And here it comes. The last-ever ARTwalk at the Valley View Center location is Saturday, February 18, and then we start the move to the new gallery shortly thereafter. One way or another, we have to be out and gone by February 28, and then demolition starts on March 1. The clearout is bittersweet: we don’t necessarily want to go right away, but between a steady decline of visitors and the steady breakdown of essentials such as escalators, this works out well.
Anyway, for those coming out, a few notes. Firstly, for those who have been considering purchasing a larger enclosure for a while, all of those are now at Shirt Price rates for the duration of ARTwalk. In addition, for those wanting to get one but not being sure about hauling it home, park on the Alpha Road side of the mall (just look for the covered parking), and we’ll take care of the moving and loading into your vehicle. Other than that, we’ll see you on Saturday.
Current gallery status: we received the official moveout form this week for the existing space, and so has everyone else. We’re two weeks away from the last-ever ARTwalk on February 18, and while a couple of the galleries will remain at least until May, the majority of us are already getting packed and moved. After that, one last weekend before the official cutoff date of February 28 to move, and that’s it for the Triffid Ranch at the Galleries at Midtown. After that, the mall comes down bit by bit, and then it’s a matter of watching the new Midtown rise. As to all of that, we know exactly as much as everyone else, which is precious little, and the energy needed to ascertain the mall’s final death date is better spent on finding a new locale.
Future gallery status: everything is still tentative, but we think we have a new gallery space, with more than suitable parking, a more accessible location off Central Expressway, and more usable gallery area than the current one. (It isn’t until you’ve done so for a year or more that you realize how much an immovable counter island gets in the way of, well, everything.) We’ve already had a discussion on how the new location, wherever it may be, won’t have regular monthly ARTwalk-type events, but that’s mitigated by trying to get more shows in other galleries in the Dallas area. As much as we’ve loved the ARTwalks, they still meant that an entire weekend per month was pretty much shot as far as work on new enclosures was concerned, so quarterly openings makes much more sense for everybody. This way, we have more surprises when we do have an opening.
Show status: outside shows are problematic, if only because many of the previous science fiction convention venues are themselves in serious trouble. That said, expect a few announcements as to other venues over the rest of the year. It’s not surprising that the con circuit is imploding: this happens about every twenty years, and they start to come back after the ground has been fallow for a decade or so. This makes setting up a more permanent gallery more important, though, as well as attending more unorthodox shows outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Again, expect a few announcements.
Music: a particularly appropriate theme for tonight.
Posted onJanuary 26, 2017|Comments Off on The Aftermath: ARTwalk – January Green
As promised, the first ARTwalk in January was one hell of a way to start off 2017. As promised, local horticulture student Christian Cooper showed and sold his range of houseplants, to the point where he won’t show up in photos. That’s because he was so busy, from beginning to end, that I completely forgot to get pictures of him in action. As promised, his sales were matched with an equal contribution to the North Texas Food Bank, and the NTFB received a contribution of $150 the very next morning. As promised, this was going to be just the beginning for the year. As we discovered two days later, that’s absolutely true, as we received notice that all of the galleries at Valley View Center have to be vacated as of February 28, with the doors to the mall blocked off and demolition starting the very next day. It’s been a good run, and on one serious high note.
So what else happened? The first and foremost was the debut of the new commission enclosure Arellarti (2017) (shown above and in the Enclosure Gallery), an experiment in adapting standard diorama-building techniques for a decidedly hostile environment for most model materials. Not only was the client (below) absolutely ecstatic, but her assignment gave me the chance to push the edge on new materials and new techniques, which will be used in the future for upcoming enclosures. Now we just need to snag a new gallery in order to be able to do so…
As for that new gallery? The search started months ago, with getting an idea of which areas and what sort of location would be most amenable to what was needed and what would have been nice to have. For no other reason, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity given by the Galleries at Midtown and the owners of Valley View Center for the last eighteen months, because when a leasing agent asks “So…what are you looking for in a space?”, I can give succinct, useful, and well-researched answers. Now it’s just a matter of getting returned phone calls.
And for future plans. No matter where we go, the gallery will probably remain appointment-only unless something drastically changes with the financial situation, and regular public openings will probably cut back to quarterly instead of monthly. ARTwalk was a great way to be prepared for the public and keep the place from resembling a shooting set from The Red Green Show a little too much, but it effectively removed three months of weekends from the work schedule. Besides, anticipation, on all sides, is good for the soul.
