Despite the seemingly endless construction of new high-rises throughout downtown, Dallas has long been associated with wide-open space. It's always been a metropolis inside cattle-raising territory on the Great Plains, so it's fitting that a new arts incubator would take on the name Open Space.
“It’s not a gallery. It’s a space with art,” says Caroline Belanger, one of Open Space’s curators. Founder Hilary Donnelly brought her in to help launch it.
“I wanted to find a partner to do something really cool and show off the community of artists,” Donnelly says. “We instantly clicked and actually came up with the name together …. We didn’t want to call it a gallery. I don’t want the label that has all the associations with it. I really want it to be an open space for creative collaborations that don’t have to be so formal.”
Donnelly moved to Dallas from California three years ago because her husband got a great job offer. She looked around and was disappointed with the offerings for studios, and she wasted no time in setting up shop.
“I was shocked at how hard it was to find studio space here, especially in a large complex with other studios. It was very frustrating,” she says.
Donnelly was frequenting a coffee shop at Trinity Groves and liked the area. She found a warehouse five minutes away that could function as a studio space for artists. Donnelly bought the property last July, and it underwent extensive renovations until January to carve out individual studio spaces and a front exhibition room.
In February, six artists moved into Beat Rice Studios at 203 W. Comstock St. – a play on the name of the cross street, Beatrice. The front exhibition room, aka Open Space, will focus on exhibiting underrepresented artists in DFW.
“This is a new space, a new model, a new idea,” Belanger says. “The artists are underrepresented in our community, and we wanted to allow them to introduce themselves.”
That formal introduction will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 20, when Open Space officially opens its doors to the public. For the inaugural show, Pleased to Meet You, Belanger and Nancy Cohen Israel chose 28 local artists via a call for submissions.
“The idea is that they’re emerging artists who haven’t even been to art school, some who have just finished BFAs or are in the middle of getting an MFA. Their experience and opportunities to exhibit really has nothing to do with education,” Belanger says.
“Education is interesting but doesn’t matter,” says Donnelly, a trained psychotherapist who is now a practicing artist, making work from trash and discarded objects.
Another case in point is Eric Hess, who returned to making art after being a graphic designer for most of his career. The group is also excited about exhibiting Hayley Fowler, an MFA student at TCU whose work has appeared in Sculpture magazine; Carmen Menza, who creates light installations and has shown at Aurora; and Joshua Dodson, who does murals and large-scale paintings.
The six artists who rent studio space at Beat Rice will also be showing their work at the opening. Among them is Keer Tanchak, who has an exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary.
Of the nearly three-dozen artists exhibiting in the first show from May 20 to June 20, one or two will be chosen for a special exhibit at Open Space in the fall.
Donnelly had her hands full with an infant and was pregnant with her second child when she arrived in Dallas, yet she said she was compelled to link up with Belanger, a longtime curator and arts consultant, and put this together.
“I wanted to be a part of something greater,” she says. “I felt like I needed a space to show artists and flex my curatorial muscles."
The duo focused on emerging artists because of the trend Belanger has seen in her art consulting.
“There are young collectors looking for something new and dynamic but aren’t really ready to purchase something in a certain price point yet. Looking around at all the galleries, it can be a struggle to find that,” Belanger says. “There really hasn’t been a commercial, emerging art venue. This venue allows for that and more experimental projects.”
While there are other arts incubators in town that function as studio and exhibition spaces devoted to emerging artists, like Ash Studios in Fair Park, Deadbolt in Trinity Groves and Pariah in the Cedars, Open Space might be the largest with more than 4,500 square feet of space.
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Donnelly, an outsider to Dallas, noticed that the art scene was disjointed – not only spread across the city but also in terms of organizing within itself.
“There are art hubs, but they’re far from each other. Open Space is centrally located and hopefully will pull people from all over,” she says.
“There’s not enough interaction between the groups. …. We’re both hoping this can be an assembly place for the community,” Belanger adds, “where people can meet each other and talk to each other about their work.”
Pleased to Meet You, 5-8 p.m. Saturday, May 20, Open Space, 203 W. Comstock St., free, see Facebook.