By Linda Smith
Centennial Hall at Fair Park played host to the fifth Dallas Observer annual Artopia celebration on Jan. 17. The hall beckoned the artsy, stylish attendees with strobe lights, vendors selling their wares and passing out samples of burrito bowls and gourmet cheeses, and artists creating pieces of art amidst throbs of spectators.
These artists interacted with the Artopia crowd, or simply let the music filtering from their Beats by Dre headphones take their painting to the next level. A wood-burning artist talked about his inspiration to people admiring his work, while others actively stood mixing paints and applying them with brushes or hands throughout the duration of the event.
One stage hosted the magic and music shows, and another hosted the fashion shows. The events at each stage were staggered, so that attendees could enjoy every event taking place. This of course created a pattern of perpetual zig-zagging through the festival but ample time between events (and slight delays) allowed everyone to stroll amidst the artists and vendors during breaks.
Eddie Confetti’s magic show began the event, and while it lagged at first, the magic became more spectacular. One of the final acts of the show involved a pregnant member of the troupe doing a sword-swallowing routine. Fashion shows from Beaus and Ribbons, Nine Muses and STATUS followed, displaying contemporary styles inspired by architectural concepts, with models with colorful, glittered eyebrows and a mix of androgynous and girly outfits. Interspersed were music shows, with the most engaging being from French 75, a three-piece electro-pop group whose Facebook page facetiously describes its sound as “music to tap your feet to”— music that blew out the speakers on their last song.
This was more than a spectacle of fashion, music and magic; six Mastermind awards were awarded to deserving Dallas artists, covering the broad spectrum of the arts. The winners and their contributions are outlined on an artandseek.net interview article by Dallas Observer arts and culture editor Lauren Smart, entitled “Talent Scout: Dallas Observer’s Lauren Smart on 100 Creatives and 2015 Masterminds.”
According to the article, Jeff Gibbons and Justin Ginsberg won for their work with Deep Ellum Windows, a company “which put[s] pop-up exhibitions in empty warehouse spaces in Deep Ellum.” The first novelist to ever win a Mastermind award was Merrit Tierce, whose powerful book “Love Me Back” was referred to as a “lovely, lovely book” by Smart. Christopher Blay won for his work as an installation artist who delves into work focusing on fences, borders and communication voids in the art scene. Wordspace won for its work as a “literary arts organization that programs events” around Dallas. Its work has brought several local writers into the larger writing scene in the metroplex. Katelyn Harris won for her fledgling company Rhythmic Souls, which is one-part tap-dance instruction and one-part performance company. Cora Cordona, artistic director of Teatro Dallas, won for her mentoring work with the 30-year-old company that was the first Hispanic-based theater group in Dallas.
The winners not only represent several different types of media through which to explore arts, but also demonstrate the differences artists are making in the metroplex. Smart, the true mastermind behind Artopia, called the celebration of artists’ accomplishments “a big party.” It is truly a testament to the accepting nature of the arts community, and to the fostering and growth of that community through philanthropic events without an air of stuffiness and exclusivity. Artopia provides an outlet for art to continue growing in Dallas, and the chance to party while celebrating it.