Art Conspiracy 7: Walls of Art, Big Turn-Out, and a "Pianoctopus"

On Saturday night, the inside perimeter of a sweeping gray West Dallas warehouse building at 511 West Commerce Street was temporary tiled with rows of square works of art -- all the same size (18x18 inch square boards) and all created locally, but each incredibly unique, from a colorful woman fashioned from yarn and paint, to a somber and bold American flag with silver action figure amputees fastened to the surface.

It was the seventh annual Art Conspiracy, an event which has a few basic principles: Local artists create a piece of work in 24 hours, which is then auctioned off to benefit a local art-centered charity. This year, the event benefits Musical Angels, a local nonprofit that provides piano lessons to hospitalized children. Before Saturday, Art Conspiracy had already raised $110,000 for local charities since its founding seven years ago.

Artists of differing levels of experience with individual preferences of medium and style were arranged side-by-side, as polished older folks with deep pockets rubbed shoulders with skinny jean-clad twentysomethings enjoying the art. A cast of auctioneers, including Rob McCollum, Rob Shearer, Rawlins Gilliland, Reid Robinson, Jason Roberts and Dave Hickmott, bantered with the crowd as prices climbed, many pieces selling for several hundreds of dollars. The place was packed; Saturday was a good day for the local art scene.

About halfway through the night, an upright piano rolled onto the stage. The image of a giant orange octopus, painted by Kevin Obregon, covered the entire instrument, with the sea-creature's tentacles stretching over the keys in curls that nearly reached the floor. It was a piano like no other -- a "Pianoctopus" as described on the Art Conpiracy Facebook page -- and it now belongs to a lucky member of the crowd who won it in an on-stage heads-or-tails competition.

With perfect weather, hundreds of unique works of art, and music from Datahowler, The Hope Trust and J. Charles and the Trainrobbers, Art Conspiracy drew such a huge crowd that the bar nearly ran out of booze; Observer editorial operations manager and trusty ArtCon bar-back Jesse Hughey had to make a wine run to restock before the night was over. While we await the final total of money raised for Musical Angels, it's fair to say the night was a success -- artistically, financially, culturally -- even organizationally and meteorologically.

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