Heaven: The Biblical Arts Center is smart--in a public relations sense--to call its latest children's art show Heaven, although that title doesn't cover the full range of subject matter here. A more complete label might be Heaven and Hell, because the exhibit contains illustrations by kids ages 4 through 12 of both Christian visions of the afterlife. Any expressions of horror from the more decorous among us would be a tad dishonest, for as anyone who has ever grown up in a strict Roman Catholic or evangelical household could tell you, thoughts of hell were just as vivid or possibly more so in the minds of babes. Heaven features illustrations from students in Christian artist Barbara Moody's Awakening Creativity classes. What are a child's opinions about judgment, responsibility, and character? You might get an inkling here. The show runs through November 17 at 7500 Park Lane at Boedeker. It's free. Call 691-4661.
Jacob Lawrence: The painter Jacob Lawrence has been chronicling the African-American experience of both working-class mainstreamers and political subversives. In his narrative paintings, you are as likely to see a family reunion as a revolution. His pictures, which began to make waves in 1938 when he was only 21 years old, were influenced by the flowering of the Harlem Renaissance and Marcus Garvey's African revivalism, and their poignant, stark imagery paved a colorful road for the civil rights movements of the '50s and '60s. Jacob Lawrence is being honored with the 1996 Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts. A panel discussion of Lawrence's work by national and local scholars happens October 31, 6:30 p.m., in the Greer Garson Theatre of Southern Methodist University; the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: Paintings From Two Series, 1940 and 1994 runs through November 8 in the Meadows Museum at SMU. Both are free. For info call 768-3785.
Grand Hotel of Strangers: TITAS (The International Theatrical Arts Society) might be offering the most unique Halloween season entertainment available in Dallas--a series of performances of Grand Hotel of Strangers, an eerie live presentation that's part play, part carefully orchestrated special-effects show. The masterminds behind this international sensation are Canadians Michel Lemieux, an accomplished performance artist, and Victor Pilon, the English royal family's Canadian court photographer. Both pooh-pooh any notion that the computer and manually generated illusions in this tale of a lodger's night in a lonely hotel are "high tech"; one of the technologies used to generate ghostly images in the show was developed at the end of the past century as a publicity stunt for the Dr Pepper company. The meat of the show, they insist, is the interaction between two live actors and a variety of specters. Performances happen October 31, 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; November 1, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.; and November 2, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $14-$30. Call 528-5576.
Baby With the Bathwater: New York playwright-actor-musical star Christopher Durang gets a little help from his friends each time a company mounts a new production of one of his absurdist comedies; Sigourney Weaver recently delayed shooting the fourth Alien megabudget adventure to star in a short run of Durang's new play, Sex and Longing, in which she played a woman who must have intercourse every 15 minutes. (Durang is the godfather of Weaver's daughters.) Dallas' Act IV Theatre jumps on the bandwagon with a revival of Durang's Baby With the Bathwater, the story of how the seemingly simple act of procreation can turn parent and child into neurotic imbeciles. Beginning tonight, performances happen Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m., through November 24 in the auditorium of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young. All performances are free. Call 644-0125.
Whirligigs and Papalotes: The husband-and-wife team of Kaleta Doolin and Alan Govenar, who operate the 5501 Columbia Arts Center, took an interest in roadside art while they were vacationing in New England. The few purchases they made there blossomed into a full-time obsession, and both began scouring the country for the found-object assemblages that graced front yards, mailboxes, and driveways. The new show at 5501 Columbia, Whirligigs and Papalotes, reflects this obsession with self-taught rural artistry. Besides pieces from their own personal collection, the show features works from the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie; local artist Tracy Hicks; and New York collectors Aarne Anton and Herbert Waide Hemphill. 5501 Columbia also opens a separate show of specialty books produced by the Atlanta-based Nexus Press, an internationally lauded publishing house that allows the artist--those lucky few who are accepted--to keep total control of the book being created. Both shows open with a reception November 1, 6-8 p.m.; they close January 25 at 5501 Columbia Ave. The shows are free. Call 823-8955.
Twelfth Annual African Awakening Conference: The African-American community continues on an ever-tumultuous, always fruitful search for identity with forums for ideas offered by groups such as The Third Eye, a Dallas organization dedicated to stripping away some of the less savory associations of being an American of African descent (my ancestors were brought over on slave ships) and attempting to find a universal experience that will unite Africans, Americans, and African-Americans. The Third Eye's Twelfth Annual African Awakening Conference is called Writers, Rappers, and Romancers: The African-Centered Impulse in Literature, and it concerns itself with a discussion of fiction and nonfiction writings by black Americans. Events happen November 2 and 3, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., at the Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters in the Dallas Convention Center Theater Complex, Akard and Canton. For info call 658-7144.