News and Features

Is Art Good For You?

rachel2editRachel Nash in her Deep Ellum gallery. All photo credits: Jerome Weeks

The Crow Collection of Asian Art has been expanding, adding a sculpture garden, moving its gift shop. It’s also expanded its mission. The art museum is addressing the links between art and health – and so is a brand-new art gallery in Deep Ellum.

This week, Rachel Nash gave a lecture at the Crow Collection. Back in February, Nash opened a storefront art gallery in Deep Ellum. It’s unlike any other gallery around. In front, as you might expect, there are artworks on the walls. It’s in the back where Nash holds her art therapy sessions. Many Texans have never heard of art therapists, let alone met one. The North Texas Art Therapy Association lists only 12 full members.

Nash says, there’s a simple reason: “There are very few art therapists in Texas because there are no grad schools around.” Most of the art therapy graduate programs are clustered along the East and West Coasts, with one or two others in places like New Mexico.

Nash herself graduated from SMU in psychology and got her master’s in art therapy at the Art Institute of Chicago. She’s a licensed professional counselor and a registered art therapist — Texas requires both credentials before a person can practice art therapy. Nash may have such professional credits — and the Art Therapy Credentials Board may have set standards and provided such board certification for decades — but she says many people, when they meet her, say the term ‘art therapy’ just makes them think of playing with clay and finger paints. It’s more than that, more serious than that, Nash says, but that kind of directed play is, in fact, one of her tools.

“Sometimes,” she says, “play disarms fear, and when you disarm fear, especially for, say, children with trauma and serious trauma or abuse, then you’re getting them into a place where they can really start to learn and change behaviors. You can’t get that when they’re operating out of fear and anger.”

In her lecture at the Crow Collection, Nash explained some of these basic approaches in her practice. Which begs the question: Why is an art museum presenting a talk on therapy? Or another one on the health benefits of Asian cuisine?

Amy Hofland is the museum’s executive director. Turns out Hofland originally studied to be an art therapist. But including Nash in the Crow’s lecture series didn’t come from her personal interest.

“We have really begun to embrace wellness as a large part of our program at the Crow,” she says. “And I’ve come to believe in this deep connection between looking at art and being well. And I think in this world of stress, museums can really be an oasis, kind of the quiet place.”

In addition to its series of wellness lectures, the Crow Collection hosts classes in yoga, t’ai chi, meditation and qigong, the Chinese exercise practice and martial art. And now the museum may be moving beyond just hosting such things in its galleries.

“I’m slowly hoping to build a wellness center here,” Hofland says. “You could say we already are one with classes every day of the week. But I could also see a physical space in perhaps an empty part of Trammell Crow Center here on the mezzanine [where the Crow's administrative offices are], a place for meditational classes, yoga, and my dream would be acupuncture.”

rachelwideWhen it comes to her clients, Nash says art can provide more than a quiet place. Art is something we draw or build or paint. It taps into things beyond our verbal skills, our defensive rationalizations. It’s physical evidence of what we feel. In her Crow lecture, Nash told the story of one client, a 55-year-old depressed woman, an alcoholic. Nash had the woman draw herself.

“She did a series of self-portraits. And each week they got more beautiful,” Nash recalls. She hid the portraits, so each week the woman started from scratch. And then, after two months, Nash laid them all out for her client.

“And she looked at them and stood back and thought, ‘Wow, that’s a big difference. I had no idea.’ So art-making allows for a very tangible evidence of progress.”

Hofland says the hope is such lectures and classes can provide audiences with insights into their own well-being. But it’s also simply in the museum’s interest to encourage a more reflective approach by visitors.

“The average visitor doesn’t spend enough time with art,” she says. “I think it’s like four to six seconds. So we’re teaching a practice of how to look and what to see and how to tap into curiosity. And if we can teach people how to lower their blood pressure, how to handle stress, I don’t see why a work of art isn’t a great place to start.”

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The Big Screen: Talking ‘About Alex’ With Its Richardson Producer

BigScreen_logoSMALLIn About Alex, college friends reunite when one of the group’s members attempts suicide. The film was produced by Richardson native Adam Saunders, who talks to us this week about why these small dramas are making a resurgence in Hollywood.

Be sure to subscribe to The Big Screen on iTunes. Stream this week’s episode below or download it.

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Flickr Photo Of The Week

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Flicker Photo

Congratulations to Joseph Haubert of Dallas, the winner of the Flickr Photo of the Week contest! Joseph is a multiple winner of our little contest. His latest win came just last May. He follows last week’s winner, Sonja Quintero.

