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Wilkinson’s installation piece was on display during Bobby on Drums at Shipping & Receiving.

Institutional Support Is Coming?

Fort Worth has plenty of great artists, but it hasn’t traditionally been a nurturing place for young talent. For every Nancy Lamb-type success story, there are a dozen equally skilled painters, sculptors, and multimedia artists who skip town in search of better markets. But something seems different about the local art world these days. Young artists are starting to band together to create group shows and use social media to blow up their work. And government and civic organizations like Fort Worth South Inc. and the Riverside Arts District have started to make more of a commitment to public art and small street festivals.

While there have always been ad hoc art groups, the rise in collectives has been significant over the past couple of years. And more artists are hosting their shows at nontraditional venues in the hopes of attracting paying customers, as opposed to drawing the culture vultures, who venture out into the art world only twice a year, Fall Gallery Night and Spring Gallery Night, for the free cheese cubes and elbow rubs.

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Art and Music Cocktails

Somewhat quietly, Shipping & Receiving (201 S Calhoun St, 817-887-9313) has become one of the more supportive spaces for young, emerging artists. The shows at the South Main Street venue typically include bands and spoken word performances. A few months ago, the venue hosted Bobby on Drums, a mixed-media showcase of about a dozen artists. And more than 500 people turned out.

S&R owner Eddie Vanston said the music and party atmosphere draw the crowds.

“They all mix music with the art, which is often brilliant,” he said. “But the music creates the party atmosphere, which brings the folks. Shipping & Receiving has an unusual amount of space to offer. And the music component makes it an easy fit.”

In addition to Cultural Affairs (see: pg. 22), S&R’s Tilt Room will be the site of Exhibitionists, featuring the work of more than 60 visual artists, most employees at the local museums. Select works from the one-night event on Sat, Sep 26, will be on display at Artspace 111 (111 Hampton St, 817-692-3228) from Oct 16 through Nov 27.

Sound artist, musician, and producer James Talambas, who co-founded The Theater Fire, participated in Bobby on Drums, and will contribute to Exhibitionists, thinks that artists and musicians are combining forces more frequently because there aren’t enough opportunities at galleries.

“The numbers just aren’t happing in the galleries,” he said. “The arts community in Fort Worth is small, so it behooves us all to pull together and have group shows.”

 

ArtSouth Is a Start

As artist and Weekly contributor Christopher Blay said in his recent story (“Is Art Worth It?,” Aug 19, 2015), there has long been a lack of institutional support for artists in this town compared to a city like Dallas.

But that tide might turn, thanks to an innovative program launched by the folks at Fort Worth South Inc. This month, the nonprofit development group launched ArtSouth, a residency program that will give studio space, a $4,000 project stipend, and public art exhibition space to four artists every year. The first grantee was 30-year-old multimedia artist Jay Wilkinson, who was one of the organizers and featured artists of Bobby on Drums.

Megan Henderson, Fort Worth South director of events and communication, said her group created the program as a way to keep the creative class in the neighborhood.

“When it was severely blighted and in terrible condition, the artists and creative community was the canary in the coal mine,” she said. “They were the first to come. Now as the neighborhood has been revitalized, it’s become more and more expensive. [Our staff was] having the conversation about how artists, creators, and innovators can still afford the neighborhood. How do we incentivize people to see art as a fundamental part of who we are?”

She said that the Arts Council of Fort Worth, the 80-year-old nonprofit that supports dozens of local arts institutions, reached out to Fort Worth South about how to get more local artists involved in public art.

“It became clear to us that local artists didn’t have enough exposure and experience in public art to qualify for [the Arts Council’s] program,” she said. “We created the program as a way to meet the needs of the artists, the Arts Council, and our own community.”

ArtSouth’s selection committee chose Wilkinson, in part, because they were looking for a candidate who has never had a public art commission.

“That’s something we really wanted, someone who didn’t have that experience to teach them that their time is valuable,” she said.

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