Colin Winnette Interview With the NT Daily Newspaper
-What is your title regarding the Tex Gallery?
Ha ha. Well. I suppose that depends on who you’re talking to. I’ve been so bold as to call myself co-manager/co-curator of the gallery and co-coordinator of special events, as well as co-editor/designer of the Tex Gallery Review. But, I think most of us could put the prefix co- before just about any position imaginable and there would be some truth to it. We all work our asses off to get everything done.
-How long have you been apart of the Tex Gallery?
Since it’s inception, really. I think it started out as a joke. I remember laughing and sort of looking around as we all realized, no, wait, that may actually be a good idea.
-Did you attend or are you attending UNT? If so please let me know your major and classification?
I studied in the graduate English department Corey Marks and Ann McCutchan. I was non-degree, though. I’m currently enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
-Could you please tell me the history of the Tex Gallery? In other words, when did it open? The events that have happened? Etc.
Tex Gallery started out about 10 months ago. The first event wasn’t at what is now Tex Gallery. It was at our friend Sam Cook’s house. I think we actually called the thing, A Night at Sam’s House. I’d been living in Vermont for a year and was on my way back to Denton for a bit. I remember feeling very strongly the urge to see what all of my friends were working on. I’m fortunate enough to be friends with some very creative and talented people. I remembered that a few years before, a close friend and eventual co-founder of Tex Gallery, Conor Wallace, used to host salon-style art parties at his house. Everyone brought what they were working on and shared it. I was really inspired by that impulse, so I asked that we do something similar for a birthday party of mine last December. I asked everyone I knew to contribute something, either music, fiction, poetry, visual art, sculpture, any of it. And people really worked hard. We had readings, musical performances, and we filled an old shipping crate/storage unit in Sam’s back yard with art work and lit it as professionally as we could. The shipping crate had the word TEX in white vertical letters on its side. That’s what inspired the name. The metaphor of perpetual mobility came later. But we were all happy with the way the evening went. It was great to see everyone so driven to show their work, and the response was great from the beginning.
So that was the first event. After that, I think everyone was amped for the next show. Alan Skelton, Conor Wallace and I happened to be looking for a place to live at the time, and there were rumors that the city planned to move the crate, so we found a house and started having the shows there.
As far as the shows that have happened since, we host an opening every month. Each opening features new work in almost every medium imaginable: paintings, sculpture, prose, poetry, music, new media, video installation, performance, printmaking, all of it. We’ve shown some incredible work by really talented artists and authors and musicians, etc. working both in the area and out of state. We do Skype or prerecorded readings for artists living out of the area. We’ve also had people ship us their work. We’ve shown work from Taiwan, Japan, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, you name it.
We were booking great performers and readers for the openings, but it wasn’t until the Japanese percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani agreed to perform that we began the Tex Gallery Presents…Series. These are special shows highlighting the work by truly outstanding performers who, for whatever reason, are not able to perform at the openings. In Tatsuya’s case, he came about twelve hours out of the way in order to add a stop at Tex Gallery to his tour, he came for a full day, did a workshop, then two sets, one solo and one with two local bassists, Aaron Gonzalez and Adam Goodwin (a recent UNT grad). Tatsuya will be back again the spring for a solo show, as well as with his improvisation group MAP featuring Mary Halvorson and Clayton Thomas. He’ll also be presenting for Music Now, a program put on by the UNT music department.
The TGP Series has showcased a number of outstanding performers, Dennis Gonzalez Yells at Eels (also known as Added Pizzaz on the new Ariel Pink EP), as well as Lou Mallozzi (www.loumallozzi.com), Damon Smith (www.balancepointacoustics.com), and Kamama featuring Audrey Chen and Luca Marini. In the past, we’ve presented artists who are functional improvisers and who thrive in a collaborative setting. Every TGP show has highlighted the traveling artist’s work, as well as given them the opportunity to work with a local artist they may not have known before, in order to create something new and unique. Every show, monthly, features new and unique work! It’s really fantastic.
-How many people live in the house and run the Tex Gallery?
Three people live in the house, but a countless number help run it. There are a core few: Alan Skelton, Richard Avila, Conor Wallace, Amanda Dunnavant, Blake Normile, Candace Downing, Walker Smart, myself…but really so much work goes into each show and so many people help out, I’m worried to have even started a list because the support has been so tremendous. Every show more people make themselves available to help. Every artist who shows contributes something, really. As I said, we all work very hard.
-What inspired/prompted the creation of the gallery? In other words, where did the idea come from?
I think I more or less answered that in the History of Tex Gallery question. But really, I think it started with the impulse to share with one another what we were doing, what were interested in, and to help one another do so. And that includes much more than just showing our work, but showing the work of other artists who mean something to us. I know my work is very much impacted by the artists and writers whose work I admire, and we’ve been fortunate enough to have many of them bless our walls and floors and senses with their work.