If you would like to participate in the Flickr Photo of the Week contest, all you need to do is upload your photo to our Flickr group page. It’s fine to submit a photo you took earlier than the current week, but we are hoping that the contest will inspire you to go out and shoot something fantastic this week to share with Art&Seek users. If the picture you take involves a facet of the arts, even better. The contest week will run from Monday to Sunday, and the Art&Seek staff will pick a winner on Monday afternoon. We’ll notify the winner through FlickrMail (so be sure to check those inboxes) and ask you to fill out a short survey to tell us a little more about yourself and the photo you took. We’ll post the winners’ photo on Wednesday.Cindy

joseph_haubertNow here’s more from Joseph.

Title of photo: Dallas Bridge Reflection
Equipment: IPhone 4S
Tell us more about your photo:  This shot was taken around sunset on the Houston Viaduct, near Bishops Arts. I live off of Beckley and tend to walk or jog in the area after work. This particular day I walked the bridge. It was just gorgeous, with vivid pink and blue clouds everywhere. I knew there would be a great photo here but felt I could challenge myself. I saw this one little puddle in the street and literally laid in it to get this shot. I also jumped up in the air after cause I loved the shot so much! It’s a beautiful area and I’m happy I was able to do it justice in a creative way.

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The Big Deal: Summer Cut Happy Funtime Fest!

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Gather up your buds and gal pals for this Big Deal. Enter to win a 4 pack of tickets to KXT’s Summer Cut Happy Funtime Fest! This is the third year that KXT, our sister radio station, will be throwing the shindig featuring national and local artists.  Everybody had a really great time last year and this year’s show promises to be even more fun!  Death Cab for Cutie headlines the show at the Gexa Energy Pavilion on Aug. 15.  Joining  them will be Iron and Wine, and The Hold Steady. Check out the video above to see the complete line up of acts.  Art&Seek’s Artist Village will return with unique clothiers, jewelry makers and even a growler vendor.  And look for (literally!!) some special fun around Gexa from our friends at Art Conspiracy. More on that soon!

Eight food trucks will line the concourse to add to the concessions fare. Our lucky winners will have plenty of time to browse the Artists Village and cruise by the food trucks  because they’ll have their comfy seats waiting for them when the show starts.

And after signing up for this Big Deal you will definitely want to sign up for our other Big Deal this week – tickets to KXT’s other hot ticket/cool concert Barefoot at the Belmont with Jamie Scott and Fox and the Bird.

PLEASE NOTE: Only Art&Seek e-newsletter subscribers can win the Big Deal. If you are not a subscriber then take care of that first, then sign up below for a chance to win tickets to party at KXT’s Summer Cut Funtime Fest!

UPDATE: We have our winner! Thanks for playing

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The Big Deal: KXT’s Barefoot At The Belmont With Jamie Scott And Fox And The Bird

Here’s your chance to scoop up tickets to the last KXT Barefoot at the Belmont concert of the season.  The  closing show on July 31, will feature British singer-songwriter Jamie Scott. Local folk-pop band Fox and the Bird will also be on the bill.  This show, like all previous Barefoot at the Belmont shows, is sold out so sign up here and then get your friends to sign up.

After you all have signed up for this giveaway y’all probably be in the mood to sign up for our other giveaway this week – tickets to KXT’s Summer Cut The Happy Funtime Fest at the Gexa Energy Pavilion.

PLEASE NOTE: Only Art&Seek e-newsletter subscribers can win the Big Deal.  If you are not a subscriber then take care of that first, then sign up below for a chance to win tickets to KXT’s Barefoot at the Belmont with Jamie Scott and Fox and the Bird.

UPDATE: We have our winner! Thanks for playing!

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Art&Seek Jr: 5 Unexpected Summer Diversions

Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself. Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too.

A few weeks ago while thumbing through a magazine I got hit by a bit of Martha Stewart-like inspiration. I’m not a very exact person, nor am I especially competent in the kitchen, so this type of thing doesn’t happen to me very often. I’m one of those–canned frosting is just fine, and, so what if it’s not perfect–type of gals, if you get my drift.

Chocolate-dipped strawberries. Don't try this at home--without a recipe. (photo: Therese Powell)

Chocolate-dipped strawberries. Don’t try this at home–without a recipe. (photo: Therese Powell)

Anyway, I came across an ad for chocolate-dipped strawberries. Let me just point out here, these weren’t your everyday strawberries.  These were big,  luscious, and dipped in three different kinds of chocolate, strawberries. They were so mouth-wateringly beautiful they seemed to scream out from the page with their squeaky little strawberry voices, “Eat me! Eat me!” Rose’s grandmother’s birthday was coming up and the delectable fruit seemed like the perfect gift. Then I saw the price for the little beauties and suddenly they didn’t seem so perfect. That’s when I heard the lilting voice of Martha Stewart say, “Therese, these would be so simple to make. You and Rose could do it together, which would make the gift even that much more special.”

