Art Con Turns 10; Let's Have a Party.

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Art Conspiracy, the coolest art party in Dallas, started a decade ago as a way to raise money for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The brainchild of two Dallas culture-philes, Jason Roberts and Sarah Jane Semrad, that first year a small team cleaned up the then-vacant Texas Theatre, hung the paintings of a handful of local artists, and the community poured in to bid on the work and enjoy the music and company. Named after the conspiracies in Dallas history, Art Con organizers set out to prove that artists could make significant contributions.

Gritty and unpolished, the unpretentious party was an immediate success and continues to grow. Now, with year-round events, the nonprofit organization has raised more $250,000 for a variety of local charities. And if Art Con's executive director, Erica Felicella, were to pinpoint how they've found success, it would be the dedication and the enthusiasm of the artists and the volunteers involved in the event.

"We're the people's arts organization," Felicella says. "From the very first year, I can't think of any way to fully describe the excitement of Art Con and this is a big year for us. It's for the city, it's for the community, it's for the beneficiary, and this year, it's also our birthday."

It's become one of those Dallas events you have to attend, although once you've been, you'll probably go back. Centered on a series of three high-octane auctions, Art Con is the most dynamic fundraiser you'll attend in Dallas. Bidding starts at just $20, which means that an art newbie can afford to get in on the action.

"A lot of local art buyers start their collections at Art Con," Felicella says. "And a lot of longtime collectors discover new artists they love. I love that if someone sees a Richard Ross painting for the first time at Art Con, then they can follow his career around Dallas."

This year, Art Con takes over 500 Singleton, a warehouse just west of Trinity Groves, where they've been building art installations and mounting a stage for musicians. Last week more than 150 artists plopped down on the warehouse floor to create work that will be auctioned at the event. Previous beneficiaries have included Girls Rock Dallas, My Possibilities and La Reunion. This year the auction will support Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, a dance company with an educational focus that's been instructing students in the art of Hispanic dance since 1975.

"It's one of those companies that not enough people in Dallas know about," Felicella says. "But the work they do is astounding."

Art Con attendees will get a sampling of the Ballet Folklorico, along with music from The Happy Bullets (Jason Roberts' band that played at Art Con 1), Son of Stan, Booty Fade, and DJ Cee Pee. The bands alone make the event a steal at $10. The party starts at 7 p.m. Saturday. Grab tickets at artconspiracy.org

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