It’s beginning to look a lot like Black Friday

Merchants talk about the importance of the day after Thanksgiving to the overall health of their business

Santa

BIG GAY SANTA | Fete-ish owner Chad Vogel placed a big Santa over his doorway in time to welcome Black Friday shoppers to his Bishop Arts District store. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Although most gay shopkeepers don’t approach Black Friday with the same frenzied mentality as mainstream retailers, the day after Thanksgiving is nonetheless important to their businesses.

To get the edge of those holiday shopping dollars, big box stores have been opening earlier and earlier. Wal-Mart even announced its Friday hours will begin on Thursday this year.

Dallas’ LGBT retailers haven’t turned the day into that kind of maniacal hysteria, but gay merchants on Cedar Springs Road and in the Bishop Arts District want customers to know they depend on good sales this weekend, too.

“Oh my God! It’s very important,” Skivvies owner David Richardson of the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping rush.

He said that he and partner Todd Seaton get to the store three hours early that day to start setting up, and business starts the minute they open the doors. He schedules extra help for the day and stays in the store himself from open until close to help answer questions, work the register and bag items.

“We’ll have discounts on some groups of merchandise throughout the store,” Richardson said, but every category sells well that day.

Black Friday accounts for as much as 20 percent of the Christmas season sales at Skivvies.

“It can be the biggest day of the year,” Richardson said. Only the day before Halloween rivals it.

Nuvo salesperson Daneen Foster agreed. She said she expected her store to be busy from open until close on Black Friday, even without any special promotions.

“We’re just going to be here with our fabulous merchandise, free gift wrapping and a knowledgeable, helpful and friendly staff,” she said.

TapeLenders owner Mark Milburn said, “This is the first time we’ve publicized Black Friday specials.”

In the past, he hasn’t noticed a big spike in business, but he said he thinks his “buy one, get one free” offer on adult videos and an additional 10 percent off on clearance items would especially boost sales.

Things are a little different for OutLines.

“It’s not one of our busier days, like at the malls,” owner David Lester said.

He said that for the past three years, Black Friday has been no better than any other Friday at OutLines. However, to boost sales over the holiday weekend this year, Lester planned to open the store from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

During those four hours last year, he said, he did more business than on the traditional shopping day. He said that specials would be offered throughout the store during the weekend.

“But our biggest weekend is Pride,” Lester said. “And First Wednesday is always a good night for us.”

Bishop Arts retailers report less reliance on a Black Friday surge.

Bishop Street Market owner Mike Harrity said it is usually busier than a normal Friday, but he expects to do much more business on Small Business Saturday. That is an American Express promotion started last year that gives $25 off to anyone that uses an Amex card in a small business on the Saturday following Black Friday.

“Down here we have Jingle Bells on Bishop,” Fete-ish owner Chad Vogel said.

That event takes place the following week.

“We’ll have live entertainment,” Vogel said. “Thousands of people roll through that weekend.”
Harrity agreed that Jingle Bells on Bishop was his store’s biggest weekend of the year

But Vogel said that Thanksgiving weekend does give his store a healthy and welcome spike in sales.

Then he reacted to the question of how gay stores do on Black Friday.

“What makes you think our store is gay?” he asked as he was lighting up the big pink Santa whose mouth is the front door of the store, while other employees were spraying tinsel and glitter everywhere.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Dynamic duos

Anytime Fitness owners Renee Reed and Jacqui Bliss raise a son — and barbells — together

WORKIN’ IT | Reed, left, and Bliss stay fit and happy at their gym in Oak Cliff. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

As part of our recurring feature on Dynamic Duos, we talk with out couples in the community who might not work together, but who do workout together.

But in the case of Jacqui Bliss and Renee Reed, they actually do work together, as co-owners of Anytime Fitness in the Bishop Arts District. But in addition to running a gym, they also occupy themselves raising a child.

— Jef Tingley

……………………..

Names and ages: Jacqui Bliss, 34; and Renee Reed, 40.

Occupations: Co-owners, Anytime Fitness Club and personal trainers

Years together: 9

Exercise regimen:  Bliss: It varies. I mix it up with cycling, running, bodyweight intervals, kettle bell work, ViPR lifts and free weights. On an average week, I exercise six days and the time ranges from 30 minutes to two hours or more (if cycling).

Reed: I do strength training two to three times a week, mostly with free weights and cable machines. I like to run at least once a week and use cardio machines a couple of times, too. At home I do my own short, intense boot camp-style workouts, which were born out of the need to do a time-efficient workout while our son was napping.

Do you play sports or are you on any leagues? Reed: I don’t play any team sports now, although I played college basketball and rugby at Dartmouth and ran track and played basketball in high school.