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say I should have consulted a doctor about Martha’s voice in my head, because it wasn’t simple. I started over twice, but both times I ended up with a big pot of chocolate wallpaper paste. To add to my stress, I had no plan B. Rose and I started the great strawberry escapade exactly one hour before we were due at Granny’s house–and I had no back up gift.

As we sadly stared into the pot of chocolate goo, Rose looked at me and said, “Maybe we could frost the strawberries like a cake?’ I had my doubts, but since I didn’t have any better ideas, we got out the knives and started frosting.  No, they weren’t velvety smooth like the ones I saw in the ad, but a quick roll in chocolate chips, nuts and colored sprinkles helped hide their lumpy appearance. In the end, much to my amazement (and relief), they turned out better than I expected, in fact, they were pretty darn good.

I learned two things from the experience: One, always have a recipe handy when pursuing Martha Stewart-like flights of fancy. And two, my daughter is genius when dealing with the unexpected.

Discover some not-what-I-expected delight at one of these family-friendly events:

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Sharing Stories With Oral Fixation’s “Lost In Translation”

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Jean Congera, who is originally from Rwanda, was one of eight storytellers that took part in Oral Fixation's "Lost In Translation."

Jean Congera, who is originally from Rwanda, was one of eight storytellers that took part in Oral Fixation’s “Lost In Translation.”

Talking to a room full of strangers about your most private experiences can be a daunting task. But for those involved in Dallas’ Oral Fixation Show, it’s part of the process of their storytelling.

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Make Some Noise: Sound Art At Oil & Cotton

oil and cottonOil & Cotton, the Dallas-based community arts organization is showcasing experimental sound art in a new exhibition. Janeil Engelstad curated “And then I whirled to the sound of” to show the breadth and depth of the field. It features artists across the spectrum of experience – from renowned and respected experts to young children from Oil & Cotton’s arts summer camp. In fact,, arts education is much of the point here. With classes, workshops, summer camps and various exhibitions, the Oil & Cotton “creative exchange” is not strictly a gallery space. It’s more akin to an arts-focused community enrichment center.

in residence last summer at Art Mill in the Czech Republic. Photo credit: Alex Katis – See more at:
in residence last summer at Art Mill in the Czech Republic. Photo credit: Alex Katis – See more at:

“And then I whirled to the sound of” is the latest Oil & Cotton project exploring a less well-known branch of the arts, and Engelstad hopes visitors will leave with an appreciation for both sound art and the artists who make it.

Because Engelstad feels most people don’t really know much about sound art, she wants “And then I whirled” to show more than one style or approach to the medium. “There’s all these ways that people think about sound who are thinking of it as a medium,” she says, “who are thinking of it like a painting or a sculpture.” For Engelstad, this exhibition is about demonstrating what separates sound art from other kinds of contemporary art. “This is more meant to have you ask questions, to have the mind not relax, to have the mind be active, and to be noticing these sounds,” she says.


Janeil Engelstad

In curating the exhibition, Engelstad says, “I was looking for a variety of pieces, and I was looking for pieces that conveyed a certain emotion but with no preconceived idea of what those emotions were.” She listened for  pieces that inspired an authentic emotional reaction. “I was either wondering what that sound was, it was pleasing, or it was challenging. Some of the things I actually didn’t care for but I found them to be really well-composed, thoughtful pieces. I could recognize their strength and their depth.”

The pieces run the gamut from field recordings of a thunderstorm to a mash-up of hundreds of movie sound clips. “Some of the things are much more industrial, technical or intellectual, and some are much more romantic and softer and more melodic,” says Engelstad. The diversity emphasizes that sound art is broader and more complex than it might seem.

For the artists, the exhibition was a chance to explore the genre, even if they lacked experience in the field. “This was the first time I had thought about doing sound art,” says Dallas-based artist Carolyn Sortor, whose piece “Monument Valley” was made out of an assemblage of over 100 audio clips from Western movies. “It’s definitely not narrative,” she says, “there is an arc, but I would not call it narrative. It’s more conceptual, or thematic.”

Because of the lack of cohesion between the phrases and disconnected sounds, the audience for “Monument Valley” is made to pay attention to the patterns that emerge, the similarity in lines from across dozens of movies that Sortor says were just there. Instead of looking at the piece as a disjointed arrangement of sounds, the audience, she hopes, will be able to appreciate the unity and cohesion in the piece. In her words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

“That’s what makes anything great actually. It does tap into concerns that are eternal, archetypal, something in that vein; they come up in anybody’s life no matter what time or location you live in.” Originally, the piece was made to accompany a video of these clips strung together for a previous exhibition, but she worried that the audience’s dependency on the visual element of the piece did not allow people to grasp what was happening on the sonic level. She hopes that, with the video removed, the audience will be able to understand the ideas being explored in the piece more thoroughly.