Other than that? We have one last ARTwalk on February 18 (for those on Facebook, details are here, and feel free to invite as many people as you can stand), and after that, it’s time for the clearout. All completed enclosures will be marked down to Shirt Price for all, so if you’ve been wanting to buy a particular one but haven’t had the opportunity to do so, get the space at home prepped and bring a vehicle to carry it home. (We have a cart to move it, but once out in the parking lot, you’re on your own.) All of the other galleries will be having both final art sales and liquidation sales of excess displays, supplies, and whatnot, so bring money for them, too. It’s been inevitable, but the closing of Valley View is a great excuse for a party, and you’re all invited. Selah.
Comments Off on The Aftermath: ARTwalk – January Green
Another month, another Midtown ARTwalk, and we’re starting off 2017 full throttle. This weekend’s ARTwalk not only features the debut of a new commission for noted voice actor (and very dear friend) Clarine Harp, but the theme is “January Green.” This means giving a space for new voices, and the new voice this month is Christian Cooper, a senior at North Dallas High School. This ARTwalk features a charity houseplant sale and show of Christian’s work, and considering that Christian is going to be someone to watch in a few years, now’s the chance to snag some of his plants before anybody else does. The festivities start at 6:00 on January 21, and we’ll keep going until everyone else goes home. See you then.
The big buy-stuff-and-get-drunk holidays are done. At the day jobs, everyone’s starting their first full week of work, and already planning vacations to get away from co-workers without the promise of violence. The kids are back in school, which in Texas means dodging the dolts who are terrified of thunder birds swooping down and stealing their children away, so they have to park in the middle of the street at rush hour and walk their kids directly to the front door. This being Texas, the weather keeps fluctuating between “black ice on the bridges” and “you’d think it was spring if you didn’t know better.” Yes, January is here, and preferably with as little pain as necessary.
With the new year comes the regular evaluation of where the Triffid Ranch is going, because we’re not sure ourselves. To answer the incessant questions: yes, we’re still at the old Valley View Center in North Dallas. Yes, we know the mall is going to be demolished. No, we don’t know when it’s coming down, or when we’ll have to vacate the space.With the incessant TV news segments involving someone who hasn’t been to the mall in 30 years, with closeups of the shock on their faces to discover that Wicks ‘n Sticks and Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby are shut down, you’d never know we had a thriving gallery community out here. Tell some people where we’re located, and they react as if they’ll be hit with demolition charges and buried in loose bricks the moment they step inside. (I had to explain that to a niece who had to comment that “the mall is coming down” as if we’ll be caught in the destruction the next day, explaining that just because the mall will eventually be brought down, but it won’t be brought down today.) This isn’t being helped by coverage in the Dallas Morning News by the self-styled “James Lipton of Fandom,” where you have to wonder exactly how many times he had his head flushed in mall toilets during his high school days that he’d dedicate so much time and effort gloating about the mall’s demise. (As someone who also once had a career at a weekly newspaper involving writing about nothing but science fiction movies and comic books, yes, it sucks that nobody can afford to pay for that coverage any more. Get over it.)
So here’s the situation as we know it so far. Yes, Valley View Center is facing demolition. Everyone knew that going in, and we specifically knew that when we opened the gallery nearly two years ago. No, we don’t know when demolition will start: that information hasn’t been shared with us or any other gallery owner. Yes, some galleries have cleared out, but most of that was because of the hype about the demolition last summer, where patrons worried about flying bricks stopped visiting. Right now, what we know is that the AMC Valley View 16 cinema, which I’ll add is the best first-run movie theater in the Dallas area for the price, signed a new lease for at least the next six months, and demolition can’t be completed so long as the theater remains. The old Foley’s building at the southwest corner of the mall is beginning demolition, but as that space had been empty for years, this doesn’t affect anything with the main mall and won’t for a while. For the duration, until we specifically hear word otherwise, the Triffid Ranch will remain at its current location, and we’ll be continuing with events at that location until we get that final word.
