Like Sarasota’s original master of ceremonies John Ringling, Anand Pallegar and the team at DreamLarge spent the entire year planning PINC (People Ideas Nature Culture) collecting curiosities from around the globe: professors, artists, wonks, a cartographer from Hungary, a documentarian from Tehran, even a luthier from the far-off land of Columbus, Ohio. Pallegar promises that his audience will leave the Sarasota Opera House totally transformed. Pallegar’s creatures are more than just impressive résumés—like Ringling, half the thrill of Pallegar’s performance comes from the ever-present threat that the show could go off the rails.

Will a joke go too far, or will the many discussions of environmentalism and affordable housing resonate uncomfortably with the audience? The danger, of course, is all a part of the show. Like the crystals and opals that artist Tyler Thrasher cultivates as a part of his artistic practice, PINC’s end result is a happy mix of directed chaos and professional showmanship. Genuinely interesting people are rarely predictable, and PINC is undeniably populated with interesting people. There’s a host of these characters, but the patchwork of ideas and experience that one is left with at the end of the day starts to make a certain kind of sense. Creativity can come from a variety of sources: Everyone onstage was defined by a sense of curiosity, open-mindedness and the ability to pay attention to details. Pallegar ends the event by telling his audience that, “together, we’re inspired to dream larger in approaching community problems in new and divergent ways.” The hope of this event’s founders, then, is that the audience will take home many of the same qualities shared by the presenters and disperse their effects in our own Sarasota community.

Stephen Wiltshire  


What is the role of an artist? Does the artist express themselves, in an effort to be understood by others, or do they translate a reality only they can see for those who cannot? In simple terms: Is art for the artist or for their audience? In Stephen Wiltshire, we see this conundrum at its most potent; mute from a young age, Wiltshire could not speak until he was nine years old, two years after he was diagnosed with autism. He can, however, draw an entire city from memory, after having only seen it once from a helicopter. He’s still not very talkative, so his mother and sister travel with him to help with public speaking and interactions with reporters.  

“It’s so nice up there, so beautiful. You can see everything.” There are a few things that Wiltshire definitely enjoys. He likes flights over cities, like the helicopter ride he took over Sarasota before drawing our entire cityscape during this year’s PINC. He likes American cars. He really likes Hollywood movies like Saturday Night Fever and Grease. He loves legendary actors (“John Travolta, he was great!”) because he respects talented people.

But, most of all, Wiltshire loves the feeling he gets when people watch him draw. “I work hard, I love using the pencil and the paper.” It’s important to him that other people see his work. It’s hard to think of a clearer definition of art than that.

Dr. Jack Levin  


 “Criminologists aren’t very good at predicting behavior that doesn’t happen very often. But, that’s the kind of behavior that I study: mass murder, serial killers, hate crimes.” Dr. Jack Levin likes to start his talks out with a couple jokes about his appearance. He looks like Albert Einstein, David Crosby, Santa Claus—you name it, he’s heard it. Except that none of those people ever offended Charles Manson. “He used to call me Jack the Jackal. I don’t think he liked me very much.”

In the mid-1980s, Levin coauthored the first book ever written on serial killers. “After that, I couldn’t get out of the business. I didn’t realize it was a growth industry.” Despite the cultural cache that infamous mass murderers have enjoyed as of late, Levin wants to see them less glamorized in the popular imagination.

Joe Mullins  

Forensic Artist

Portraiture is one of the oldest traditions in Western art. An accurate drawing of a person’s face, at the moment they sit down in front of the artist’s easel: It’s a slice of the present tense, a technology for stopping time and revisiting the past. Joe Mullins makes portraits, too, but his portraits show us the past and the future. What will you look like when you’re 40 years older? What face belongs on this long dead skull? What will my children look like? “There was a case I worked on—a mother and two children, homicide victims from 1935. What’s the reality that someone is going to identify these people, 80 years later?” Mullins is something of a modern-day sketch artist. He takes data from existing sources (your current appearance, your parents’ appearance, what you looked like as a kid, your dead body’s appearance) and extrapolates information that might be valuable to investigators. What does this missing child look like 15 years later? What did these murder victims look like when they were alive? 

He’s half scientist, half investigator and all artist. His portraits use data, but are an act of creative interpretation as much as a scientific process.

