Last week, I met with Kevin Ruben Jacobs, the 25-year-old whiz kid behind Oliver Francis Gallery to chat with him about the local art scene. I asked him what he's trying to accomplish with his gallery. He shook his head at the word "accomplish," saying it wasn't about specific goals but about presenting challenging work. It isn't some grand five-year plan. It's simple. It's about the art.
Young artists are cleaving through the same-old, same-old and tackling projects to shape Dallas into a place they want to live. The creative class is a real thing and they're challenging the establishment and they want you to come visit, stay for a while, share a beer. But you'll need to be adventurous, you'll need to tie your shoes and step off the well-paved sidewalks. The new Dallas arts world isn't Prada and lobster shooters; it's dirty and it's challenging.
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On Friday night, I attended my first noise show. I stood in the dark at Two Bronze Doors and a new friend handed me ear plugs and said, "you'll need these." This tiny homespun concert venue, just minutes from Greenville Avenue, became a gateway into an experience unlike anything else. Each set lasted about 10 minutes and there was feedback and a lot of screaming. Between sets, we'd drink beer on the porch. I'm not sure if I loved the experience or hated it. My comfort zone was nowhere in sight. Maybe this is what Jacobs was talking about: challenging.
After a few hours, I retired with a friend to Deep Ellum for a jazz set at Twilite Lounge. There were bananas wandering the streets of Deep Ellum, concerts in every venue, art on the streets. Saturday was drowned in green beer and a afternoon rainstorm -- a very different experience of Dallas culture.
Sunday, I found myself snuggling into the seats at the Wyly Theatre for Dallas Theater Center's world premiere of the musical The Fortress of Solitude. Jonathan Lethem's multi-layered novel about growing up in Brooklyn in the latter half of the 20th century uses music as a chronology through the narrator's life. As he grows up, MoTown becomes hip-hop, each song associated with a specific memory, building a general portrait of his life. In this city, art is like that. Each aspect of the arts world, from the murals in West Dallas to the magic shows in Exposition Park bring a layer to this city's flavor: its culture.
We live in a complicated place. Culture is a strange blend of highbrow and lowbrow. This is what we're doing with our weekends. Sometimes, it's a bar crawl on McKinney Avenue; sometimes, it's a magic show in Exposition Park. And we want you to join us. If you really want to get to know Dallas, experiencing the variety of culture here is a good place to start.