-I know the gallery is open to all different mediums of art ranging from paintings to poetry readings, why was this an important element to include in offering the Tex Gallery?
It’s more than important, it’s essential. No one form can do everything and by opening the doors to work in a variety of media, we’re embracing how large the conversation can and should be. My work as a writer is greatly enhanced through my experience of engaging and exciting music, sound work, painting, sculpture, etc.
-Are there any special requirements that must be met in order to show or perform at the gallery?
No special requirements, but we admire people who are deeply invested in their work and its presentation. So much work goes into putting on each show, we don’t really have the means to show work by people who don’t care or expect us to do everything. This hasn’t really been a problem, though. We’ve had the great fortune of working with and being approached by artists who are really committed and active. It’s very rewarding to work with people like that.
-Could you please run me through the process of what it takes to select a musician or pieces of art? For example, do they have to show a portfolio?
Artists, musicians, poets, writers, all of ‘em, can submit their work to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That said, if we encounter work by an artist that we really like and want to show, that artist’s submission process is basically over. We’re all active artists, but also an active audience. We all regularly attend events, exhibitions, readings, performances, and we are always looking for new and exciting work. We bring work to one another and say, isn’t this great? Wouldn’t this be great at the next show? And then, as with what we receive via the submissions email, we vote and decide what we can/want to show, and then what fits with the particular direction a certain show may be taking.
-How often are events held? I know on the website there are monthly events and people can make appointments, why was it chosen to lay out this way?
We have openings every month. The Tex Gallery Presents….Series features an artist or performance based on their availability. We ask that any additional viewings be appointment-based because it is our living space too, and making sure the work gets a professional and immaculate presentation is important to us. We strive to make each event as good as it can be, and we would want any additional viewings to be at that level as well. I think one of our goals is to one day find a space that is large enough for equivalent sized events, if not larger, and that is not our living space, so the work can be viewed on a daily basis. We’re looking into possible funding for this expansion. Really, a benefactor would be nice. Please let us know if you know anyone!
-On an average night, how many people attend an event?
We’ve been blown away by the reception. At openings we tend to have anywhere from 40 – 100+ in attendance at one time. People come and go throughout the night, however. We open the doors at 8 and people tend to arrive late into the night, often showing up after 2 am. So it’s hard to give an accurate count as to how many people come over the whole night. But it gets very crowded at times, which is great…but warm, certainly.
-Where does the funding come from to host the events in the gallery? If artists sell pieces do any of the profits go to Tex Gallery?
All artist sales go the artists. As for any extra items, CDs, chapbooks, prints, etc., anything brought by an artist to sell, we will sell it and give them the money. We ask a donation upon entry, which gets you a copy of the Tex Gallery Review, our monthly literary publication featuring work by the author and poets who read the month before. Other than that, Tex Gallery is a labor of love. Most of the funding is out of pocket. We wind up looking pretty lean at the end of some months, but I don’t think any of us would have it any other way. Unless, of course, the other way was some kind of grant or benefactor-style funding…which we would gladly accept. The thing is, we keep the donation requests low, because we want anyone and everyone to be able to attend these events. And we would never turn someone away for not paying, although it can sometimes sting just a little.
-Why Tex Gallery? Where did the name’s origin come from?
Covered that in the History of Tex answer. But I also think we just happen to like the sound of it.
-What sets Tex Galley apart from other venues similar to it like, Meme Gallery or Art Six?
Meme Gallery is doing some great stuff. They’re wonderful folks who have been really supportive throughout. We’re planning to orchestrate a Denton Art-Walk some time in the coming months. I think we’re both interested in building a community of galleries, rather than competing. I think the main difference is that Meme tends to focus on the work of a particular artist, rather than showing work by a large number. I think both approaches are valuable. Your experience of the art is different in either situation. The environment is different, and the way you engage is altered when you are encountering a number of works by one artist, versus a number of works by many artists. Denton is lucky to have both. I don’t know much about Art Six, really. I haven’t spent much time there. From what I understand, they don’t do events…though they host the UNT reading series, or did? I think their approach is to let the art serve as a backdrop in a study environment, and while I think it’s great for the artists who show there to have a place where people can visit and revisit their work, I wonder if the work is presented in a way that makes it easy to overlook? That would be a shame, because they do show some very talented artists there.
-Are there specific themes the gallery goes through? For example, if it’s spring do you tend to pick pastel colors?