Most memorable athletic goal accomplished:  Bliss: Competing in the USARA Championships in San Diego. Adventure racing is like no other sport and quite possibly is the most physically and mentally challenging endeavor I’ve participated in.

Reed: Crossing the finish line of the San Diego marathon with Jacqui was awesome (even if I made her slow down the last two miles so we could finish together). As an assistant basketball coach at the University of Illinois, we took an underdog team to the NCAA Sweet 16 against all the odds. We had a group of hardworking Midwest ladies that just played their hearts out. It was an amazing experience. And as a player, I remember hitting a 10-foot jumper for the win over Columbia.

Upcoming fitness goals: Bliss: To keep challenging myself and applying what I learn to my profession.

Reed: During this upcoming decade, I have to become a better swimmer and work swimming and yoga into my routine. I have to accept that in my 40s, my body has some different needs.

Workouts — mornings or evenings: Bliss: Whenever I can fit it in. Most of the time, it’s around lunchtime as I’m with clients in the mornings and evenings.

Reed: Morning.

Least favorite exercise or piece of gym equipment: Reed: There’s nothing in a gym that I actually dislike, but I’m not fond of swimming. As I mentioned, I need to learn to love it!

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise outdoors: Bliss: White Rock Lake and my backyard.

Reed: I like to run around Kessler Park and North Oak Cliff, going north of Colorado if I’m game for some hills. I love the trees and looking at all the different architecture.

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise indoors: Anytime Fitness in the Bishop Arts District, of course!

If you could become an Olympian in any sport, what would it be and why: Bliss: Track and field. I still get goose bumps watching track meets. The nervous energy is unbelievable. Knowing you are going out and giving your all and that your body is on the line to perform.

Reed: Basketball. I love being part of a small team that performs together as a unit. With the seating down close to the court (as opposed to an open field), the energy of the crowd is electrifying!

How do you reward yourself after a great workout or an accomplished fitness goal: Bliss: I need to work on that. I don’t give myself a reward per se. I would say my greatest reward is in how I feel after a great workout: Unstoppable, and filled with positive energy.

Reed: After a good run or cardio workout, the endorphins are enough of a reward, so is a compliment from someone in the gym. But I believe in celebrating victories, whether big or small. When we were approaching a milestone with our membership base, I kept a bottle of champagne on ice.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Oak Cliff does gayborhood differently

In the city’s second-largest collection of gay-owned businesses, gay and straight mix nicely

VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM BISHOP ARTS

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

None of the gay business owners in Bishop Arts could say exactly how many of the other business owners in the Oak Cliff neighborhood were gay.

That’s because “no one cares about your color or if you’re gay or straight,” said Hunky’s owner Rick Barton at his Bishop Arts restaurant. Barton recently served as president of the Bishop Arts Merchant’s Association.

In the early 1980s, the Bishop Arts District began when a gay couple opened a restaurant in a corner space of an old warehouse in an area that was once the busiest trolley stop in Dallas.

That space later became Vitto, a gay-owned Italian restaurant and today is the coffee shop, Oddfellows.

Bishop Arts differs from Cedar Springs in a number of ways. The Oak Lawn street is a busy, four-lane thoroughfare that leads to Love Field, while the Oak Cliff neighborhood has a small-town feel that winds along several side streets off two-lane Davis Street.

Oak Lawn has plenty of bars. But while alcohol sales in restaurants were approved for Oak Cliff in November, bars, taverns and dance halls were not. So Bishop Arts remains a collection of restaurants, art galleries, stores, a gym and professional offices.

Barton said that the stores in Bishop Arts are all “mom-and-pop” affairs.

“That’s what’s cool about Bishop Arts now,” he said.

Barton called Oak Lawn lively, hopping and contemporary, while Oak Cliff, he said, is a little bit retro.

“People come and stroll and window shop,” he said. “It’s a small-town feeling.”

Paul Kirkpatrick and Mike Harrity opened Bishop Street Market 15 years ago. Harrity said each of the last three years he has seen record sales.

Before opening, the couple looked at Lakewood and thought about Oak Lawn, but rents scared them away. At the time, he said, rent in Bishop Arts was “dirt cheap.”

“I had my business here eight years before my parents [who live in North Dallas] would come down to see it,” he said.

“If you want to be killed …,” he said his mother warned.

Now, Harrity said, the area has become a major destination for people from around the city.

“People don’t stumble on us,” he said.

Michael Amonett owns Alchemy Salon. He is also president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League.

He said those in Bishop Arts need to be vigilant to keep the area from looking like Uptown and filling with chain stores.

