On the Side: Dianna Riall, RN
NAME: Dianna Riall, RN
OCCUPATION: Clinical research nurse at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
INTEREST: Art Car Parade
At the moment, clinical research nurse Dianna Riall, 45, is working on an immunotherapy trial for patients suffering from stage 4 sarcoma. She helps enroll patients, screens them for clinical trial eligibility at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and coordinates their care.
Patients in the clinical trial range in age from 20 to 80 and many had no other option but the traditional radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Some didn’t want to put their bodies through the grueling regimen. Others wanted to try any and every treatment available.
It’s a difficult experience for the patients and their families, but it can also be an emotional process for Riall and other medical staff.
“We should have outlets because we work with cancer patients and it can be very, very sad and stressful,” Riall said. “We need to do as many good, fun things as we can.”
Riall’s outlet is volunteering with Houston’s annual Art Car Parade, organized by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. On April 8, approximately 250 mobile masterpieces will roll through the streets of the city to celebrate the creative, eclectic and often cheeky artistic minds in the area.
Since 2007, Riall has been involved with the Art Car Parade in various ways. She has dressed up as a belly dancer—complete with a bejeweled blouse, harem pants and veil—for her friend’s “Jeannie in a Bottle” car entry. She has meticulously sorted through a plethora of plastic jewelry for her 17-year-old daughter’s glam rock-inspired Art Car entries from Heights High School. And she has skated in neon-colored wigs and wacky outfits alongside cars to help with crowd control.
In 2009, Riall participated as a skater in her first Art Car entry, a politically minded artistic presentation mocking the 2008 financial crisis. She dressed as an AIG banker clown, with a full face of makeup, a fuchsia wig and dollar sign glasses.
But Riall hasn’t always been a strong skater. She tumbled down a hill on Allen Parkway during her first time volunteering as a crowd control skater.
“The police were nice enough to stop, pick me up and drive me to the top of the hill,” she said. “It didn’t ruin my day, but it definitely scraped up my knee pads and my phone a bit.”
Today, after years of practice, she’s a pro.
“It’s really fun to just get to cruise back and forth with all the crowd and wave,” she said. “You can see all the cars up close and personal.”
While she’d like to zip and weave through the parade again, she’s still recovering from a foot injury she sustained at the Houston Renaissance Fair last November. She broke her foot in five different places and was placed in a boot cast for six weeks. She had the cast removed Feb. 6, but she’s “still kind of on probation” with her foot.
This year, she’ll ride in the parade on artist Ken Crimmins’ Art Car entry, a former SWAT bus from Midlothian, Texas, that’s been converted into a magical mystery tour bus and outfitted with a full-length roof deck and rear porch for Art Car shenanigans.
“I enjoy wearing wigs and the kinds of things that don’t make me look so noticeable because I’m always like, ‘Oh no, what would people think?’” said Riall, a natural introvert.
Riall is deeply rooted in the Art Car community. When she’s not helping artists decorate or skating around during the parade to keep enthusiasts away from the cars, she and her friends meet once a week to skate around town for 15 to 20 miles, stopping here and there to have a drink. She even met her husband, Russell, a fellow Art Car enthusiast and volunteer, through this circle of friends.
“They’re all very generous, giving and good, down-to-earth people,” Riall said. “They just like to have fun and be creative.”