2014 may be one of the most exciting years for independent art and music in Dallas right now.
Six panelists met at the UTD Arts Residency CentralTrak in Dallas near Fair Park on August 14 to discuss the Dallas music scene and its growth over the past few years. The panel focused on the DIY, or Do It Yourself, ethos that drives many local artists in their work.
Writer and curator Lee Escobedo is a major figure in the Dallas music community, led the panel, emphasized the scope and quantity of local talent.
“The Dallas music scene – and especially the DIY scene – is on point right now and virtually exploding,” Escobedo said.
He refers to the independent artists that are free or limited from commercial influence.
The other panelists were Chris Cole, Lily Taylor, Arthur Pena, Natalie Jean Vaughan, and Simon Phoenix. Each one is involved in booking concerts, curating art shows, and performing in Dallas.
Escobedo kicked off the discussion with a simple question: “What does DIY mean to you?”
The panelists’ responses varied as the artists voiced the perspective on what drives them to work as independent artists.
Cole a radio personality on local radio station K104 and also performs under the stage name A.V. the Great gave the first response.
“DIY to me is recognizing, it’s imagination, no compromise,” said Cole. “It’s the thought of automatically saying ‘Let’s do this!’ and you don’t have to ask for someone’s permission, that freedom.
For the other panelists, DIY means following a tradition of working independently, staying focused on honing their craft and identity politics.
“DIY, especially in the art sense is a reaction to capitalism and commerce and for all this, it’s figuring out how to make it work,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan is CEO of Two Bronze Doors, an art gallery, music venue and living space in Dallas located near Lower Greenville.
The panelists also discussed differences between the music scenes in Dallas compared to scenes in other cities.
Pena, who spent time in Chicago, said that there was a major distinction between the business model often seen in mainstream local art galleries and the organic qualities he’d seen elsewhere.
Pena currently runs Vice Palace, a warehouse music venue and art space in the Trinity Grove neighborhood of Dallas.
“[The Chicago music scene] was very much coming to it through the scope of art, first of all,” he said. “It’s not through business, not through promotion, not through ‘How am I going to get this out there and sell this?’”
Taylor, a performance artist and musician who lived in other parts of the country and recently moved back to the Dallas area, found a huge change in the way the music scene has grown since she lived here before.
After the discussion, Taylor did a performance of her music and visual art for the audience.
“At my shows, there’s like an excitement,” she said. “When I was living here in the 90’s, I never experienced that.”
The panelists also gave advice to younger artists on how to work independently.Phoenix, a poet, DJ and radio personality for Deep Ellum On Air spoke about the importance of being prepared for a performance and rehearsing.
“They’ll finally get a show and they’re so excited about the show but they’ll completely forget about the live aspect of their performance,” he said. “You have to do sound check, you have to rehearse.”