Nancy Whitenack has taken Conduit Gallery from a scrappy storefront in Deep Ellum to a sleek space in the Dallas Design District – and kept it going for 30 years. She talks to KERA’s Anne Bothwell about nurturing artists, selling their work and teaching Dallas how to look at art.
Conduit opened on Elm Street in 1984, then moved to 3200 Main Street, the current home of Undermain Theater. Whitenack re-opened the gallery to the Design District in 2001. This summer, Conduit celebrates its big birthday with Longitude/Latitude, a two-part anniversary show.
- Longitude/Latitude Part I, on display til July 26, features pairs current work from 19 of the gallery’s artists with selections of their older pieces. It highlights the artists’ development, but also, three decades of ideas and trends in painting, video and mixed media.
- Longitude/Latitude Part II opens Aug. 2.
Listen to the conversation that aired on KERA FM:
A few excerpts:
On what’s kept Conduit going for 30 years….Just a will to keep doing it. I say often, you know, I grow long fingernails and can hang. You know, when downturns come, like 2008, you really have to rethink how you’re doing things and you have to get real lean and mean. But it has always been something that I feel is really important. I think to help artists be out there is a really wonderful thing to get to be part of.
On where that impulse to help artists came from….Two things. I have been an inveterate art lover, art museum goer, gallery attendee for really a good part of my life. But I also have to say, a part of how I go about what I do is the result of my mother’s nurturing. My mother was someone who loved people and she spent her whole life involved in that. When I was young, we lived in a small dormitory in a small college, Wayland Baptist College on the high plains of Texas and my parents were dorm parents. And we would have in our home all the time, guys who just wanted to hang out or had a problem and needed to get some advice and so, I’ve grown up in a very caring kind of environment. And so, I’m a lot like a mother hen. My relationships to my artists are – not to my artists, but the artists I represent – keenly important and I work hard on that.
If she could change one thing…..I would want people to take seriously the art community that is here. And there’s something I didn’t mention that has added hugely to how art is different in Dallas today. Young artists living in the city do not whine and hang around and wait for someone to pick them up – like pick them up and show them in a gallery. They have gotten into cooperatives. They’ve opened up studios and gotten together. That is huge. That is so important. And I think people here need to take note of that energy and what’s going on instead of deciding that the artists somewhere else…First start by seeing what’s here. There are amazing things going on. There are artists who live here and work that you can put up against any artist in the country or the world. So take note.