 Gelareh Kiazand  

Documentarian and Producer

After college, Gelareh Kiazand returned to Iran, the country where she was born, for an opportunity to study with the famed Tehranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. Kiarostami was a part of the aesthetic movement that came to be known as Iranian New Wave cinema, a collection of artists that borrowed techniques from Italian neorealism and experimental documentary to create stories that were imbued with a sense of veracity that was unmatched by traditional narrative filmmaking. “When I went back to Iran after I finished college, I worked with directors and got to see how they do what they do. There’s so much ‘real’ in that cinema. I loved that. Stories were told, scripts were written, that took place totally within the mind of the filmmaker.” Kiazand is now well-known for her own on-location documentaries. She’s covered many sensitive topics; from adolescent suicide bombers to the melting polar ice caps, she’s been there to catch it on camera. 

Juha Kaakinen  

CEO of the Y-Foundation

Professorial and unassuming, Juha Kaakinen says that people from his region of Finland are renowned for their quiet personalities. The man’s accomplishments speak for themselves: Head of the Y-Foundation—his country’s largest NGO, with a long history of engagement in Finnish public life—his work has helped reduce homelessness in Finland by more than 35 percent. Housing is, in his estimation, central to the creation of a just and functional society.

Kaakinen, a fan of American culture generally (he studied American literature in college), sees an issue developing in our country. Skyrocketing property values and stagnating wages have created a situation where market forces are no longer enough to determine an equitable chance at housing. “Some say that markets are self-regulating, the markets will take care of themselves, but housing is a special thing, and the markets are not self-regulating in that regard.”

The solution is a commitment to affordable housing that benefits the entire community. “Providing affordable housing means that there are fewer people that are homeless, and more people can get housing. That’s one issue, the other is that the more you provide affordable housing, the more people have the possibility to pursue their working lives. On top of that, the act of building more housing means providing more work for your community.”


Robert Szucs  

GIS Expert, Cartographer and Designer

Robert Szucs is a computer guy. He takes data and turns that data into a visual representation of space—a modern iteration of the ancient mapmaker. And, like the medieval scribes that would adorn their codicies with cryptic mappa mundi, or world maps, Szucs’ maps are as much artistic artifacts as they are scientific instruments. 

When asked if maps create reality or merely reflect it, Szucs will respond with an ironic “yes.” The role of the mapmaker is to create a usable tool, a way to navigate time and space; but maps can also be beautiful, and, more importantly, they can be persuasive.  “Maps are basically just an image, and an image can be very powerful. People have told me that my maps have helped them appreciate nature more, or they were reminded of a stream where they went fishing when they were young. It’s easy to make people appreciate rivers and mountains if you take beautiful photos, but my challenge is to take ones and zeros and turn them into something moving.”

Tyler Thrasher 


 Tyler Thrasher is a friendly guy; quick with a joke, or even a good-natured rant, he’s fun to be around. He’s a family man. He’s also a bit of a mad scientist. “I believe that inspiration comes from one of two places–either nature, or human trauma. I deal mostly with the ‘nature’ end of things. I find my inspiration in the old alchemists, those crazy old guys doing experiments in their huts in the woods, working with their furnaces. Sometimes they’d make something cool, but usually they’d die or make nothing.” 

Thrasher’s art is an act of guided chaos: crystal formations and, more recently, homegrown opalizations grown on unexpected objects. A dead scarab with stabs of blue on its exoskeleton. A deer’s skull covered with a hairline of limpid pink crystals across its brow. In his home lab, Thrasher grows what looks like living stones on long-dead biological specimens. He says it’s “the most specific job in the world. I don’t think it’s that mystical; it’s actually pretty simple chemistry. What I think is mystical ,is what happens when people see the mix of geological science and art. I think the mystical part is what inspires in them.”


Dr. Shelley Carson  Researcher and Instructor

Dr. Shelley Carson did her graduate work at Harvard University, through the department of psychology, and works on the intersection between psychopathology (the study of mental disorders) and creativity. Dr. Carson is, to put it bluntly, a really smart person. While many people imagine academic psychology to be primarily concerned with the unintentional, instinctual and irresistible forces within the human mind, Dr. Carson deals with a far more complex topic—the very human acts of creation and improvisation. What sets Carson’s theories apart is the fact that she doesn’t consider creativity to solely be a function of cognitive plasticity (a biological function), but to also be a learned behavior. “Taking a walk defocuses attention. Cognitive disinhibition is a big part of the creative process, bringing to mind material that’s normally below the level of consciousness.” 


