Tag Archives: gallery closing

State of the Gallery: January 2023

Back when this little experiment in Dallas art started in its old location in 2015, I told myself and others “If it lasts 18 months, I’ll be thrilled.” The fact that the Triffid Ranch lasted five times that, in an area and market where most galleries of any sort are lucky to last a year, is a testament to the residents, visitors, and unindicted coconspirators of the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area wanting something a bit weirder, and I thank you all.

The problem with every party, of course, is that eventually the party has to end. Hence, it’s time to turn on the lights, send everyone home with leftovers, and sweep up. 7 1/2 years is a great run, but now it’s time to get out the pushbrooms. January 28 is the date for the last official Triffid Ranch open house, and I’m currently clearing out the extra inventory, both plants and containers, in order to go out in style.

Now, some of you may have questions as to “why,” and in this case, here’s a handy guide to explain what’s going on. Anyone with further questions is welcome to come out to this weekend’s open house to ask more: it’s not as if I’m going anywhere that day.

Why is the Triffid Ranch shutting down?

Over the last two years, the Triffid Ranch became more and more self-sufficient, but it was never a venue that that did more than come a little ahead of even. When the lease was up for renewal in February, the new owners included a one-third rent increase, a significant new deposit, and demands for additional insurance, and the increased costs of new plants, containers, and show expenses added to it. The gallery could have muddled through for another two years, but with the very real risk in this area of the industrial park being demolished, scraped, and turned into apartment buildings. Two medical parks on either side have already been stripped to the soil line in preparation for development, and the costs of a move later, particularly with only 30 to 60 days’ notice, just made shutting down a saner idea.

Are you still going to do shows and events?

As much as I would like to keep going, the shows are ending as well. I love the organizers of several shows much more than I do any living member of my biological family, and I will gladly move heaven and earth to help them in any way possible. A lot of those big shows were really only possible with the gallery as a base of operations, though, and so if you see me at Texas Frightmare Weekend or the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, it’ll only be as a spectator.

Another factor with this decision to stop doing Triffid Ranch shows has nothing to do with them, but with the current increase in events and shows elsewhere. Thanks to scheduling issues, were I to continue, three of my biggest shows, ones that normally take about a month of preparation, are now within a week to two weeks of each other, with the very good likelihood that one particularly successful show could leave one or two with nothing left, and I won’t do that to either the show staffs or attendees. It’s not their fault or anybody’s fault: it’s just that other organizations and groups want the same facilities at the old times, and my blessing and curse was having something really unique that could be shown at a wide range of events. In 2023, that came back to bite me in the face.

(I will say, though, that one thing I won’t miss about shows is a particular type of participant that became especially common in 2022 shows. This is the person who saw the plants from way off, shoved people out of the way to get to the booth, shoved others out of the way to get right up next to the plants, looked down at them, and told me, repeatedly, “I can’t keep plants alive! Every plant I ever get DIES!” This isn’t the person who can’t figure out what’s happening with their Venus flytrap or jade plant and asks for advice: this type is almost proud that they’ve made no concessions for plant care or efforts in learning more. After the show last year that broke me, I wanted to start yelling back “Do you walk into pet shops and brag ‘I can’t keep a dog alive! Every dog I get dies!’? Worse, do you do that in maternity wards and nursing homes?” They’re almost as annoying and soul-killing as the people demanding that I bring plants out to Texas Master Gardener events, and lower than that I can’t get.)

What about the plants that don’t sell at the last open house?

After the open house, it’ll be time to break everything down and have a liquidation sale. Keep an eye on the Web site for details. Plants, shelving units, decorations, supplies, remaining glassware, and show gear: it’s all going. Anybody need a 10×10 tent and weights for outdoor shows? I won’t need it any more.

As for the outdoor plants currently in winter dormancy, plans are already underway to find them homes as well. I have an idea for a really fun gathering to say goodbye for good, and I’m just waiting for word in order to start with plans.

Will you restart the Triffid Ranch at a later time?

THAT is a really good question. The current plan right now is that if I do, it’s after going back to school for a serious regimen of art and museum design courses, including a lot of set design. If the Triffid Ranch comes back, with some financial miracle letting it happen, it’ll only be after getting the skills necessary to bring it to a whole new level, and that’s going to take a little while.

What will you do now?

You know, that’s a really good question. Several big projects eating at my brain have had to sit for years because the gallery and the day job took so much time, and one is practically extruding from my ear like brain toothpaste. Let’s just say that if you liked the backstories on the enclosures, you might get some further elaboration on the mysteries hinted at with those. I turn 57 with my next birthday on February 30, though, so I have to get going while I still have time.