On that subject, the next Midtown ARTwalk is scheduled for Saturday, January 21 from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., with this month’s theme being “January Green“. This one will be a bit different: besides premiering a new commission for famed voice actress and dear friend Clarine Harp, this show features guest horticulturalist Christian. A local high schooler, Christian first came out to the gallery last year to see Nepenthes pitcher plants in situ with his large and very enthusiastic family, and then invited me to see his collection of rescued plants. Folks, seeing Christian’s work with cuttings and plants previously rejected as being “too rough for sale” made me remember what I was like when I was 17…and makes me want to invent cheap and effective time travel to go back and kick my previous self’s lazy butt up around his shoulder blades. January Green is an exhibition and sale of Christian’s best houseplants, and all sales will be matched by the Triffid Ranch with a donation to the charity of Christian’s choice. Yes, he’s THAT good.
As for the rest of the year, the show season is going to be a bit sporadic, and only partly because of the mall situation. For those unfamiliar with the glorious fiasco that was the Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve event last month, we didn’t dodge a bullet by not attending. We dodged Slim Pickens riding the bomb. We missed this, but after last summer’s InfiniCon, combined with more and more local conventions and shows having issues with attracting attendees, it’s a matter of cutting back on outside shows and concentrating on the gallery. That said, All-Con on March 16 through 19 and Texas Frightmare Weekend on May 5 through 7 are still essential. As for the next Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show at the end of the year…if they want to put up with me, I’ll be honored to show off plants. Until then, ARTwalk is always open, and expect a special surprise involving the Dallas Arboretum in March. Details WILL follow.
Well, we’re down to the last ARTwalk of the year this Saturday, and the Triffid Ranch will be open along with the other galleries from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. OOOo or whenever we close up. Carnivorous plant enclosures, books, T-shirts…we’re all set. Combine this with an early 14th wedding anniversary celebration, and you have reason to come out and see the gallery, eh?
Posted onAugust 11, 2016|Comments Off on The Texas Triffid Ranch One-Year Anniversary
The way available discretionary time keeps disappearing, it doesn’t feel as if a year has gone by since the gallery’s soft opening last August. Apparently, other forces have other ideas, and the Midtown ARTwalk on August 20 is a perfect time to recognize this. With that in mind, the invitation goes out to everyone within range: August 20. 6:00 until 10:00 p.m., at the space. Feel free to spread the word, both to friends and local news venues. We don’t know how much longer we’re going to be at Valley View Center, but let’s make an impression while we’re here.
Comments Off on The Texas Triffid Ranch One-Year Anniversary
Posted onJuly 24, 2016|Comments Off on Manchester United Flower Show 2016
And since we’re going through archives this week, it’s about time to bring out the results of the Manchester United Flower Show presented at the Triffid Ranch gallery last April. Since our spring was a bit off, the Sarracenia blooms in particular were about a month late, but they made up in volume what they lost in tardiness. All in all, this was an extremely successful show, judging by the response of first-time ARTwalk visitors, and it’s definitely happening in 2017 no matter where the new space may be located.
Comments Off on Manchester United Flower Show 2016
Posted onJuly 15, 2016|Comments Off on Upcoming Events and Developments
Now that the word got out about the upcoming demolition of the mall, you don’t even want to see the fan. After a meeting between the mall owner and the various gallery owners, we know now that the mall will start at least some demolition by the end of the year, but the actual date where we all have to clear out is still unknown. A lot depends upon such issues as asbestos mitigation (don’t forget that the mall was constructed at a time also famous for smoking, leaded gasoline, and mercury in thermostats), so while we’re gunning for remaining at the current location until the end of the year, everything is fluid. Either way, we’ve started looking at new locations, and any recommendations of affordable locales north of LBJ Freeway would be greatly appreciated.
With that news, it’s time to look at the upcoming schedule. Updates here on the blog have taken a lesser priority to gallery maintenance, running shows, and spacehunting (a movie I wasn’t all that fond of the first time around), so let’s see if the shows will make up for it.
Firstly, with this weekend being the third of the month, it’s time for Midtown ARTwalk, which became considerably more lively once word of the mall’s impending destruction got out. Besides the premiere of several new enclosures, look at this one as a prequel to next month’s one-year anniversary. Festivities start at 6:00 on Saturday, July 16, and it only gets better from here.
After ARTwalk, it’s time to get back to shows, with the first August show in several years starting on August 5. Infinicon is a new convention, but it’s run by the same people responsible for March’s All-Con, so that’s a plus right there. We don’t know where we’re going to be located, but as soon as we get word, it gets passed on to you.