Matthew Diffee  

Cartoonist and Comedy Writer

Matthew Diffee has a dark sense of humor—that much is obvious from the cartoons he draws for The New Yorker. He loves surreal non sequiturs and pointed absurdity. He enjoys comics like Mitch Hedberg, Demetri Martin, Monty Python and, of course, the late, great Gary Larson. But what you might not pick up on is Diffee’s easy smile and slouching charm. He lives in New York, naturally, but he hails from Denton, Texas. While Denton may be a solidly suburban stronghold these days, it was far greener and far more empty when Diffee grew up in the 1980s.  “We were eight minutes out of town, and eight minutes out of town means pastureland and woods. Weirdly, I lived in a town where all of the dads were professional pilots, so there was a big private airstrip in the middle of town. We’d be playing ‘war,’ and somebody’s dad would come home and we’d pretend that he was strafing us. It was pretty fun.”  Diffee’s life changed one night in middle school, when his parents dragged him to a neighbor’s house for a holiday party. “I remember finding a book of Far Side comics and chuckling my head off.”Now Diffee preaches the power of bad ideas. Creativity, he says, is impossible without the freedom to have bad ideas, because it opens us up to the absurd and unlikely possibilities. Let’s hope that freedom includes half as many good ideas as Diffee has.


Ridhi Tariyal 

CEO, of NextGen Jane

Ridhi Tariyal has a good idea. For decades, since the invention of the disposable tampon, women have been throwing away tons of genetic data about themselves and their reproductive health. Tariyal wants to gather that data, analyze it and use it to help women take charge of their own reproductive health. “It’s about taking a product that you would normally treat as trash, that you would throw away, and treating it like it holds profound knowledge about your reproductive health.” 


Daniel Houck 

Occultist and Luthier

When Daniel Houck walked out onstage at this year’s PINC, hat slung low, silk tie tucked into his black-and-white checkered shirt, many people in the audience expected him to share the story of his inspirational journey to Italy. Houck is a classical music fan and a talented luthier. To create a perfect replica of Niccolò Paganini’s Il Cannone violin—the one that Paganini, by legend, sold his soul to the devil to master—Houck overcame numerous obstacles to get his hands on the original artifact. Except that Houck doesn’t want to make violins anymore.

“I have begun to use the same methods of invocation and grimoiric magic that I once used to imbue my violins with power to contact the spirits of the dead.”

Houck claims to have contacted Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko and Claude Monet, as well as many others “who are not yet ready to be announced publicly.” He’s just completed construction on an Enochian—the magical tradition invented in the 16th century to contact angels—temple in his backyard. He’s still interested in classical music, but his craft has moved beyond musical instruments. He’s going “full steam” into the work of invocation.

When asked if violins have their own individual energy, Houck answers, “Of course! Because they have the energy imparted to them from people playing them for so many years. Everyone has their own sound when they play a violin, and that’s basically their energy being imparted into the instrument.”


Sophie Hollingsworth 

Culture Activist and Outdoor Enthusiast

Dressed in a wide-brimmed hat, flashing pictures of the Land Rover she drove all the way across the Australian outback and the friendly indiginous groups she met during her travels, it’s hard not to think of a British colonialist when talking to Sarasota native Sophie Hollingsworth. And that’s the point. Hollingsworth is a “modern explorer,” who documents her travels on her blog, “The Sophia Log”. She’s racked up a pretty impressive list of accomplishments by anyone’s standards: the youngest woman to ever earn a captain’s license, a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and a Fullbright Scholarship right out of her undergraduate at NYU. Her social media accounts are full of exotic locations and enough elephant guns and white linen to drive home the vintage “Van Pelt from Jumanji” vibe twice over. So, what drives her? 

“I have the curiosity of a kindergartener and a taste for adventure!” Hollingsworth’s adventures have taken her all over the globe, and given her the opportunity to speak to powerful people about issues that matter to her. She’s an avowed environmentalist, who strives to draw attention to issues of marine pollution, biodiversity and indigenous rights. She currently works for Global Citizen, a nonprofit organization funded by World Bank, an international financial conglomerate. SRQ