We are excited here at Art & Seek to bring our State of the Arts conversation series to Denton on Tuesday, with our partners at the Greater Denton Arts Council.
Art&Seek’s Jerome Weeks will lead a discussion with five city arts leaders:
• Caroline Booth, Director of Economic Development for the City of Denton,
• Susan Carol Davis, Chair of The Artists Enclave of Denton County and President of Curious Dog Creative
• Lauren Lake, Chair of the University of North Texas Department of Studio Art
• Georgina Ngozi, Executive Director of Greater Denton Arts Council
• Jason Reimer, Partner of Texas Theatre, Founder of Talented Friends and part of the team renovating Fine Arts Theatre
I sat down with Jerome to get a preview of Tuesday’s conversation. You can click above to listen to our chat, which aired on KERA FM. Or take a spin through it below.
Jerome, you’ve been talking with several Denton arts leaders. What’s going on in the art scene there?
Well, it’s like every college town – there are a constant influx and outflow of young, fresh talent. At the same time, it also has sophisticated, accomplished artists on the faculties of UNT and TWU.
But it tells you a lot about recent developments that all five of our panelists have been in town or in working on their current projects for only two years or less. In effect, they’re all new. Jason Reimer, who helped renovate the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, announced earlier this year he’s formed a partnership to do basically the same thing with the Fine Arts Theatre on Denton’s courthouse square. UNT’s College of Visual Arts and Design is getting a new $70 million home. It’s opening in phases over this school year.
So new people, new ventures.
What does all that mean for our discussion on Tuesday?
Well, in some ways, this is literally going to be a meet and greet across different arts disciplines. Because that’s one thing people have told us: they really need to network.
This is Georgina Ngozi – who’s been the head of the Greater Denton Arts Council for only two years:
“There’s a lot of art activity going on in Denton, but I don’t believe there’s as much conversation with one another. You know, we have a tendency in our non-profit world to easily become silo’d, and this is an opportunity to come out of those silos.”
Coming out of silos can lead to really interesting projects and great collaborations, but is that really enough.
It can also lead to some really practical things. Caroline Booth is the director of Economic Development for Denton – and yes, she’s been in the position for only two years. She’ll be on the panel, and she says it’s only this past year that Denton’s cultural community was made one of the city’s key focuses.
Again, that sounds nice, it’s a little blue ribbon. But that decision has led to real financial outcomes that many Denton artists may not realize. Here’s Booth:
“What we want to do during the upcoming year is to help train local artists to respond to the city’s call for publicly-funded public art projects.”
In other words, real money.
But Booth talks there about training artists just to apply for these projects.
That also tells you something about the Denton arts scene. There are very few professional art galleries. The home of the Greater Denton Arts Council – the Patterson-Appleton Center – is one of the few real showcases for local artists.
So that brings up the issue of professional development – Where do young artists learn how to get a gallery show, how to network, how to, possibly, even make something like a living with their art.
So what do they do?
Well, Denton artists have a long history of forming collectives. One example is The Artist’s Enclave. That was formed by Susan Carol Davis, who’s an actor and filmmaker, and Randall Good, who’s a visual artist. And their aim has always been cross-disciplinary. They throw different kinds of artists together. In other words, networking. The Artist’s Enclave is about to open their first, professional stage production – meaning it has a contract with Actors Equity, the theater union. The play’s called ‘Iron,’ by Rona Munro, and it’ll be at Denton’s Black Box Theater.
Davis, who’ll also be on our panel, even brought in a representative from Equity to talk to area stage companies about Equity contracts. And that’s not all.
“We have had pop-up shows, concerts, we’ve had a writing workshop for high school students. We do some fundraising for other organizations. We have had something called ‘Brewing Ideas,’ which is where we gather at a pub and we bring in one of our artists, doesn’t matter what field they’re in, but we ask them how they’ve gotten where they are.”
So with all of these new people and new projects, is the Denton arts scene approaching something like a tipping point?
I don’t know. The city’s growing significantly, the college is growing. Inevitably, the nature of Denton’s cultural scene is changing.