The Conduit Gallery

New galleries are emerging all around us. Through all of that hustle, Nancy Whitenack's Hi Line haven remains the standard for well-selected and collectable Dallas art. She has chosen a stable of talents with unique perspectives who are willing to extend the tangents of where existing work is already pointed. Nobody shown at Conduit is content to simply fill in the grid, and that's a tribute to the caliber of the space and its leadership. There's also a balance there, an energy that teeters between the established, repped works in the main showrooms and the more experimental, budding and often very strange works offered in the Project Room, curated by Conduit's assistant director Danette Dufilho. That equilibrium is what makes Conduit a starting — and often also an ending point — for any gallery night. It's also refreshing proof that an exceptional retail art space can be successful while still taking chances.

This year's Pin Show did what it had to in order to raise the stakes after 2012's impressive event: It skated across the cultural surface tension and lured Dallas' most fashionable away from Uptown, across the bridge and into a West Dallas warehouse. Once there you entered a scene resembling an underground party in a Marfa airplane hangar. Two firetruck bars acted as alcohol's first responders to a compound unapologetically filled with beautiful people in floor-length furs. Filling out the room was more eye candy: a reckless pingpong game in one corner, and four women dressed in updated WWII factory garb stationed up front, adorably seated behind vintage sewing machines. Blasting the room with music was soul outfit The Danny Church Band, who also provided the models' energetic catwalk soundtrack. But most important was the attention paid to styling and artist promotion. All who went to Pin Show left knowing exactly which looks, accessories and start-up labels they liked most, and thanks to its organizers' refined eyes, there was plenty of exceptional designer talent to choose from.

Texas Theatre
Barak Epstein

Considering this one-screen indie theater is run by four dudes with day jobs, it would be impressive if Texas Theatre's programming simply remained consistent. It would be nice if the bar were just a friendly place to drink or if you could occasionally see a less-conventional act performed there, like a comedy or DJ set. But for Aviation Cinemas, the venue's eventful puppet masters, chugging along was never an option. Instead, they've become a community cornerstone, showing the grittiest, most daring examples of new film available, counterbalanced by wrap-around themed repertory flicks — most of which align with corresponding parties, cocktails and music sets. Then, they use every piece of their animal to deliver behind-the-screen comedy shows, an art gallery in the rafters and a judgment-free cocktail bar. It's an oasis for writers, artists and filmmakers; a place to share ideas and theories all while pounding cinema-themed highballs and dropping it down deep on the lobby's dance floor. You can go to dozens of venues to catch a movie, and there will probably be teenagers talking on their cellphones behind you and you might walk out feeling like the garbage you saw stole your lunch money. At Texas Theatre that would never happen. Every film shown is carefully curated so it attracts people who love movies. It's a safe place, and it doesn't hurt that they pour a great drink.

Dallas Museum of Art

Remember just a few years back when the DMA was a completely different animal? Since the arrival of director Maxwell Anderson and tech guru Robert Stein, it feels like someone has opened up the windows. Let a little air in. Even did the neighborly thing and invited you over to hang out and slyly poke around their digs. The Dallas Museum of Art has taken massive strides, expanding its conservation department, boosting visitor engagement with its Friends program, improving information culling and tech connectivity, and making a grand offering of free admission. It's the ultimate public gift, and it's changing the cultural current of how Dallas perceives the art-viewing experience. Free admission allows art to integrate into our daily lives, rather than be a luxury or a special outing. Now you can pop into the DMA to see that thing your friend posted about without stressing over the cost of the visit or amount of time allotted to make it a worthwhile mission. And when you're there, you can't help but notice a change in the tone of the space. Everyone just seems happier, from staff to visitors. It's a valuable gift to our community and deserves eternal praise. Good work there, DMA.

The Nasher Sculpture Center

What you could not understand until seeing Price's work, assembled and justly arranged as it was here, is the sum and scale of the items he created. When he began his career in the '50s, Price worked intimately, with a focus on jug-like vessels and petite cups. The life that would eventually spring from those — the grandly bending, sensual tubes, eggs and geometric links that bridge them all — grew larger in scale but remained focused on connectivity and human interaction. From a distance, the collection resembled primordial creatures on a psychedelic planet. Up close, they looked like life incubated from a beautifully vibrant petri dish. Were it not for the Nasher's commitment to funding and curating shows of this magnitude, Dallas would never have had the privilege to experience this stunning retrospective. Perhaps more important, the exhibition was so cunningly arranged that it left us feeling elated, joyful and appreciative of Price's lifelong drive toward innovation.