Hmmm. Do you mean for the gallery’s interior or for the work we choose? We’re constantly working on the space, building, improving, and enhancing our capacity to show more work and different kinds of work. We try a lot of different things. And while certain curatorial decisions are made before we actually hang the work (and often sometimes after), it’s really up to the artists what they want to show. We certainly have a dialogue. We discuss which pieces we like, what we think works and what doesn’t, when we’re going through the submission process, but the decision is ultimately up to the artists. That said, part of the TGP Series will eventually be solo-curated shows and art-talks that will be more focused on a single artist’s vision, or that of a smaller group
-Why are you doing this? In other words, why is this gallery something that is near and dear to your heart?
It’s a blast, really. Every month we get to present and experience really mind-blowing work by local, national, and international artists. We’re selfish in that way. We want to see it all, want to show it all. It’s a really great feeling, presenting an artist whose work is really phenomenal and seeing the reaction. I also think it’s been a great way of forming a community of artists in Denton. Every show more and more people come out and more and more people contribute their artwork, as well as their time and effort to make these things happen. There is a real sense that something good is happening and it feels great to be a part of it. We learn from each other too. The shows inspire collaboration and provoke new ideas. I know that’s been the case for me.
-What is Tex Gallery hoping people who attend the showcases experience? What would you like them to walk out feeling?
I’m not sure if it’s the ambition we set out with, but I’ve seen this enough times to know I want it every time, and that’s people leaving with a sense of having seen/heard/experienced really sensational work. Each show is different, but each show is sensational, and it’s important that people leave with that feeling. Not every piece is for everyone, but there is a lot to see and experience and, I like to think, a little something for everyone. My mom is a regular attendee and the other day we decided to do a collaborative piece together. We’ve never done anything like this. But she used to be a photographer and she put it away however long ago to be a teacher and a mother. She plans to resurrect some of her old photos and to print them for a piece we’ll do together in the fall. It’s been however long and now she feels ready to take it back up, and I think Tex Gallery had a hand in that. There are no pretensions here, just good work by hard working people. And that has an inspirational effect.
-Where would you like to see the gallery a year from now? What future does Tex Gallery hold?
Big things, from what I can tell. We’re already booking acts for the spring, in conjunction with UNT. And we’re looking to host Tex Fest, an all-day event featuring work by a huge number of visual artists and performers. We’re currently in the process of opening an expansion in Dallas too. We plan to go non-profit and to work toward widening our budget in order to present even more work, more often.
-Why is the Tex Gallery important? In other words, why should students care that this is something offered to them?
First off, a lot of artists and writer from UNT are already showing at Tex, so I think that’s something that speaks to its credit as far as why students should care. Places like this are the community outside the classroom. I’ve talked a lot about why Tex Gallery is important to me, but I would say, if you are studying art, in any medium, it is places like this and Meme Gallery and Art Six that will provide the real education. I’m not dismissing the academic institution, I’m only saying that it is through seeing new work, engaging regularly with new ideas and new forms and collaborating, having conversations about art with people who are making art, who are making art their lives, people who are passionate and striving to make a true artistic community and not one imposed by pre-reqs and exam grades, that’s how we truly develop as artists. Maybe I’m being preachy. I don’t think I can insist that any one care, but if someone did, Tex Gallery would be an incredible resource.
-Are there any special events or things that happen at the gallery that people would not be aware of unless they attended? For instance, complementary beverages, karaoke night? Etc.
Ha ha…karaoke night, hmmm. It’s not a bad idea. Complementary beverages…I don’t think I should answer that. Well, there is wine, and sometimes beer, for the 21+ers…how’s that? We’re planning a haunted house, as well as a Tex Gallery Christmas, but those events don’t have dates yet…although the haunted house one seems obvious. Also, if we’re presented with an opportunity to show an artist we’re excited about, we’ll put a show together as last minute as it takes. Lou Mallozzi came through on his way to install a site-specific installation, “Peers,” in an abandoned warehouse in Dallas, as a part of a project called “Sustenance,” so we set up a show for him that weekend with only a couple of weeks notice. I should mention, that’s a great show featuring a lot of exciting artists, so anyone and everyone should check it out. There’s more info about that here: http://sustenanceexhibition.blogspot.com.
We’re pretty good about advertising: word of mouth, fliers, facebook, myspace, the usual stuff, and we’ve got a website up too, although it’s under construction. www.texgallery.org That will soon be the best way of keeping track of what’s happening.
-Anything else: This is a chance for you to tell me anything that I did not ask that you feel is important to know, have a final word or simply recommend others to talk to.
Phew. I’m beat actually. I’m going to hit the hay. I would recommend talking to Richard Avila and Alan Skelton, if you haven’t already. And I would say you should certainly come out to the show this weekend, Saturday the 18th. It should be a fantastic night. It’s late and this is a little last minute, so I apologize for any typos, and please feel free to cut anything that doesn’t make sense, or reorder words to construct more coherent answers. All of this will be fine. Thanks so much for doing this! It’s been fun!