29Rooms: Expand Your Reality Exhibition Is Coming to Dallas, and It Means More Than a Good Time

Dallas artist Dan Lam's untitled piece for the upcoming 29Rooms exhibition.
Dallas artist Dan Lam's untitled piece for the upcoming 29Rooms exhibition.
Getty for Refinery29
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For the first time, Refinery 29 is bringing its traveling art pop-up 29Rooms: Expand Your Reality to Dallas. During Aug. 9-18, Gilley’s Dallas will be transformed into a fully immersive experience for art lovers to enjoy, with sections ranging from the introspective to the provocative, all the while challenging the viewer to reevaluate their concept of what role art plays in our society.

Now in its fifth year, 29Rooms has expanded its scope of visitors through a five-city tour. The interactive art experience will travel to Dallas from Chicago, before moving on to Atlanta, Toronto and Washington, D.C. New to the exhibit this year will be the inclusion of a traveling billboard, designed by a local artist. In Dallas, that honor goes to University of North Texas professor and artist Alicia Eggert. Dallas artist Dan Lam will be sharing her work for the exhibition's "art park," a “geometric playground” that showcases pieces from an artist local to each stop on the tour.

Lam was born in the Philippines before moving to Texas as a child. She received a bachelor in fine arts from UNT and a masters in fine arts from Arizona State University before returning to her home state. Lam’s work — bold and visually arresting abstract sculptures — has been displayed nationally and internationally. Alongside her work with 29Rooms, Lam has upcoming shows scheduled in Boston and Portland.

“With my work in general I try to keep it as open as possible,” Lam says. “I feel like when people see what I make, I think it's with any art, you come at something with your own filter, your own perspective. And because my work is so organic, and I feel different from what people normally see, they always have a lot of different interpretations. I personally really enjoy hearing all the feedback.”

The show's early-bird tickets have already sold out, but general admission tickets are still available. Attendees will be treated to installations such as "Dream Doorways," where guests are invited to experience an alternate universe of deceiving appearances. Those whose interests lean more to the fiscal can enjoy the "Crack the Code" room, in partnership with Prudential Financial, where guests solve puzzles and complete challenges to learn about financial wellness.

Lam has not been to a 29Rooms show before but is excited about sharing her work alongside the many other creative minds from around the world who'll also be exhibiting. For Lam, leaving DFW to attend grad school in 2011 and returning in 2016 gave her a different perspective on the changing climate of Dallas art. While residents may not have noticed the gradual steps of progression, Lam found a city more mindful about the inclusion of artistic expression in its culture.

“In that time that I was gone, there was a lot done, just like physically even to the city,” Lam says. “Klyde Warren Park opened, and there was just this much bigger emphasis on the museums it felt like; the galleries were thriving. And so to kind of jump back into that scene and see where it has gone, I feel like it’s continued to. … It’s on it’s way there. It’s on track. I don’t think it’s going backwards. I think that there’s a lot of people in the city who love the arts and very much support it.”

No matter how the Dallas art community is seen in the rest of the country, let alone the world, one thing is for certain: having a nationally recognized show like 29Rooms include Dallas as one of its stops shows it has enough financial incentive to travel to Texas, where the market is dense with potential art consumers. Hopefully others will soon follow.

“I feel like the more art that comes to Dallas the better,” Lam says. “I grew up in this area, and I went away for school, but I came back, and now as a young professional in the arts I feel like anytime that something like this, or like the Dallas Art Fair, anything that brings people in from other places, other artists, it’s just really great for the city.

"I think that we definitely could use more, and I would love to see Dallas as an art hot spot for the nation.”

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