When Deep Ellum's newish property management company, Deep Ellum 42, a group that's gained local support by pledging to retain the initial points of interest in old, vacated neighborhood haunts, met Apophenia Underground, the area's newest guerrilla art collective, something amazing happened. Jeff Gibbons and Justin Ginsberg — the humans behind the secretive art group — pitched an unlikely plan: They asked Deep Ellum 42 if they could use those empty buildings, many of which had no electricity, as short-lived art spaces. Not only did Deep Ellum 42 agree, they handed them the keys to an unleased city. Since that first show in February the neighborhood has turned into a cutting-edge, ephemeral scavenger hunt. On select night windows are simply lit up with GIF or video art, heavily curated group shows and solo works by local favorites. It's a game-changer for a time when emerging talent has risen to the surface, demanding the same attention as the more traditional gallery-repped circuit. Plus, it has made finding art a thrill while using the city's existing infrastructure. And by plopping it all in an area of heavy foot traffic, it has encouraged passersby to have unexpected interactions with beauty, merging the gallery scene, innovation and public art together.

From Ari Richter's The Skin I Live In, which utilized body cast-offs from humans and animals for sculptural purposes, to That Mortal Coil, the group show examining body beautiful through a jagged, kaleidoscopic group show, we've learned CentralTrak is content to be unpredictable, at times alarming and always informative. Isn't that precisely what you want from art? Moreover, isn't that what you'd hope would rise out of a "go do it" art incubator like CentralTrak? Of course it is. Still not convinced? They've had gallery shows for dogs, feminist porn night, time travel and hosted a pop-up art video game arcade. Were that not enough, CentralTrak's monthly "Next Topic" speaker series and panel discussions keep the important conversations whirling about, stirring ideas about both the art on display and the issues facing artists working in Dallas, right now.

Cinemark Hollywood USA

This one's not really a first-date idea. It's more an outing with your significant other when it's raining, you're broke and if you stay at home one more second you'll stab each other's eyes out with the silverware. Prevent blindness by making the trek over to Cinemark Hollywood USA, where you'll pay $1 to see everything you were slightly too lazy to catch when it was in regular theaters. While you're there, enjoy the dusty arcade games, the equally dusty photos of old-timey film stars and a terrifying, dizzying decorating theme best described as "Circus in Hell." Seriously, don't take a first date here.

When SMU contracted Dutch artist Joost Vrouenraets to choreograph a new version of Rite of Spring for the piece's centennial celebration, we thought, "Huh, that's ballsy for a private Methodist university." When we went to dress rehearsals and saw that the dancer was using the piece's anarchic legacy to push through subversive theories about social media's influence on a new generation, with the aid of schoolgirl uniforms and a sexually aggressive marionette, well, that's when we realized something much bigger was brewing. The end result had potential to start its own spectacular riot, as young writhing dancers clutched themselves and each other, trapping their frustrations inside custom-built rolling greenhouses. It ran both at SMU and as the showcase closer for the Meadows' annual fund-raising performance at the Winspear, and while we're still unclear how the powers that be let it get that big, we're thankful that it did.

Dallas Museum of Art

Remember when Wolf Blitzer's hologram beamed in to cover the 2008 presidential election? You pulled out your flip phone, called your best friend and were like, "Whoa"? Well, what a difference a few years make. Technology has advanced so exponentially that it has affected the arts in ways that ethics and law haven't been able to predict. KERA's Art and Technology panel brought together Nancy Hairston, an artist and brilliant mind in 3-D printing; UTD's Dr. Roger F. Malina, a man who's doing big work blending hard science with new media; and Robert Stein, the DMA's deputy director and force behind many of its recently applauded innovations. It was, hands-down, the most fascinating conversation on the arts held in Dallas last year and it addressed issues that we hadn't realized were becoming problems. It also brought to surface the new limitless direction that art is pointed in and the potential it has with a fresh generation of emerging talent. If you missed it, listen to the recording on the DMA's website. It's 81 minutes well spent.

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