And finally, it’s official: the Texas Triffid Ranch returns to Texas Frightmare Weekend in 2017. This is problematic for one reason: this year, I packed up and shipped out nearly three times as many plants as I have for any other convention or show, and only had a handful left when the show ended that weekend. I may have to bypass buying the van I need for shows and just move directly to a 12-foot truck. (As if I’m complaining about this.) Gallery obligations have been in the way of posting photos from the last several shows, but when they’re finally available, you’ll understand why even the 12-footer may not be enough.
And that’s it for now: see you at ARTwalk, and let’s make plans for August.
Posted onJune 24, 2016|Comments Off on “It’s the beginning of the end, nothing lasts forever…”
The last nearly twelve months of work on the Triffid Ranch gallery have been among the most productive and successful months of my entire life. Besides having the opportunity to work on larger enclosures than what was practical or sane to bring out to Triffid Ranch shows and lectures, it helped buffer the massive leap between a home-based business and one that might actually grow into a full-time retail establishment. I’ve met an incredible number of wonderful people, heard a lot of fascinating commentary, and managed to juggle full-time employment and gallery fun with only a few regrets that nobody has discovered the 87-hour day. The only other regret is that this stage ends in another six months.
Upon moving in, every artist at the Galleries at Midtown knew that this was a great but ephemeral opportunity. We knew from the beginning that the once-great Valley View Center, which had survived innumerable threats from other shopping venues only to succumb to the power of the smartphone, was going to be demolished and replaced with an outdoor mall arrangement. We knew from the beginning that we’d best make hay while we had the chance, because the combination of central location and inexpensive rent would end once the next stage started. We knew all this, and yet it’s still hard to get over how the current gallery residents will be the last people in Valley View Center as the lights go out and the demolition crews come in. Gee, it’s as if life imitates art:
Well, we got the word last week, but the official notice came out today: the city of Dallas approved the new plan for the mall redevelopment, so everything has to be turned off by December 31 as part of the deal. We’ve been told by the owner that they’re seeking an interim location for the galleries until the new MidTown is complete, and that gallery and workshop space is going to be part of the draw for MidTown, but that’s at least three years away. In the interim, the Triffid Ranch is moving.
Where we’re moving is a good question: a lot depends upon location, rent, and available parking. “When” is a good question as well: we’re going to stick it out in the current location for as long as we can, knowing that when the Christmas season ends, we’re leaving whether we like it or not. In the interim, work continues at the space, we’ll continue to prepare for shows and events, and ARTwalk, obviously, continues all through the remaining time here. In particular, stick around for the one-year anniversary party on August 20 (this doubles as Caroline’s birthday party, so grab cake and barbecue while you’re here), and let’s celebrate what we have while we still have it.
When we moved in, we figured realistically that we’d have a year in the space before the demolition started, and we hoped for two years. 18 months is a good compromise. Now let’s see where we go from here.
Comments Off on “It’s the beginning of the end, nothing lasts forever…”
Posted onJune 9, 2016|Comments Off on T-shirt Extravaganza From Larry Carey Art
Last week, I mentioned that big news was coming from Larry Carey Art, so here’s the situation. For the last several years, quite a few people expressed interest in T-shirts and other items featuring Larry’s very distinctive Triffid Ranch poster (seen above), but the logistics got in the way. Table space at Triffid Ranch shows reserved for T-shirts took away table space for plants, and a previous T-shirt printing didn’t work out anywhere near as well as hoped. Sadly, while the concept of the shirts received a lot of notice and attention, the follow-through was a little lacking. Understandable, really: with so many online distractions, it’s hard to remember “Hey, I really want to get that T-shirt” if it can’t be a quick, boom-boom-boom instant transaction.
Well, guess who now has shirts available via quick, boom-boom-boom instant transaction?
Now, you may think “Okay, so my purchase of a T-shirt is one more step toward respect for a truly unique artist, but what does this do for ME?” That’s a really good question. See, that T=shirt isn’t just a T-shirt. Wear that shirt to an ARTwalk event starting in July, or any Triffid Ranch show, and wearing that shirt offers perks not available to mere mortals. Among other things, larger enclosures will come with both the standard price and the shirt price, with the shirt price being between 10 and 25 percent off. This also includes getting free items, ranging from plants to books, just by showing up wearing a shirt. The deal, though, is that you have to be wearing it to get the benefits: just like a machete or a wad of $100 bills, that shirt does you no good if it’s stuck in the back of a dresser drawer. When you do, though, the benefits keep coming for the life of the shirt or the life of the Triffid Ranch. If the arms fall off and the panel becomes a patch on a jacket, it’s still valid, so long as it’s wearable.
