Last month, over 250 volunteers, artists, musicians and sponsors came together to launch the second annual Art Conspiracy, which raised $12,000 for Oak Cliff-based artist residency La Reunion. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, CliffDweller and original art conspirators Jason Roberts and Sarah Jane Semrad envisioned a fundraiser that would unite local art and music. Planning meetings began with a small committee, and Art Conspiracy was born. Its goals are to bring art and music together to raise money for charity; to provide art to the masses; to spark awareness of the local arts scene; and to use historic, under-utilized buildings as art venues. The event has become somewhat of a legend.
The Texas Theatre was the perfect location for Art Conspiracy I in 2005, with an eerie air of history and an unfinished interior colliding with the independent art and music scene. Over $10,000 was raised for the Children’s Health Fund to help local hurricane victims. The search then began for another historic, under-utilized building, and Art Conspiracy II was moved to the Longhorn Ballroom. Formerly known as the Bob Wills Ranch House, this venue has hosted a multitude of greats such as Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn, not to mention an infamous performance by British punk pioneers the Sex Pistols.
On November 30, 2006, the coldest day of the year, over 150 artists braved the ice and traveled to the Ballroom to create art using their own materials and a simple 18” x 18” piece of plywood. Though the heat was turned off in the building, the vibe was still one of collaboration and creativity. The artists’ completed paintings, collages and sculptures stayed onsite to dry for the next day’s show.
On the evening of December 1 the doors were opened to the public and the experience began for 1100 attendees. All of the original pieces of art were auctioned off live and were purchased for prices ranging from $20 to $660. Between auctions, area musicians Johnny Holiday, The Happy Bullets, Spitfire Tumbleweeds, Peter Schmidt, Fishboy and Salim Nourallah performed.
Events such as Art Conspiracy do not happen often, especially not in Dallas. Artist Salim Nourallah summed this up, explaining: “We could’ve been in London or New York, but not in Paris — not enough berets. It was adventurous and classic. So um…pardon me…un-Dallas.”
Part of the appeal for this unique event is its anti-gallery feel. Far from high brow or posh, Art Conspiracy allows anyone to access original art. La Reunion Executive Director Sarah Jane Semrad states, “asking an artist to suspend their belief about what the ‘market value’ of their work is and simply donate their time and skill for the betterment of the community is an example of [such] generosity… I love that Art Conspiracy isn’t entirely about the money and yet it’s also a fundraiser. Tons of people have suggested ways to make more money on the art, and that’s appreciated of course. However, that kind of defeats the magic of the conspiracy.”