The Continental Gin Building is throwing open its doors this weekend. The community of artists in the venerable Deep Ellum building will host an open house Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 8 p.m.
For 27 years, the studios in the historic warehouse have held an open house twice a year – once in the fall and spring. Alison Volk of VOLK PR says there are 48 tenants currently occupying three floors of space there, and some 35 artists will participate in this event.
Volk says the large number of artists and their variety — designers (apparel, graphic and interior), filmmakers, painters and photographers — all of them sharing one, vast building lends itself to creative collaboration: “Everything really goes hand-in-hand. These artists [and] craftsman all have similar interests, and they form a master-mind group naturally.”
The group includes: Rob Aikey, Diana Antohe, Jay Bailey, Connie Roschlau Ball, Donna Davis Ball, Fannie Brito, Alan Cook, Patsi Davila, Alison De Vito, STATUS Design, Bill Planey Graphic Design, Marianne Gargour, Andrea Guay, Anne L. Hines, Jenny Keller, David Klucsarits, Nancy Miller, Ty Milner, Marsha Moser, Bob Nunn, Lindsey Owen, Jan Partin, Kim Petty, Paula Radvansky, Ethan Salazar, Kitty Snead, John Sustaita, Michael Sutton, Carroll Swenson-Roberts, VET and Leonard Volk.
Hear retired architect Leonard Volk discuss photography and creativity with Krys Boyd on Think in January 2013:
From the UK to TX
Included among the work of local artists, guest participants and longtime CGB tenants will be paintings by featured artist Stuart Burne from the small island town of Holyhead in Anglesey, Wales.
It’s about as close as Wales gets to Ireland — that little outcropping across from Dublin — and Burne grew up exploring the coast. So those familiar scenes of the Welsh landscape — the Irish Sea, the Stena Line ferries between Holyhead and Dublin, the Virgin trains that run through northern Wales — they became primary subjects of his paintings, he says. Burne paints with acrylic on canvas and often paints on location to get the best images for his work: “As I was growing up the sea was a natural, continuing influence on the subconscious mind, which kept influencing my desire to paint.”
The open house will be Burne’s first time exhibiting in the U.S., and he will show eleven paintings, a few etchings and drypoint prints, he says.
Heather Helen Ray, a former makeup artist turned professional photographer, is hosting Burne not only in the States but also in her personal studio space in the Continental Gin Building, where she has had her office for about six years.
“[The CGB] feels like you’re in New York. You can hear the train going behind on the DART rail,” she says. At the Continental Gin, you “step out of normal Dallas,” she says, into “something different.”
Ray has participated in the open houses since she began renting the space, and for the upcoming event, she will show one large piece she’s been working on for about six months. The rest of her efforts were put into bringing Burne and his paintings across the pond, she says.
Last October, when trying to get an artist collaborative going, Ray was researching online, looking at international galleries and arts organizations, and discovered Burne’s vibrant landscapes.
“Stuart talks a lot in his artwork through colors,” she says. “He really draws you in.”
Burne adds that he’s most looking forward to meeting the artists and general public and showing them his part of Wales — another reason Ray wanted to bring him to Dallas.
More on the open house
Ray says the biannual event is unique among area art exhibitions because of the energy and excitement of the visitors — and the friendly welcome from the artists in their studios.
“It’s almost like getting invited to a house party,” Ray says. Visitors don’t feel like mere spectators but rather become part of the building.
And like any good house party, there will be music. Local “folk, jazz and indie” band, Felix Flores will play Friday on the second floor of the CGB. And on Saturday, CGB artists will participate in the Deep Ellum Art Walk.
History of the Continental Gin Building
The Continental Gin Building dates from when North Texas was one of the great centers of cotton production and processing. (That’s why the Cotton Bowl is in Fair Park, got it?). It was originally a cotton gin factory built by Robert S. Munger in 1888, housed in a series of brick warehouses along Elm Street and Trunk Avenue. The CGB was the largest manufacturer of cotton-processing equipment in the country.
The company closed in 1962, when Deep Ellum went through several changes. But 20 years later, John Tatum, a local real estate developer, purchased the property and rented the spaces to artists, distinguishing the 125-year-old building as the oldest art community in Deep Ellum.