Anyway, the next big opportunity to use your powers comes with the July ARTwalk on July 15, with the big InfiniCon show three weeks later, so get in that order now. You’re not only helping out an artist whom I’ve admired for the last decade, but you’re also helping yourself. Now back to the music.
Comments Off on T-shirt Extravaganza From Larry Carey Art
Just as a friendly reminder, the December Midtown ArtWalk is scheduled for the 19th, and we have reason to celebrate. The soft opening for the Triffid Ranch space occurred right between the Czarina’s and my birthdays, so we brought out separate birthday cakes that pretty much summed upour relationship. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Anyway, this month’s ArtWalk is special for one particular reason: at the end of the month, we celebrate 13 years of wedded bliss, so it’s time for a party. You can imagine my disappointment at discovering that the theme for a thirteenth anniversary isn’t tacos, so this is one tradition that changes on December 19. Come out for the carnivorous plants and the jewelry, and stay to place bets on whether we’ll survive to see 14.
Comments Off on Reminder: December Midtown ArtWalk
Well, it’s been a little while: between work at the Day Job and work at the space, updating the blog has fallen in priority. However, with a camera just full of imagery, it’s time to get back to it. Since last month’s Black Friday show was a complete loss (and I give nobody any grief about this, considering that the Dallas area was hit with one of its biggest November rainstorms ever, the whole weekend long), how about photos from the October ArtWalk?
It’s been a while since the last update, what with just-finished shows and other events. Let’s rectify that, shall we? After all, Midtown Artwalk is a little over a week away, and Black Friday is two weeks from now…
Well. September already, and everything is starting to gel. Lots of new developments with the Triffid Ranch, and all of them good. Now if I could invent the 47-hour day or remove the need for sleep, things will be spiffy.
Firstly, some may have noticed the new logo, courtesy of Gallantry Web Design. This whole summer has been nothing but change, and the logo sums it all up. The next plan is to update the rest of this site: things have been quiet here for far too long.
Now to developments. The first of these involves the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science in downtown Dallas, and its First Thursday Late Night events on the first Thursday of every month. This month, the subject is “Botanicals,” which entails a lecture by yours truly in the lower auditorium. Any excuse to get out to the Perot after normal hours is a good one, and you can either come to listen to me yammering away, or come out for the screening of the equally grim and gritty Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Either way, admission to the special events is free with a regular museum admission, so use this as a opportunity to see the rest of the museum without worrying about fighting the traffic while heading home.
Otherwise, the real news is that, after two months, the space at Midtown (formerly Valley View Mall) is nearly ready, with an official opening on September 19 to coincide with September’s ArtWalk. After that, the new space is open every third Saturday, from 6 until 10, and otherwise open by appointment. More details will follow closer to the opening, but one of the big upshots is that this allows the opportunity to produce enclosures and containers too big and bulky to bring out to individual weekend shows, as well as carrying carnivores too esoteric or too specialized for beginning enthusiasts.
This isn’t to say that the shows are stopping, though. Plans for a return to regular show tours fell apart due to several potential shows collapsing, but the following three are absolutes:
Funky Finds Holiday Shopping Experience in Fort Worth: It’s been a very long time since the Triffid Ranch last traveled to Fort Worth, and it’s about time to return to the Funky Finds show the weekend of November 7. Expect a lot of new species, a lot of new enclosures, and a general experience unlike anything else you’ve ever seen at a handmade craft show. It’s good to be back.
All-Con in Dallas: After skipping out on the 2015 show due to scheduling issues, there’s nothing quite like coming out of winter blues in March 2016 with four days of carnivores at All-Con, now at a much superior and more central location. This show starts right about the time temperate carnivores start emerging from winter dormancy, so it’s just as much about the new blooms as it is about the rest of the plants. In addition, with the new workspace, expect to see a lot of things that simply haven’t been possible to bring out in previous years. John Belushi was right: March 2016 will come in like a lion, and go out like a salt marsh harvest mouse.
Texas Frightmare Weekend in Irving: Once again, this is the big one. Texas Frightmare Weekend is the show to which all others in the Dallas area should be judged, and all of the surprises from previous years will be eclipsed by the arrangements and enclosures planned for the May show. Get your tickets now, as they sell out incredibly fast these days, and keep an eye open for special Triffid Ranch promotions only seen at Frightmare.
