By Meda Kessler
These gals just want to have fun — oh, and make art that revs up a creative conversation.
Is it a party or is it an art show?
Gallery Night in Fort Worth always has been a bit of both. We’ve come to embrace the fact that the lure of free beer-wine-cheese (like the see-and-be-seen factor) draws many out on a September Saturday, including those who might never step foot in a gallery or museum otherwise.
And while artists, pundits and the media debate the health of the arts, we’re glad that Gallery Night still exists. After all, while a few new spaces have opened in the past year, others have closed. And “gallery owner” still isn’t an occupation coveted by most. Young artists help attract young crowds, although we look forward to seeing new and old works from longtime favorites, too.
One veteran artist, Nancy Lamb, embraces the youthquake. “Their energy is so positive and a needed shot in the arm,” says Lamb, 62, who has given up her signature red hair for silver but still doesn’t leave home without her flamboyant specs.
She remembers a few years ago when the Art Tooth bus chartered especially for Gallery Night made its last stop at Artspace111, where she was showing. “I don’t get out to the other galleries if I’m having a show, so it was wonderful to see all these people arriving at once at the end of the night. They’ve been so sweet and so supportive of me. With everything that has gone on in my life, I had kind of shut down, but these kids give me new energy.” (FYI, the bus tour sold out quickly this year.)
Lamb’s home is filled with the works of other artists, from old guard talent such as JT Grant and Jason Reynaga to work by up-and-comers including Jay Wilkinson.
She also credits Ariel Davis for helping her get a second wind. Lamb was in a funk due to chronic hip pain and the death of her husband, Bob Powell, in 2013.
Davis was Lamb’s neighbor and after a year took a job as her assistant in late 2015. With a passion for art and her outgoing personality, Davis, 31, was a good fit for Lamb. Today, thanks in part to hip surgery and Davis’ support, Lamb is the life of the party again.
Davis also was coming into her own. Her figurative abstracts, often portraits of women, typically feature strong colors and high contrast.
Davis admits that she used to lack the social skills needed to make connections and relationships in the local art world, key when you’re just getting started. She credits Lamb for being an amazing mentor. But Davis has always been active in the art scene.
“I got involved with the Fort Worth Art Collective around 2013,” says Davis. This group of artists promoted talent by organizing pop-up shows as well as longer exhibitions, and she co-curated the FWAC show at the Arlington Museum of Art. She worked for Milan Gallery in downtown Fort Worth for about five years, leaving to serve on the board of Art Tooth for two years, working with other young creatives not only to curate shows but also advising artists on more mundane topics such as writing grants and marketing.
After working with Artspace111 on its summer pop-up gallery at The Shops at Clearfork, Davis was promoted to gallery manager and will help debut the building’s recent renovations on Gallery Night. Look for The Great Room, an expanded main gallery and a new space to hold The Blagg Gallery, with works from brothers Daniel, Dennis, Doug and Woodrow Blagg.
Davis will be busy, as she’s peripherally involved in the Art Tooth show at Artes de la Rosa. “This is what makes Gallery Night special, in that there’s a wide range of work being shown around town. You can go to the Kimbell Art Museum or to an underground pop-up.”
She and Lamb both lament the fact that the Dallas Art Dealers Association holds its Gallery Night Walk on the same date. “And why can’t we do this more than twice a year?” asks Davis.
“Our goal is to help people know it’s OK to have fun looking at art, and there is no right way to do it. The more you visit a gallery or museum, the more you’ll start to understand the ‘language’ of art.”
Refired POW! Artspace111 is typically the finale for many Gallery Night goers. This year you’ll see some changes.The Fort Worth gallery has remodeled to open up and enlarge the exhibit space. Artist Nancy Lamb’s solo show features some original ceramic pieces along with new 2D pieces featuring natural and imaginary creatures. Lamb says she was partly inspired by last year’s Takashi Murakami show of popish characters and colors at the Modern Art Museum. Artspace111 111 Hampton St., 817-692-3228, artspace111.com.