Bath House Cultural Center
White Rock Lake offers more than bike and running paths. For years, the Bath House Cultural Center on the eastern shore of the lake has been a little powerhouse of art, theater, history and music. Built in 1930, the art deco building is tiny but boasts a 120-seat theater, two galleries, a darkroom and other spaces for activities including yoga classes, jazz concerts and dance workshops. It also houses a small but fascinating museum about the creation and history of the lake. (Did you know people could swim in White Rock until 1953? It was closed to bathers due to "drought, polio and racial tensions.") The galleries showcase regional artists, often those who live and work in the lake area.
White Rock Lake Dog Park
On a good day at the dog park, you'll meet dozens of dogs of various breeds and, sometimes, dozens of breeds in one dog. Not a dog owner? White Rock Lake Dog Park is a great place to "window shop" for your next pal; you can see how spectacularly tall (and drooly) a great Dane is or how mind-numbingly adorable a 4-month-old basset hound puppy can be. Good-weather Saturday afternoons seem to be the time to encounter the highest volume of canines, especially since this summer's renovation.
You can't fling a paintbrush/film canister/chisel/flashcard/pencil/found object in this town without hitting an artist. They're sketching at White Rock, shooting Deep Ellum in gritty black and white and wandering downtown, picking up lost Post-It notes and other detritus for assemblages. For most, the biggest opening reception their art will see is when they pop the top on a Bud Light after hanging their latest masterpiece over the couch. But if they're lucky, they'll catch the discerning but unpretentious eyes of Sarah Jane Semrad and Nyddia Hannah of Pigeon-Stone Project, which gives local artists and curators opportunities to show off their work in public by giving local businesses new, innovative local art to display. The duo currently books exhibits--with receptions and everything--in the Continental Lofts, the bar at the Magnolia Theater, Sozo Salon on Knox-Henderson, Zeo Salon on Travis Walk, Two Sisters Catering in Deep Ellum, Counter Culture at Mockingbird Station and the Elbow Room near Baylor Hospital on the edge of Deep Ellum. But look for them to expand to every nook and cranny with enough blank wall space to accommodate a piece or two.
Texas Discovery Gardens
At Fair Park in the building and area where the botanical society used to be, Texas Discovery Gardens is a year-round medley of all-organic garden themes, including a butterfly habitat (especially worth seeing during the State Fair), wildlife pond, scent garden, shade garden and heirloom garden. The Dallas Arboretum is more fancy-schmancy, of course, but unlike the Arboretum, the Discovery Gardens is a place where you can see what you can grow without excoriating the earth with 50-pound bags of toxins in the process. Of course, they do manage to achieve those really unearthly hues at the Arboretum, but at least here you can peruse the posies and not need a Hazmat suit.
When you're getting married, the most important thing is to impress people, right? Screw that whole love and commitment thing. This event is really about blowing the pants off everyone so they'll be talking about it long after you've paid off the credit card bills. Required elements include a full bar, romantic mood lighting, a stone balcony (perfect for a ceremony), a cool downtown location and, above all, impeccable, memorable food. Truffled mac 'n' cheese with black trumpet mushrooms and quattro formaggio or chef-carved New Zealand lamb chops with mint aioli might do the trick. Follow up with chocolate and hazelnut marjolaine with coffee and vanilla creams (or...sigh...go with wedding cake) and your guests will be serenading you all the way to your chauffeured Bentley. This little gem tucked away in the DMA has all of the necessary elements.
At the core of this year's best-of artist's category is a loss: the death of our most stellar, the rising young artist Scott Barber. The Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell once said "art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it." It is a meager, dull and uninspired life without Barber and his art. He artfully deployed his private life in the public sphere, waging his battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on the painterly surface. Though we know Barber for his lapidary painting, the faintly bubbled and brightly colored planes of the renderings of his cancer cells, he was a polymath when it came to artistic medium. He worked in video and sculpture, the virtual and the plastic. His three large, round urethane-cast wall pieces give light form in plastic hirsute bodies. In yellow, blue and red, they are the primary colors of Mondrian's palette translated into an electric light-swooning affair that is perfectly shagadellic. Barber died on April 22 from complications resulting from a bone-marrow transplant.
Consistently elegant work, large luminescent space and magnetic urban location constitute the trifecta that makes Holly Johnson Gallery a winning space. Though a newcomer, having opened in early April 2005, the gallery has had a triumphant run of shows. Casey Williams, whose work was shown in late spring, makes photographic abstraction out of the molten stuff of a harbor. His photographs of the Houston Ship Channel play on the entropy of different surfaces--the expressive decay of a painting's desiccated canvas and the rust-strewn hull of enormous cargo ships. William Betts' work, the subject of a more recent show, makes a world of stripy colors from bits of pixelated detritus. Manipulating digital information into flat planes of infinite lines, Betts makes surfaces of colorful stripes that would knock the socks off of Peter Brady, that erstwhile master of striped pants. Proprietor and namesake of the gallery, Holly Johnson has injected an intelligent sense of subtle experimentation into the beau monde of the local gallery world.

Readers' Pick
Goss Gallery 2500 Cedar Springs Road 214-696-0555
You just want an inexpensive faux hairpiece. That's all. Not so much to ask. Your girlfriend wants a fake Louis Vuitton wallet. Easy. Or so you thought. The logical destination is, of course, the Sam Moon Trading Company off LBJ Freeway and...hey, the new location even has one big-assed parking lot. Unfortunately, that means more room for minivans, which means more obnoxious screaming children and their clueless, inattentive parents. We don't know how many toddlers we've crushed on our way to the sparkly, dangly earring wall, but to be honest, we don't really care. Breeding licenses, anyone? Anyone?
One of the best art exhibits this year had nothing to do with buzz or hipness or hype or scene. It was about heart. But it was still the exhibit for artists to contribute to and for art fans to attend. A Friend in Deed, a one-night show and sale at Barry Whistler Gallery in January, benefited Scott Barber, a Dallas painter and teacher at St. Mark's School of Texas who received a bone marrow transplant as part of his treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (see Best Visual Artist). The show included 65 works donated by artists including Bill Komodore, Ann Stautberg and Vincent Falsetta and was organized by gallery owner Barry Whistler and artists John Pomara and Ted Kincaid. More than $35,000 was raised for Barber, with more than 50 pieces sold. Whistler said it showed everyone, especially Barber, that a community of artists who work alone could come together when one needed help.
Cave's Lounge
You're decked out in your chucks, with your low-slung ass-huggers and wife beater, and your eyeliner is absolutely perfect. You really, really need to listen to some Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or Johnny Cash and you crave a Hefeweizen, but for Pete's sake, you're in Tarrant-freaking-County. It's a scary feeling. What's a hipster to do? Haul ass down to Division Street, the bail bond/pay-per-hour motel capital of Arlington and cram your car into the gravel pit of a parking lot at Caves Lounge. You'll be greeted by an extensive import beer menu, a jukebox stocked with all your favorite indie rock hits and at least one really hot emo kid drinking a Lone Star alone in the corner, just begging to get his or her heart broken. With nary a frat boy in sight, you'll be able to pretend you're in Brooklyn--just don't drink too much, cause you won't be able to take the L train back home.

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