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 9

 

The First Kathy & JR Gallery Tour

Kathy had been urging her Creative Arts Center students to attend galleries and openings to see what was going on in the art world and among other Dallas artists. But it was always an uphill battle.

I remember my own reluctance — back in the late 70s — when friends told me what fun gallery opening were. Would I fit in? Were gallery people too hoity toity for me? Would I wear the wrong clothes? Was I smart enough to fit in with real art people?

Gradually, we developed the idea for the First Kathy & JR Walking Gallery Tour.

We settled on five galleries — Craighead Green, Cidnee Patrick (formerly Edith Baker), Pillsbury Peters (or whatever it might be called by then), The Afterimage and Art House on Routh.

These are among the best contemporary galleries, showing a wide variety of Dallas and regional artists. We like all five places, knew all but two of the owners, and they were within easy walking distance — even on a hot, early summer Saturday afternoon.

Some of us smelled the flowers along our walk.

We would have liked to visit other galleries, also. But we didn't want to chauffeur people without a license or fight traffic. There were even a couple non-contemporary galleries along our path through the "Upper Oak Lawn gallery district," but we wanted to concentrate on this century and this city.

So, we fixed up a flyer — "Join us for the first Kathy & JR Gallery Tour, A Short Walking Tour to visit Five of Dallas’ Best Contemporary Galleries 3-6 pm Saturday, June 28." We settled on a price — $50 per person, set a date, and spread the word.

Kathy fielded preliminary questions in her classes and around CAC, and she did most of the promotion, hence her name first. JR reconnoitered the galleries and prepared a short introduction for each — a little  history, some status, style and maybe a little gossip.

Kathy was busy on the cell phone all that morning. Much repeating of times and place. Yes, there'd be lots of free parking...

At that last minute we decided we should have had a map on the flyer and wondered whether we should fudge the start time even more.

We arrived way too early that afternoon, drove the route, so we wouldn't get lost walking later, and checked our directions to the nearby restaurant, where most of us would meet afterward.

Three of Kathy's painting and Artists Way students met us at Craighead Green to begin the tour. We expected one more in a few minutes. But we waited inside the cool space.

It was the first time most of them had visited a gallery, but they were obviously open to the new experience. I suggested they sign the guest book, and we wandered around inside wating for the last tourer, while Kathy waited outside.

a back alley view of a house made of
stairways along an alleyway to the next gallery
 

Nothing about the tour was formal. It was low key, friendly, comfortable. We didn't even try to keep everybody in a group, although it might have been easier to deliver my gallery spiels that way.

We welcomed questions, and answered a lot of them at each of our stopping places. Kathy knew techniques and styles. I knew artists, gallery histories and politics. 

From Craighead-Green, we walked two doors down to Cindee Patrick gallery, where we thoroughly explored down and upstairs spaces. I was careful to direct them to the bright folk art in the bathroom and the Edith Baker Closet in the back, packed floor-to-ceiling with art.

Twenty or more minutes later, the six of us crossed Cedar Springs and walked into the deep green of Upper Oak Lawn to Pillsbury Peters, where we spent another 30-40 minutes wandering that elegant, museum like complex.

Lori, Michael, Kathy, Chris and Stephanie

After being collectively fascinated by many art media inside — including Harry Geffert's marvelous cast soda crackers and treelets — and the sculpture garden outside, we gathered again, and walked north a couple more streets, then jagged up, along side the Quadrangle shopping center.

At Ansel Adams' first Dallas gallery, which has been bouncing from space to space around the Quadrangle for decades, we enjoyed soaring, contemporary landscapes and elegant black & white traditional photography and talked briefly with owner Ben Breard.

After touring every bin and wall space there, we settled on the stairs at one end of the gallery, resting in the cool quiet, informally talking and joking and laughing.

Rested, we walked out the back door, through the brightly decorated plaza, and to the nearby Art House On Routh.

At each new gallery, we talked about art and how this one was done, and how could anybody ever so perfectly cast soda crackers in steel.

We managed to stay slightly ahead of schedule through our tour, but we really settled into the Art House on Routh — our last gallery stop, directed by CAC administrator Barbara West, whose husband, Dallas artist David McCullough welcomed us with cold drinks, warm conversation and lots of colorful, home-grown contemporary art.

When we'd finally had our fill of that vivid house full of art — including lots of hanging around in the art kitchen, we said an early goodby to Michael and led the rest of our touring group down the street and around the corner to the comfy Italian restaurant. I shot these pseudo-ancient clay columns in the garden from our table, where we ate some and drank some more in the cool darkness.

There, tourees and tourers mixed and matched best this and best that memories from our last three hours of art touring and absorbing.

We talked about what we remembered and what we'd forgot and Kathy and JR pitched the then upcoming Outside the Lines show at the Bath House Cultural Center that next weekend, where I was one of the exhibitors.

(And where, a week later, we were delighted to recognize several tour members.)

At the restaurant, we collectively declared the first Kathy & JR Gallery Tour a success, and after dinner we walked back to where our cars were parked, stopping before a fun-house mirror-ish shop window to take one final, group photo.

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