Thirty Something – DADA’s back! Get ready to canvas the neighborhood

Modern Luxury Dallas Magazine
Modern Luxury Dallas Magazine
April 2008

The Radar Art

by STEVE CARTER
It’s an adventure, one of the can’t-miss art safaris in town: One day; 30 galleries, diffused across eight neighborhoods; hundreds of artists representing all mediums, and many hundreds of aficionados making the rounds; two illuminating panel discussions and one worthy beneficiary of proceeds. That’s right-it’s time for the annual Dallas Art Dealers Association’s Spring Gallery Walk. One of DADA calendar’s defining events, the first Gallery Walk of the year is set for Saturday, April 19th. Returning with the spring for 20 plus years now, Gallery Walk will mix tradition and innovation as DADA continues to adapt to an ever-evolving market. From the recent impassioned canvases of Juliette McCullough (Alan Barnes Fine Art) to the haphazard realism of painter Luke Harnden (HCG Gallery), from the premiere US solo exhibition of Czech Republic photographer Igor Malijevsky (Photographs Do Not Bend) to a retrospective of Oskar D’Amico (Museum of Geometric and MADI Art), from the masterful granites of Jesus Morales (Latino Cultural Center) to painter Jim Woodson’s high desert revelations (Valley House Gallery), and the list goes on and on, art accessibility is the name of the game. DADA’s Spring Gallery Walk is an opportunity for discovery that has few rivals.

While DADA has been a major force on the local art scene for more than two decades, there was a time, pre-1985, when there was a conspicuous absence of esprit de corps among Dallas’ art spaces. Recognizing the shared interests and concerns of commercial gallery owners, famed gallerist Edith Baker, Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden’s Kevin Vogel and others began to discuss establishing an association. Current DADA director Lisa Taylor explains that “basically they formed a business association, similar to a neighborhood association. The first existence of DADA was about 10 galleries who saw a need to do things together, whether it was co-op advertising, or learning about ethics of being a gallery owner, or networking, or presenting to the public at large what they were doing; it’s easier to do things in numbers. They didn’t really start having events until a couple of years into it, and that’s when they started the Gallery Walks.” Originally hired by DADA to handle marketing and public relations more than 10 years ago, Taylor is the ideal advocate for the group: Her enthusiasm and unflagging devotion to all local arts is inspiring. Raised all over the country, with her high school years spent in Europe, her architecture-trained father and museum docent mother impressed their sensibilities on Taylor from an early age. “I spent my life going to museums and looking at buildings,” she recalls. “Both my parents have highly-tuned aesthetics, more than most people, and they would point out beauty more often than not.” At the association’s helm for the past two years, Taylor’s caucused to make the group more inclusive: a room big enough to include Office of Cultural Affairs facilities such as the Bath House and Ice House cultural centers, other non-profit art spaces, museums and even art-related businesses … “things that are necessary, like framing,” she continues.

“In the beginning, DADA was only commercial galleries networking to sell art. And now we are for-profit and non-profit banded together to expose the city of Dallas and its inhabitants to all the art we have in the city, the plethora of art opportunities. I just say, ‘We’re a group of art spaces, of all kinds,’ instead of just commercial.”

One of the biggest challenges in organizing and taking part in a Gallery Walk is the sheer size of the city and its environs; walking is great once you’re in a neighborhood, but some driving is inevitable. Since Dallas lacks a central gallery district, such as Santa Fe’s ballyhooed Canyon Road, DADA’s website and Gallery Walk brochures group all its member art spaces by neighborhood: Design District, Uptown, Deep Ellum, Fair Park, Downtown/Oak Cliff, Park Cities, North Dallas, Arlington and Irving. And even with sensible shoes, a fast car, fierce determination, a GPS and ADHD, there’s just too much to see in one day.

Back in 2005, as part of the association’s 20th anniversary celebration, DADA created the Edith Baker Art Scholarship and Artist Career Development Fund to help support, encourage and recognize the younger generation of visual artists coming up through the ranks. This year, a deserving senior from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts will receive $3,000, take part in a mentoring program, and some of its student artists will be featured in an exhibit at Norwood Flynn Gallery during Gallery Walk. “DADA has changed and morphed over the years,” Taylor says. “We do want to sell art, but we also want to raise awareness and educate. I think Gallery Walk, when they created it long ago, was to make art accessible, and that’s what DADA is about-making art accessible.

Whether we educate you about how to understand art, or whether we open our doors to you on a special night and you go out and have fun with your friends, we’ve made it more accessible.”

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