And as one final extra, the plan is extremely tentative, but 2016 may be the year that the Triffid Ranch escapes Texas, at least for one weekend. The idea is to haul everything the weekend of August 17 to Kansas City, Missouri for MidAmeriCon II, the 74th annual WorldCon. Again, that’s the idea: while Kansas City is about an eight-hour drive from Dallas, we also have the logistics of interstate plant certifications and dealing with KC’s not inconsiderable summer heat. If it works out, though, look for the distinctive logo above in KC, and with luck, this may be the first of many traveling shows outside of Texas. We hope.
Comments Off on Future events and current developments
To steal blatantly from Harlan Ellison, we’ll start at the middle, and then go back to the beginning. The end will take care of itself.
Nearly six weeks after signing the lease and starting to move in, the new Triffid Ranch space is nearly ready. The official launch date is September 19, 2015, to coincide with the September ArtWalk. It’s not a standard retail space: it’s a gallery, open by appointment only, but also a workspace in order to get new arrangements and new plants ready for new shows. That said, the real fun should be starting in October, once the heat breaks, the days get shorter, and the air in Dallas no longer smells like burning flint. Enter the mall and head for the octopus mural, take the escalator downstairs, and we’re right at the bottom.
A lot has changed with the Triffid Ranch since that first show in the fall of 2008, and much of it involves economics of scale. As the shows increased in popularity and people started coming out specifically to see what plants were available, the need to expand became obvious. For all of the assumptions that the Ranch was specifically that, particularly with the number of people calling at ungodly hours because “I’m coming through Dallas at 3 in the morning, so I wanted to come by then to see your plants,” it’s always been a home-run business since the beginning. Sarracenia in the back yard, Drosera and Stylidium in the greenhouse, and Nepenthes and Cephalotus on shelves inside the house so our horrendous summer heat and dryness didn’t wilt them within minutes.
This worked for a while, and we kept expanding, but rapidly the Triffid Ranch ran into the same snag as any other home-founded business. Namely, houses aren’t conducive toward running horticulture-based businesses. We needed room, a lot of room, to expand past one or two shows per year. We needed room to construct larger enclosures than the little jars that were the stalwarts of small shows. We needed room to exhibit those larger enclosures, because while attendees would thrill to seeing Nepenthes arrangements where the plants were at a decent size, nobody had the interest in taking them home. Honestly, that’s understandable: considering the number of international guests at Texas Frightmare Weekend, it’s hard enough bringing home a one-gallon plastic arrangement on the plane, but a converted 30-gallon hexagon tank with a plant big enough to eat small children and puppies? Naah.
Another factor that kicked in was that the show schedule was having issues. Covering expenses meant continuing to work a day job, and recent changes in that day job precluded my taking a week off to prepare, attend, and break down from big shows out of the Dallas area. In and out of Dallas, the old show regimen was changing, too. Every twenty years, we see a regular crash on local conventions: they start out feisty and hungry at the beginning of a recession, and the attendees really get into the festivities as a way to forget their aggravations and fears for at least one weekend. This lasts until the economy starts to improve, the curiosity-seekers move on, and the regulars realize that their own day jobs, families, and financial obligations are getting in the way. This usually gets aggravated by the number of shysters and incompetents who hear Some Guy stories about how science fiction and media conventions are a perfect way to print their own money, fail in a spectacular fashion, and thus poison the well for everyone else. Shortly after leaving the 2014 hiatus with Texas Frightmare Weekend, two shows for which I was scheduled blew up in a rather spectacular fashion, with fellow vendors bringing up the words “class action lawsuit” when they weren’t bringing up “put the organizer into a parking lot, put a gasoline-filled tire around his neck, and set him on fire.” Considering the number of touring vendors for whom cancellations don’t just mean a missing paycheck but a whole missing week of expenses between shows, I figured that it was about time to look for other venues. The Triffid Ranch isn’t quitting conventions and trade shows: there’s no way that I’d miss out on Frightmare or next year’s All-Con, as well as this November’s Funky Finds Holiday Experience in Fort Worth. It’s just that fewer and fewer vendors can risk the first-year shows that might be great, or might be the next Fed-Con USA.