For other artists like Jeff Gibbons, working in sound was not a new and unusual field. Gibbons talks about how his work has been informed by his early love of music. “Any installation I’ve ever done is usually something to do with the senses, either all of them or a couple. But I actually made music before I ever did anything else in visual art. I started playing guitar when I was about 12, then I tried to be a serious musician for a while.”

Having his work featured in galleries is somewhat new. For his piece, “___ Just Too Good to Be True” Gibbons edited the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons song “You’re Just Too Good to Be True” with a loud and jarring beep covering the word “you” throughout the entire song.

Carolyn Sortor

Carolyn Sortor

According to Gibbons, the piece is heavily influenced by the themes he tries to explore in his work, as well as his romantic life. “A love song is a fantasy land, you listen to it over and over again and it’s always the same,” he explains. “And that was the idea behind bleeping it. The bleep itself is kind of violent, but then when you bleep something out it’s usually a swear word, it’s usually something that alludes to violence, so there’s this kind of aggravation to that.”

“__ Just Too Good to Be True” examines the emotions that are tied up in our musical tastes, and Gibbons manipulates those expectations by making the song a commentary on the conventions of a love song. He notes that music has a special way of making people think back to a particular emotion or sensation, and that his piece attempts to make that sensation not so pleasant or nostalgic but more uncomfortable, even painful: “It’s kind of taking this reverent song and killing that in a way, so as to say that life is everything but a movie, everything but a reverent situation.”

For her part, Iris Bechtol looks to her frustrations over digital photography as a source of inspiration for her work. The element of the manufactured or heavily edited in that medium pushed her to pursue work in other fields, like sound. She focuses on making art that has little alteration, and becomes more immediate and present for the audience. “Much of my work that I’ve done in the past, whether it be installation, or sound, or any kind of sculptural work, it’s very minimal,” Bechtol said. “It’s not very gaudy, there’s not a lot of different materials involved, I don’t do a lot of manipulation. So the piece entitled “Everyday Wanting” is a piece where I’m exploring this idea of vulnerability… in a way of being minimal, not having a façade, not putting on all these fronts.”

“Everyday Wanting” follows this minimal approach. It features just the sounds of her dancing, with her feet hitting the floor in a large, echoing space. Bechtol explained that the piece was heavily informed on her shyness, and the work is meant to explore that feeling and make people actively listen and be aware of the sounds they’re hearing. However, as she says, the piece is more than just about her insecurities. While an audience might think that there is only one artistic intention in a piece, she says that’s not always true. “I just really want them to explore the idea of sound and listen to it. Sound is a powerful thing. And even if you don’t know what it is you’re listening to, it can have a profound, sublime effect on you.”

While Bechtol is focused on creating an intimate relationship between herself and the audience, artist Martin Back works on delivering pieces that make the audience more aware of their ambient soundscape. His piece is simple but succinctly demonstrates Back’s aesthetic priorities. He says he heard the sounds of rain hitting a small metal watering can outside his home, and these stood out so much, he rushed to grab his recording equipment to capture the moment.

Unlike some of the other more consciously organized pieces, Back’s is more spontaneous and organic. His recording of rainwater exemplifies the artist’s ideas and thoughts when he makes art. It’s satisfying, he says, “to have that moment that the piece came out of. That’s part of an ongoing process and is sound-specific, and it’s bound up in how I think about the world as connected systems of sound.” He went on, saying that his work is focused on “thinking about the world as if it is performing itself, and you just have to turn your attention to it to have an aesthetic experience, and to me that’s much more valuable, personally and aesthetically, than trying to create it with an object or a mechanized sculpture.”

“And then I whirled to the sound of” will run until July 27.

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What’s It Take To Be An Arts Leader? Here’s One Way To Find Out.



Looking to take your interest and involvement in the arts to the next level? Want to learn more about what it takes to be on the board of an arts group?  Curious about how your business skills might be useful to a North Texas non-profit?

You might be a good candidate for the 2014-2015 Leadership Arts Institute, and now’s the time to apply. Business Council for the Arts is accepting applications until Aug. 1.

The Leadership Arts program was started by Ray Nasher to help business professionals spark their passions for the arts.  The Leadership Arts class meets every month for 10 sessions to learn from professionals from a variety of arts organizations. Each class also plans and executes a significant project to benefit the arts. (We at Art&Seek are extremely grateful to 2011 Leadership Arts for helping us create and pay for the Art&Seek calendar app.) And BCA links its  graduates directly to opportunities to serve on the boards of a variety of arts and culture non-profits.

Sound good? Read more after the jump and on the BCA website or  contact Juliana Rogers at, or call Business Council for the Arts at 972-991-8300 ext. 602.


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The High Five: A Breakout Musical From A Recent Musical Theater Convert

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: A local musical gets some New York love, one of the top art collectors in Texas has died, and more. 

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