The Aftermath: The Penultimate Triffid Ranch Open House

And then there was one left. After years and years of wondering “are people not showing up to open houses because they don’t know about the open house or the existence of the gallery?”, I got the answer. Quite a few longtimers came out on January 21, including several friends from Texas Frightmare Weekend, but a lot of folks came out who had only heard about the Triffid Ranch from friends that weekend, and wanted to see everything before the gallery closed. They were all very much appreciated, and my only regret with everybody is that they won’t be able to come out in the future.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about the Triffid Ranch’s run was that there was no telling who was going to come through the door and what questions they were going to ask. I loved letting visitors know, when they would start with “This may sound like a dumb question, but…” that not only were they NOT asking dumb carnivorous plant questions, but they were asking questions that I had asked when I first started twenty years ago. Better, many, and I let them know this, were asking questions that had been bouncing around since the acknowledgement that these plants could attract, capture, and digest insect and other animal prey, and sometimes I had answers that only became available in the latest research. You ever see someone’s face when they asked about pitcher plant digestive fluids or Venus flytrap stimulation when told “If you’d come in a week ago, I wouldn’t have had an answer, but there was this great paper in Nature last Tuesday…” That’s something I’m going to miss.

And that’s nearly it. If you want to see the gallery in its current reasonably complete form, the last-ever Triffid Ranch open house opens at noon on January 28, and the doors closing at 6:00 pm or whenever everyone clears out. After that, it’s a matter of liquidating what’s left before moving out forever on February 28, so get out Saturday or ask someone else to get photos and video. You won’t want to miss this.

January 2023 Plans

“Welcome back to 2023. Please do not leave your seat until the chronohopper has completed all temporal motion and the time-anchors engage, unless you like losing your last four lunches and your last three haircuts. Please surrender all contraband before leaving the vehicle: we already know what you brought on board before you knew it, and we’re only really checking for honesty. If traveling from more than 10,000 years post-present, surrender all animal and plant specimens as well, as they’re likely to go invasive if/when you get bored and let them outside. Due to chrono-stabilization, you may feel a tingling in your extremities for more than 24 hours. If you find you can pass your hand or foot through solid objects, contact your doctor immediately. On behalf of Brothern Timelines, we thank you for choosing us, and we will contact you with your itinerary and reservations before you decide to make a future trip. Until then, please keep the paradoxes small and humorous.”

Oh, You came back. I guess the gorgonopsids out front didn’t discourage you. Well, come on in, and try to stay on the plastic runners. You have no idea how badly gorgonopsid saliva stains everything.

New month in a new year, and it’s time to make a few announcements. Last month, the idea of a Lunar New Year open house was floated as running around January 28, and it’s been expanded. This month, expect open houses on Saturdays January 14, 21, and 28: the gallery and house cleanup after January 1 turned out to be more productive than expected. It’s much of the same schedule: noon until 5:00 pm on January 14, noon until 6:00 pm on the 21st and 28th. (The January 14 event ends early in an effort to send visitors and interested bystanders to the BBBevCo Dry January Pop-Up, run by two longtime Triffid Ranch boosters and for those of us in desperate need of a venue in which to socialize without being pushed into blackout drinking.) Otherwise, they’re all the same: admission is free, enclosures are for sale, and children are welcome.

Secondly, if you haven’t been out to the gallery before now, make plans to do so by January 28, because barring a financial miracle, this will be the last-ever Triffid Ranch event in the gallery’s current form. The current lease expires at the end of February, and the new lease offer has so much of a jump in rent, deposit, and insurance (a situation faced also by Dallas stalwarts the Green Room and Fish & Fizz) that it honestly makes more fiscal sense to shut everything down for the duration. After January 28, all remaining enclosures, plants, and equipment are going to be sold off in mid-February, which still gives a month to clean the place out, get it ready to be empty for the next few years, and move on. What’s going to happen next is anybody’s guess, and the Triffid Ranch may come back in a different form in a few years. Right now, though, it’s time to take everything down, close up, and take a very long rest. If you can’t make it, thank you very much for 7 1/2 years of Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, and you’ll love what happens next.

