Gallery Night, Fort Worth’s long-running biannual art-hopping marathon, has been given a jolt of new blood and enthusiasm. It was desperately needed.
Since spring 2014, co-conspirators of Fort Works Art, Lauren Childs and J.W. Wilson, have mounted art exhibitions with a side of entertainment for Gallery Night. For fall 2014, “A Threaded Canvas” featured art and a fashion show from local designers. The spring 2015 event, “Come Together,” had art with music inspired by the Beatles.
For Saturday, Fall Gallery Night 2015, Childs and Wilson are combining art, spoken-word artists and musicians for a “Cultural Affairs” show.
Childs and Wilson cleaned out the old Supreme Golf Warehouse on the south side of downtown to launch their first show, and since then, the raw space next to Shipping & Receiving Bar, now known as The Tilt Room, has become a destination for many musicians and artists.
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Leon Bridges recorded his album Coming Home in The Tilt Room. Bobby on Drums, a collective of artists and musicians, had an exhibition there in May. The Exhibitionists, a group of artists and musicians who work at various Fort Worth art museums, will take over the space Sept. 26 for another art and music confab.
Childs and Wilson are working on their long game. Plans for Spring Gallery Night 2016 are formulating, and the second Betsy Price Citywide High School Art Competition is underway. Earlier this year, the first Betsy Price scholarships were presented to winners chosen by Andrea Karnes, curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and Benito Huerta, director/curator of The Gallery at UTA.
Childs and Wilson organized the competition, mounted works by all the finalists, held a reception for the artists and their families, awarded the scholarships, and then photographed the winning work, Family, a portrait by Jae Rhee, hanging outside Mayor Price’s office.
A shared bond
Childs and Wilson came together through their vision for a more energetic art scene. When they met, they never would have envisioned bonding over art. Both 38-year-olds went to Trinity Valley School.
“We are the same age, we went to the same school, but we were not close. We butted heads,” says Wilson. “She was an art and theater major; I was a jock, a knucklehead.”
She was an art and theater major; I was a jock, a knucklehead.
J.W. Wilson, on his early relationship with his old friend Lauren Childs
Time passed. He went to TCU on a football scholarship; she went to Northwestern University as a theater major. They both returned to Fort Worth. They married other people, and each have two children.
Childs began a faux-finishing business. She spent days on 30-foot ladders applying artistic finishes to walls and then, in the middle of a pregnancy, fell down four steps and broke her leg. She had to hang up her ladder.
While recuperating, she began painting on canvases and told her husband she was never going back to the faux-finishing business. She was going to be an artist.
It worked for her. She has sold paintings, been in group shows and received accolades for her work.
Wilson has an unfettered entrepreneurial spirit. He has an energy company, JAWS, which is an acronym of his name and his wife Andrea’s name; a legislative analysis company with an old friend from school, LegIntel; and an oil company. He also coaches football for All Saints’ Episcopal School. He didn’t really have time for this art sideline, but he wanted to be part of the scene.
He partnered with Childs; together, they planned their first effort. They named their endeavor Fort Works Art and launched it on Spring Gallery Night 2014. As a Fort Worth native, Childs says, “I have a special place in my heart for Gallery Night.”
I have a special place in my heart for Gallery Night.
Lauren Childs, artist and Fort Worth native
Their plan was to combine art and artists with other art forms, sell the art, and donate part of the proceeds to a charity. They wanted a venue on the south side because it seemed to attract a culturally diverse crowd. They found the space next to Shipping & Receiving and thought the bar action would help fill the gallery space. It did. But now The Tilt Room can fill solely on its reputation.
“We want people who go to galleries and people who don’t go, and we’ve achieved that. The fact that the space has a bar attached has become less and less of a factor,” says Childs.
Their choice of adding spoken-word artists to the lineup was inspired by their rarity in Fort Worth, and the artists they are showing were connected to many of the spoken-word artists.
If this combination of artistic talents is anything like the previous assemblages of Fort Works Art, it should pack in an enthusiastic crowd.
“There has been a revitalization of the art scene in Fort Worth, and that really makes me happy,” says Childs. “I think we had a little something to do with that.”
Fort Works Art
▪ 2 p.m.-midnight Saturday (Spoken Word at 8 p.m.)
▪ The Tilt Room
201 S. Calhoun St., Fort Worth