And then the Texas summer intruded. In the last five years, we lost two beautiful old silverleaf maples that worked very well at shading the main growing areas all summer. Then our neighbor had no choice but to take out two equally majestic elms that shaded the whole of the house from the afternoon sun, and afternoon sun in Texas can be a killer. Both trees had such a wood-borer beetle infestation that they would have come down atop the house had they remained, so I didn’t blame him in the slightest, but their removal meant that a prime grow room became a prime bread oven by about three in the afternoon. Fans, extra air conditioners, improved circulation: nothing changed the fact that the plants kept indoors were overheating, and I lost several much-beloved Nepenthes cultivars in the early summer from heat exhaustion. It was time to move.
That’s where things get entertaining. Taking over and converting one of Dallas’s many light industrial spaces was always an option, except to clients who might have issue with coming out to an otherwise empty industrial park a few hours after dark. Standard retail space usually comes with the requirement of having to be open for business during standard business hours, which gets in the way of the Day Job necessary to finance the expansion for its first year or so. The best option would be a gallery of some sort, except most of Dallas’s gallery space is now renting for absolutely insane prices, and moving enough plants to pay the rent just simply wouldn’t be possible.
Please note that I said “most of Dallas’s gallery space.” This is important.
When it first opened 42 years ago, North Dallas’s Valley View Mall was one of the first indoor shopping malls in the area, and it definitely wasn’t its last. It survived multiple threats of shutdown and demolition that took out the neighboring Prestonwood and Richardson Square Malls, and it seemed to be making a comeback around 2005 with the addition of whole new third floor, with a brand new AMC movie theater taking up that floor. Then the original owners, leveraged up to their eyeballs, disappeared and defaulted on their various loans, and the city of Dallas found itself owning a very large shopping mall, in what would be a prime area once expansion of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Freeway was complete. Until that work on LBJ was done, though, the mall still had to be maintained for the theater. Anchor stores JCPenney and Foley’s moved out or went under, leaving only the Sears at one end. In between, business slowly trickled away, and the stores followed. By 2010, the mall was pretty much dead.
The good news was that a new owner came in, with a new idea. The plan was to demolish the Valley View Mall and replace it with a huge facility called Midtown, which included a new theater, apartments, shops, and even a park that ran through the middle of it. That work would have started shortly after the mall’s purchase, but the Great Recession intruded. The mall couldn’t just be taken down: several long-running tenants weren’t leaving just yet, AMC wanted a new theater before it allowed its very successful existing one to come crashing down, and the Sears was fully owned by its parent company. Since the big theater expansion, the demand for shopping mall space crashed as companies such as Gadzooks and Waldenbooks died off and others cut back on mall presence. With the decreased traffic due to the LBJ expansion and new malls going up in the far northern suburbs, Valley View was seen as an anachronism, but its demolition couldn’t happen until the stars were right. So what to do?
That’s where the owners came up with brilliance. The mall itself had to remain open: that was the only way to access the movie theater. That meant rooftop maintenance to prevent leaks, keeping air conditioning going, a facilities crew to sweep floors and keep the electricity connected, and all of the other factors necessary to keep this 1970s-era artifact going. The solution: what about converting the empty shops into art galleries?
When I first heard the idea behind the Gallery at Midtown, this coincided with its regular ArtWalk exhibition on the third Saturday of each month. Every third Saturday, the galleries open their doors from 6 to 10 in the evening to the general public, and the festivities include live music, food, and all sorts of other amenities. What really surprised me about this was the general vibe. Dallas gets a reputation for being unfriendly to the arts, and some of that reputation is justified: we locals learned back in the Eighties to be very quiet about new venues, because as soon as word got out, the area would be overrun with speculators famed for letting tenants do all of the work on a space and then kicking them out because some yuppie made vague noises about paying three times the rent. Here, that’s not a concern, and it shows.
Now here’s the kicker. The new space means a significantly enlarged workspace in a very central location, accessible from almost anywhere in north Texas. The rent is reasonable, the neighbors are wonderful, and those looking for new gallery space should check on it now. We’re also working against the clock. Sooner or later, depending upon when the next stage on Midtown starts, the mall is coming down, and everyone in it will have to relocate. That could happen by the end of the year, and it could happen two years from now. We don’t know, and neither does anybody else. In the meantime, this was a perfect opportunity to expand, we get at least one equivalent of a show every month without having to get trucks, carts, and extension cords, and the people who want to come by “to see the plants” can come up to the front window and look to their hearts’ content. Things may change. Things may change very rapidly. The plan, though, is to give this as much of a chance as we can, and see what next year brings. Here’s to seeing all of you next September 19.