve never been outside their neighborhoods — if they’ve never been exposed to musical instruments or the visual arts or gymnastics or golf — those dreams are going to be very limited.

“We want our kids to dream big, but if they’re not exposed to different things, how will they know what to dream about?” she asked.

Timmons-Shamberger and her family, who own the Metroplex Event Center in Little Rock, Ark., created their foundation in 2011 to help ensure the arts are a part of every child’s life. She and her brothers, William and Robert, grew up with music as an integral part of their lives, and they’ve all seen how public schools — especially those in lower-income neighborhoods — have included less and less of the arts in their curricula.

“We really thought it was important to provide those opportunities for children of all demographics,” she said. “Our at-risk youth have the least exposure to the arts.”

The foundation started small, working with Chicot Elementary School in southwest Little Rock. A $3,000 grant was enough to buy recorders — the musical instrument, not the electronic device — for all the students. It also paid for additional instruments, such as saxophones and flutes, for students who have an interest in playing them.

Other projects followed, and last summer the foundation put on a four-week summer camp for 65 at-risk youth. Attendees participated in vocal and instrumental music, dance, fashion and the visual arts. Each Friday they went to the First Tee to learn to play golf; they also received lessons in life skills, health and fitness.

“The progress we saw going from the first week to the fourth week was amazing,” Timmons-Shamberger said.

And that made it even harder to send those kids back home at the end of camp, she said. So the foundation’s new goal is to create a year-round, after-school program.

All of that takes money, of course. That’s where the annual Designers Choice Fashion Preview show enters the picture. The event, which Timmons-Shamberger started eight years ago to give local fashion designers a place to showcase their creations, is now the foundation’s marquee fundraiser.

Renowned designer Korto Momolu-Briggs, who was profiled in the March issue of AY’s Powerful Women feature, has been a part of the show each year and is a solid supporter of the Timmons Arts Foundation as well.

“I support the foundation because they’ve always supported me,” said Momolu-Briggs, who competed on “Project Runway” in 2008 and finished in second place. “Students would do better if they had more access to the arts. Tapping into that creative side is a good balance for anything.”

Too often, Momolu-Briggs said, children grow into adulthood thinking they have to choose one path — being a doctor or lawyer, for instance — and close off the creative part of their personalities.

The Designers Choice Fashion Preview has grown tremendously since its first year, Timmons-Shamberger said. It now attracts between 800 and 1,200 people each year, and she has even expanded the show outside of Arkansas. She’s done three shows in Dallas and is planning a show in Atlanta this fall. Proceeds from those shows go to support Timmons Arts Foundation efforts in the local schools.

“We really want the Timmons Arts Foundation to become a national foundation and help youth in all areas,” she said.

Texas-based designer Esé Azénabor, whose creations have been called daring and extravagant, is this year’s guest designer. Momolu-Briggs is the celebrity designer. She will debut her bridal line at the show and said she drew her inspiration from Paris.

“People there are just so free to be who they are,” she said. “No one’s hung up on weight and this and that. They’re just free to live their lives and enjoy their lives.” That freedom is reflected in Momolu-Briggs’ bridal designs.

“I’m designing dresses I want to design, not because they have to be like this or have that on them,” she said. “They’re very unconventional, a very nontraditional line of dresses for the destination bride, the second-time bride, or the first-time bride who doesn’t want pastels.”

She’ll also show dresses for the mother-of-the-bride, maid-of-honor and flower girl, as well as floral designs.

Timmons-Shamberger said she hopes the show continues to grow and allows the Timmons Arts Foundation to further expand its mission of bringing the arts to at-risk children.

“I don’t know where I’d be without the arts,” she said. “Playing the flute, being able to express myself through music and dance, was the best thing ever for me. Children need means of expression. It can save lives.”

Designers Choice Fashion Preview

Actor Morris Chestnut and Fox16’s Donna Terrell will be hosts for the evening.

April 4, 2015

Metroplex Event Center
6:30 p.m. – VIP meet-and-greet
7 p.m. – Doors Open
7:30 p.m. – Fashion Show Begins
$75 for VIP and $40 for general admission

Tickets are available through dcfplr12015.eventbrite.com, at local boutiques Jeanté and Vogue Visage, and at the door.

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