From Humble Beginnings, Art Con's Back. Get Ready to Rock the Warehouse on Saturday.

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It's the biggest cultural philanthropy event of the year, without a dress code. And this Saturday, November 10, Dallas gets another shot to bid on locally crafted artwork in a high-energy environment at Art Con 8.

See Also: Behind the Scenes at Art Con 8, a Slideshow

Since launching in '05, Art Conspiracy has used its ruckus art auction/music showcase format to enrich funding for arts-driven curriculum throughout the community. They've given more than $140,000 to these programs which, -- hold up. Let's look at that again.

They've given more than $140,000 to local arts programs and organizations.

That's big. Not, "hey, good for you," big. More like, "Did I read that right?" big.

It got me thinking about this group's origins and how it's managed this exponential growth, so I asked Art Con to share one of its own with me. I got real demanding about it, stressing that the sacrificial soul double as group historian. They sent me Cari Weinberg, the President of the Board of Directors and all around cheerleader. She's been with the event since its inception.


"We were putting it all on our credit cards and hoping people would show up," says Weinburg, thinking back to that first year. Art Con 1 grew out of a direct need identified by Jason Roberts and Sarah Jane Semrad. They wanted to do something to help the displaced Katrina victims who were struggling in Oak Cliff, post-storm. Ideas were kicked around. They settled on the auction strategy, but the scale was up for debate. Jason suggested bands and ten artists. Sarah countered back: She knew a lot of artists, so why not invited 100? Handshakes were exchanged and a hunt began. "It took about two and a half weeks to get artists to come on board," recalls Weinburg.

The event played it off the cuff, with everyone participating assuming any needed role. They fronted cash, leaned on friends and did it all without any solid assurance of a payoff. As the hours ticked down, a nervous "what if nobody comes to our party" feeling took hold. Then, they peeked outside. "It looked like Field of Dreams," says Weinburg, with a sentimental lilt.

Those days of uncertainty are over. The amount of artists has grown (there's now 150). And by Art Con 6 those participation slots filled up in 13 minutes and 30 seconds. Forget chasing artists down. They now use a random selection process, picking from a pool of eager contributors.

There have been other evolutions too, all designed to make the event planning run more fluidly. "We've gotten smarter now," laughs Weinburg. "So we put a little money back in for operating costs." Factor in the addition of the SEED event, which springboards the cash needed to offer the main night of programming, and this rag-tag group of misfit money-makers has developed a grassroots recipe for financial success.

Still, all involved say it's the art made on those plywood boards and the artists doing the making that keep 'em returning each year. Artists just have a natural wildcard element to them, and when penned up together, anything can happen. "At Art Con 2 this guy said he had to take his board out to the parking lot," says Weinburg. "He ground it down to powder, put it in a glass jug and we auctioned it off."

This year's event is 8-bit themed, with a special stage design and layout representing that central idea. Local favorites Burning Hotels, Daniel Hart and Blackstone Rangers fill out the musical bill while 150 local artists present freshly whipped-up wonderworks for auction.

Check out this legacy philanthropy event on Saturday night, at 960 Dragon Street (The Goodyear Retread Warehouse). Tickets are only $10 and you can Prekindle the things right here. All money raised goes to Girls Rock Dallas and the W.T. White Academy of Visual and Performing Arts' Ceramics Program, so don't be afraid to get in the pit and bid on that jar of sawdust.

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