Yesterday at NX35: Things Kick Off With A Discussion of The Arts

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Lindsey Coyne
Panel: DFW, The Arts, and The Future: A Roundtable Discussion
Venue: Banter
Time: 1 p.m.

Perhaps the most appropriate way to kick off a music festival in a town of burgeoning music and artistic talent is to discuss the bigger picture.

How do festivals, art galleries, house shows and the like all work together to establish an "art scene"? How do these various events contribute to culture as a whole? How do we work together to preserve that culture?

Attempts at answering these questions were offered in NX35's conferette kick-off roundtable discussion, "DFW, The Arts, and the Future."

Featuring local art advocates and related institutional liaisons, the panel offered a host of provocative ideas and questions as to the nature, value and potential of the arts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. With enough degrees between them to cover at least half of one of the walls of Banter itself, these individuals were willing to bluntly discuss the challenges facing the advancement of culture and the arts in this community.

Generally speaking, the panel suggested that art being excluded in basic and functional practices hinders people's ability to appreciate it as a fundamental educative element. Denton resident and host of Denton's Drink and Think, Kevin Roden sees the problem lying in beliefs that art is inferior: "We live in a society where, at least contemporarily and typically, we look to math and science to be saviors to our problems," Roden said. "Our educational system really focuses on those two things."

Art, however, is not just for artists and an attitude of exclusivity can be debilitating for artistic initiatives. As manager of the South Dallas Cultural Center, Vicki Meek echoed this lament. "I work with a lot of kids who tell me that art saved their life. Often times, a lot of these people don't go on to be artists," she said. "Art is basic; art endures."

The subject of DART and the impending opening of a Denton train stop was also a popular topic of discussion at the roundtable. Research Associate in the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, Michael Seman (who is also a musician that performs in Shiny Around The Edges) pointed out that "the train coming to Denton is huge. The key to having a thriving cultural economy is using available resources."

Resources and opportunities aside, collaboration was another enduring theme throughout the afternoon's discussion. The trend amongst even the most thriving districts of Dallas and Fort Wroth, more often than not, feature art of all forms, but never in the same and rarely simultaneously. "Collaboration is Key," said Sarah Jane Semrad, President of Art Conspiracy and co founder of La Reunion. "You have to learn to play well with others."

Even though these obstacles were discussed amongst the panel, the tone of the conversation was never desperate. Quite the opposite, actually. Each participant echoed one another in their beliefs that the horizon of art and culture in this society, both generally and specifically, is hopeful.

Dean of the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas, Robert Milnes, likes to keep one thing in mind: "There are more people living in DFW than 37 of the other states," he said. "Think about those resources and possibilities."

Indeed. And from the looks of it, the rest of this weekend's festivities mirror just that.


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