Last Views: The Old Space – 3

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A little tip to beginning gallery owners: unless you own the building, don’t get too comfortable. Even if everyone involved swears up and down that tenants get 60 days’ notice before they have to vacate the premises, that promise is generally worth the paper it’s written on when the owner decides otherwise. I say this not out of bitterness but as a friendly warning: For those not already prepared, 30 days to find a new space, take care of occupancy permits and fire inspections, get the keys, and move everything is problematic even if everything works perfectly. Here in Dallas, where often the only way to get a retail leasing agent to return phone calls is to call the CEO of his company and ask if he’s unavailable because he’s hurt himself from masturbating all day, 30 days just simply enough. It’s possible, barely, but it requires starting packing and searching pretty much the moment the notice came through. We were lucky: as we were leaving the day before everyone had to be gone, we had neighbors who were just starting to look because they’d assumed that this notice would be the same false alarm as it had been for the previous five years. As we pulled the last items out of our space, others were openly wondering what they were going to do, and you do NOT want to be in that position when the doors are being boarded up and the demolition crews start rolling in.moveout_02272017_2

After eighteen months, it was strange to realize that we were the last-ever tenants in a particular venue, especially since that venue had been around for almost as long as we had been alive. We moved out on the last weekend of February thanks to the Herculean efforts of friends and cohorts who didn’t need to waste a weekend helping to pack and lug multiple truckloads of detritus, and when it was done, the place was strangely smaller for being empty. The only echoes of past tenants were little touches of urban archaeology: the number for Mall Security on a piece of masking tape (with no area code because most of the area was under only one area code until 1997) on the front counter, the tags for long-removed paintings from the previous gallery, and the strange assemblage of clothes displays from the next-door Foot Locker, apparently scavenged after a rebranding, in a Home Depot box over the fire escape door. The move wasn’t something we’d planned, but it was done, and now it was time to leave with a bit of dignity and grace. Trying to stay only would have made the memories sour.

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And in the end, that was it. The last truck was loaded, and we waited for the sole security guard to inspect the space, ensure that we weren’t trying to prise fixtures out of the ceiling, and sign the all-clear on what was called the “sweep-out form.” We handed over our keys and turned off the circuit breakers in the back for the last time, and the guard rolled down the gate. 20 months since we first viewed the space and contemplated moving the Triffid Ranch to a semipermanent location, it was all over. We no longer had any connection to the mall, and with the impending demolition, we knew we’d never see it again. And so it goes.moveout_02272017_5

Last Views: The Old Space – 2

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One of the aspects of a gallery setup and expansion that nobody considers, until they have to do it, is working with the space as is available. The old Triffid Ranch space was apparently used since its construction as a men’s clothing store, so it had all sorts of vagaries that you’d never find in other locales. A lack of electrical outlets, for instance: in the main space, we had a couple in the main register island permanently affixed to the west side of the room, two along the back wall, and two on each side of the front gate. Of course, those ones by the front gate were on the ceiling in order the power the ridiculous halogen lighting so popular in the 1980s for store displays. This meant that extension cords were our friends, and we were incredibly happy to live in a future where compact fluorescent and LED lighting took a significant load off the electrical system while still supplying enough light for the plants. Getting the cords to the lights, though…that was fun.oldspace_01232017_8

One of the problems with working in a mall after hours is the ridiculous quiet. With the exception of the occasional security guard doing his rounds, most nights were accompanied acoustically only by tintinitis unless you brought sonic or visual stimulation. Hence, because the big register island couldn’t be moved, and Square point-of-sale apps made having a distinct register area as quaint as daily milk delivery, it became the de facto worktable. Also, since the mall was built at a time when wifi and cell phone reception were science fiction but tornadoes weren’t, phone reception cut out about three meters from the front gate and radio reception of most sorts after about five. Combine that with a mall wifi installed around 2005 that wasn’t going to be expanded or updated, said entertainment consisted of lots and lots of DVDs and a rather old flatscreen that got the job done. This even expanded into formal events such as the ARTwalks: considering the outside crowds coming to the mall during its final months, it might have made more sense to turn our openings into Babylon 5 viewing parties, because everyone was glued to episodes playing in the background.oldspace_01232017_9

Because the space was intended to be work area and showroom, we at least tried to separate the two with curtains, but naturally that meant that everyone wanted to see what was in the back. Those same people strangely had issues with workspaces that had everything I needed, combined with a “Hunter S. Thompson crashing in your living room for a month” vibe that should have said “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Silly me: that was just encouragement, because this was where the magic happened.oldspace_01232017_10And then there was the actual back growing area, intended for plants that weren’t ready for general dissemination. The spacescape painted over the entire area was there when we moved in, a legacy of the art gallery that had been there until early 2015. Combine that with the reflective film on the growing racks to reflect light back onto the plants, and it was as if the1980s never ended.

