Dallas Needs an Annual Event to Unify its Artists, Galleries and Openings

Saturday night felt like a dreamy gift, with every art space in town presenting fall shows, locking the door on a stagnant summer. Even the weather bowed to the event; breezy temperatures escorted us down the same pavement that would have turned our shoes into hot bubblegum on Friday. Conditions were downright perfect, and now I'm going to bitch about it.

While we sprinted to visually ensnare art from our favorite venues, our neighbors in Fort Worth had an afternoon that blurred into evening at their Fall Gallery Night, a cohesive, all-inclusive gallery day where individuals have from noon to 9 p.m. to take in all of those wonderful new shows.

I'm jealous.

I refused to limit my time exploring Jessica Drenk's organic sculptures at Galleri Urbane. I wanted more time to get weird with Mimi Kato's comically voyeuristic exhibition at Conduit, and some extra time to appreciate the execution of the show itself -- from the bright flush of lighting in Kato's room to the dreamier, more tempered glow of Susan Kae Grant's space, it quickly became a place that I didn't want to shuffle away from. I craved extra moments to dip through the artists' back catalogs, ask a million questions and stalk their careers online a bit deeper -- but instead, we had to dash. There was still all of Dragon Street and East Dallas to see.

I regret not getting to Kirk Hopper, which opened "Between Heaven and Earth," a collection of work by Roger Winter. It's a joint project of sorts with the MAC, which also launches a Winter collection this Saturday, September 15. Hopper and MAC's shows focus on different eras of the artist's career, with the MAC simultaneously offering a collection by five of Winter's former students (he taught at SMU for more than 25 years). There was no getting over there, however. We only had a few hours to cover an impossible amount of territory. The pond was overfished.

These mixed blessings got me thinking about Dallas' unique situation. Our visual arts community is so strong, but oddly splintered by geography, time and gallery dealer alignments.

I was proud of and impressed by all of the work that Brian Gibb put into East Dallas Gallery Day and Design District Gallery Day over the summer, and DADA's gallery walk and bike swarm is just around the corner, happening on September 22. But what's still missing is a unifying event that monopolizes a weekend with new shows, where we can see, and spend time with, all of the art. Where we have the luxury of visiting those smaller spaces, and even artist's studios in South Dallas, Oak Cliff, etc. who aren't yet being shown in larger spaces.

I really like what Austin has done with EAST, a ten-year strong event that's so popular it now spans two consecutive weekends each fall, with a new off-shoot event in Spring that focuses on spaces situated on the other side of I-35. It's a wonderful mix of established artists and emerging talent, with some "galleries" being as humble as an individual's above-garage apartment, which you're welcome to visit. It's funded and supported through the city with cash generated from a Texas Commission on the Arts grant and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. So the galleries aren't out a bunch of extra cash to pull the thing off.

EAST uses liquor and local brewery sponsors, because no art space should have to foot the financial burden of keeping everyone buzzed. They're inviting us in to view art, not cater our weddings. I would love to see something similar take root in Dallas, uniting CADD and DADA, individual studio spaces and performance artists. Saturday was a reminder of how good we have it. Dallas brings in and grows a tremendous amount of talent: I greedily want the luxury that time provides to take it all in, and to show our goods off to the rest of the state.

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