Best and Worst of Dallas Culture in 2014

Book culture, coffee culture, internet culture, beer culture.
Book culture, coffee culture, internet culture, beer culture.
Catherine Downes

Earlier this month, Merriam Webster Dictionary declared 2014's word of the year to be "culture." Which simply means that more people looked up the definition of that word than any other in the past 12 months. At first glance that may seem ludicrous. Everyone can define culture. But if I asked you to answer the question, "What is culture?" your response would likely be as obtuse as the answer I gave my boss in the interview for my job at the beginning of this year. "The arts," I understood as the general scene that arises from the creative output of artists, whether they be painters, poets, authors, actors, sculptors, etc. It is at once a catch-all for the work itself and the community it develops, and further the impact of that work or community. Expansive, yes, but fairly specific. Culture? Yeah, not so easy.

And for the past 11 months, I've been thinking about it a lot. Even if you can define what "culture" means as a stand alone, add it to a specific city you're meant to cover and you find yourself scarfing down breadcrumbs to follow the line of reasoning that trails off from questions like, What is the "culture of Dallas?" or How do we define "Dallas culture?" Or just what are examples of culture? And that last question is where you get listicles about ridiculous Dallas stereotypes, or occasional stories about the club scene, and, if I knew anything about sports, we could write on this blog about the Mavericks or the Cowboys. Because everything is culture, or everything is an example of culture. There's coffee culture, hipster culture, sports culture, art culture, the list goes on. And all of that? Well, that's Dallas culture. Which when you think about it, is kind of the wonderful thing about the pairing of arts and culture in the same section: everything is culture, and art can be everything. Art reflects culture; culture is informed by art. It goes on. But it doesn't make it easy to run this blog, in case you were wondering. Which is why we end up covering primarily the stuff that's simpler to pin down: art, comedy, film, theater, etc.

But without further ado, here are the best and worsts of 2014 in Dallas culture. Which is everything. So the best and worst of everything. But mostly the arts.

A local author wrote one of the year's most beautiful books We don't get to claim many authors like Tierce in Dallas. To see her book, Love Me Back, so well-received by critics nationwide was almost as exciting as swallowing the poetic language she uses to tell a fiercely honest story about growing up, working in the service industry, and being human.

We got our first independent bookstore If you read this blog at all this year, you know of my immediate and undying love and appreciation for the Oak Cliff bookstore/coffee shop/watering hole, Wild Detectives. It not only became Dallas' first independent bookstore in a long while (WD is owned locally and sells new books, which makes authors and publishers money), but it also became the gathering place for our local literati. (It's been brought to my attention that I still have yet to visit the second to open this year, Serj, at the time of this post. Noted. Will check it out.) The shop plays host to author talks, poetry readings, and book signings, all in the charming setting of a small orange house.

And we got an independent publishing company I guess you could say it's been a good year for the literary arts in Dallas. Add to the list the new translation company that's showed up in town, Deep Vellum, and that makes three of the best things that happened this year, in our opinion, related to writing or reading. Maybe we're partial to the written word, but the direction we're heading in looks pretty great.

AMC made a TV show about the 1980s PC boom in Dallas Maybe engineers weren't the best dramatic fodder, but Halt and Catch Fire happened, which was pretty darn cool anyway.

Awesome new galleries popped up all over the city Cydonia, Erin Cluley, Midway Gallery and Zhulong. Plus, Lab Art and there are probably others I've missed.

Conan came to Dallas He made fun of us, he got to know us, and that orange-maned funny man made us laugh during his week-long stint at the Majestic Theatre. Thanks for picking us, Conan.

People in Dallas are making big plans From the Stafford sisters and their big plans for Red Arrow Contemporary to the Bowdon Family Foundation's plans for an artist residency, ambitions abound in the art world this year.

We're getting ArtPrize This is a complicated thing that we won't see play out until 2016, so there's plenty of time to fear monger or jump on the booster bus, but a Dallas-based non profit appeared in November and made a three-year commitment to support the first franchised version of the citywide festival that hands out two six digit art awards. There's city support (although not financial like I originally thought), and populist tendencies with one public vote for a winner. But it's a huge event, and it will take over our city for a few weeks in 2016, and potentially cast light on some Dallas-based talent. So, start painting your Texas flags now.

City of Dallas flounders with public art initiatives again This year was a strange one for the city and its long, complicated relationship with public art. From the White Rock Theater debate about maintaining or discarding it to the ridiculously tiny $50 honorarium the city was shelling out for parking meter art, and then of course the two year pre-approved closed list for any public art commissions , it just seems like civic leaders are grasping at straws to demonstrate exactly how much the city supports public art. Which they'd like you to believe, is, you know, like a lot.

The debacle around The Interview hits close to home This isn't a purely Dallas event, sure, but it spiraled into one when Alamo Drafthouse scheduled a Team America screening, only to have Paramount Pictures cancel it. It's a big display of wimpy. And let's be honest, The Interview probably wasn't very good anyway.

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