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Finally, one of the biggest challenges was letting new visitors know where the space was located. By the time we moved in, the mall’s owner had no intention of updating the various “You Are Here” maps throughout the mall, but he had no problem with our putting up signs to steer customers. This was when we learned the extent to which most Americans have learned to block out advertising as a matter of mental survival. Multiple signs on the upper and lower levels, the big Styrofoam pillar covered with posters and fitted with postcard holders, and an extensive online presence that included maps, and wise still got calls asking “So where are you? I’ve been looking for you in the mall for an hour!” And so it goes.

Last Views: The Old Space – 1

Now that the new gallery is getting to the point where it isn’t a horrible post–apocalyptic accumulation of dead tech and cultural detritus, it may be time for a few last looks at the old. When we got word that most of the remaining tenants at Valley View Center had to move, we’d finally managed to beat our space into something approximating a real gallery. One whole wall covered in shelving, separate aisles set up and clear, and ready visibility of both finished plant enclosures and in-progress projects to anybody who came in. Naturally, getting everything under control meant that it was time to move, but at least we’d worked out most of the logistics issues by the time it happened. Oh, and what a space it was.

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In addition to the plants, the old gallery was the home of Tawanda Jewelry, and it became a vital meeting locale for new and longtime clients. Just as with shows and events, it made sense: why couldn’t you mix plants and carnivorous plants in the same space?oldspace_01232017_5oldspace_01232017_6

And there it ended, right after our January ARTwalk. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely getting there, and it gave us plenty of experience with setting up a more permanent gallery. And so it goes.

The End of the Old…

As of last Monday, the old Triffid Ranch space is back to where it was when we moved in. Well, maybe a lot cleaner, with fewer burst sweet and sour sauce packets in the counter drawers and about $1.35 less in pennies all over the floor of the back room. (Seriously, the way bad pennies kept turning up, I started having dreams that they bred like cockroaches.) The space will never see another tenant, as the fixture recycling and dismantling started March 1 in preparation for Valley View Center’s eventual demolition. However, we were there to see it off, and we were the last to see it as a retail space.What happens  next is up to the property owners, but at least we had the time we had. Selah. 

Have A Great Weekend

Well, we’re at the end of the time at the Galleries at Midtown space. 18 months ago, we opened with wide eyes and no idea of what the future would bring. By February 28, most of the art galleries will be moved out, the last of the stores on the lower level vacated, and the inevitable demolition started. Valley View Center will be replaced with a new collection of apartments, office buildings, and retail space, but without ARTwalks, without random passersby, and without a lot of strange memories. Valley View deserves a final sendoff, but the move this weekend takes precedence. The new gallery awaits, and with it come new schemes and new stories, all of which wouldn’t have been possible if not for the last year and a half out here. And so it goes.

Have a Great Weekend

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.

The Last ARTwalk

We’ve been waiting for word, and dreading the word, and now receiving the word: today, we received notice from the owners of Valley View Center that the Triffid Ranch lease expires on February 28. From the beginning, we knew that the wonderful chance we had would be limited: I told people from the start that if we had 18 months here, I’d be absolutely thrilled. Well, word came 18 months after we signed the lease, and we’ll be moving out (leaving it “broom-ready,” as the parlance has it) a week over 18 months after our opening.  And so it goes. 

Not that this ends the saga of the Triffid Ranch: we’re still committed to shows in March and May, and we’ve been searching for a similar space for about a year to restart the gallery. However, the crew at both the Galleries at Midtown (particularly Carmen Kelley, who has had an incredible amount of patience with such an unorthodox space as ours) and the Valley View staff have become family, and we’re truly going to miss them when we leave. I’m going to miss people peeking in after-hours, when I’m frantically working on enclosures and they’re wandering back to the parking lot after catching a late-night movie. Oh, and I’m going to miss the great people who came out and supported us at ARTwalks, or came inside and asked interesting questions, or even just exclaimed outside “Carnivorous plants? COOL!” All of you made it worthwhile. 

And just because we’re moving doesn’t mean that we’re not open. We’re still having our ARTwalk event for February 18, now ominously titled “The Last ARTwalk,” and we’re inviting past, present, and future visitors to come out to gaze upon the space one last time. As an added incentive, Shirt Price will apply to everyone on that Saturday, so if you’ve been itching to get a particular enclosure but wasn’t sure about having a space to put it, get that space set up NOW

In the interim, the real work starts up. Packing and sorting begins this week, interspersed with checking with realtors who were just waiting for the word to move forward. I have no idea what’s going to happen between now and the end of 2017, but the universe definitely chucked us into the deep end of the pool. Now watch us swim.