The largest chains in the area now are Café Brazil and Gloria’s — both local, homegrown businesses.

The new Gloria’s is actually the relocated original that opened 25 years ago, several blocks away. Earlier this year, the restaurant moved into Bishop Arts in the renovated Firehouse No. 15, the same vintage as the fire station on Cedar Springs Road.

And attorney Chad West opened his law firm in a restored house on Bishop Avenue next to
Gloria’s. He recently expanded his business with a new office in Fort Worth near Keller.

West is a big Bishop Arts booster.

“To me, you have the benefit of a large city but the feel of a small town,” he said. “Go to lunch, see your neighbors and wave to them.”

Future plans will bring more people to the area while adding to the retro, small town atmosphere. A new trolley line from Downtown to Methodist Hospital that runs over the Houston Street Viaduct should be running by 2014. Then, the next link would extend near — or possibly through — Bishop Arts.

—  John Wright

Oak Cliff Mardi Gras attracts a wide cross-section of the community

Despite cold temperatures and strong wind hundreds of runners participated in Dash for the Beads as Mardi Gras weekend in Oak Cliff began Saturday, March 5. Runners included groups from Oak Cliff elementary schools, “traditional” families and many members of the LGBT community.

—  David Taffet

Carnivale returns to Oak Cliff

CARNIVALE ON PARADE | Entries in the Oak Cliff Mardi Gras parade set for Sunday reflect an eclectic mix, with everything from the Oak Lawn Band to the Catholic School Dad’s Club participating.

Oak Cliff Mardi Gras celebration promises an eclectic mix of participants and sponsors, including many from LGBT community

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Oak Cliff celebrates Mardi Gras with a two-day event this weekend, beginning with the second annual “Dash for the Beads,” a 5K run, one-mile walk and costume contest.

As with many Oak Cliff events, the sponsor list and participants in the weekend include an interesting and diverse mix. Sponsors range from GayBingo, Hewitt Habgood Realty, Monica Greene’s new restaurant Bee and attorney Chad West to the Oak Cliff Lions Club and Oddfellows.

“It’s why I love it over here,” said Old Oak Cliff Conservation League President Michael Amonett. “It’s an interesting, eclectic mix.”

The walk begins in the Bishop Arts District on Saturday, March 5, at 8:30 a.m. and the “Dash for the Beads” run at 9 a.m. Runners will proceed west on Davis Street, turn north on Tyler Street then east on Colorado Boulevard, with a detour through scenic Kessler Lake Drive, and return to the starting point on Bishop Avenue.

After race participants return, race awards will be followed by costume awards. Judges for the contest include Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Councilwoman Delia Jasso.

Vendors will have booths in the Bishop Arts District throughout the morning. The Cliff Blues Band will provide live music. DJ Ish follows and Ballet Folklorico performs.

A masquerade ball begins at 8 p.m. at the newly restored Kessler Theater on Saturday night. Lil Malcolm and the House Rockers will headline the evening. Zydeco Blanco will open.

Weekend organizer Amy Cowan called OCarnivale at the Kessler a semiformal masquerade ball with people dressed in everything from jeans to black tie — with lots of masks.

The Mardi Gras celebration continues on Sunday with a crawfish boil at 3 p.m. in Bishop Arts. Tickets are $15 in advance and a limited number will be sold at the door for $20.

That will be followed at 4 p.m. with the Mardi Gras parade.

Parade entries reflect an interesting mix and include everything from the Oak Lawn Band to St. Cecilia Catholic School’s Dad’s Club. Cowan said they have 48 entries.

Following in New Orleans style, several Oak Cliff krewes have formed with names like Krewe of Winnetka Heights and Krewe du Cliff Temple. Cowan is part of the Kings Highway Krewe, which has a 24-foot float.

She said Krewe La Rive Gauche always has the best costumes and that Friends of Kidd Springs Park’s entry features a 10-foot Eiffel Tower.

Norma’s, a popular Oak Cliff diner since 1956, has a vintage fire truck in the parade. Valdez will march with a sheriff’s posse on horseback.

Cowan said most mayoral and council candidates will be participating.

The parade begins on Davis Street at Windomere Avenue. The route follows Davis Street to Madison Avenue where it returns to Bishop Arts on Seventh Street.

Among the parade sponsors is Hunky’s.

“We’re going to open at 10 a.m. on Saturday,” said Hunky’s owner Rick Barton, referring to the Bishop Arts location only. “We’ll be decorated and festive.”

Cowan said traffic and parking will be difficult.

“Take public transit or ride your bike,” Cowan said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

TABC issues 1st licenses in dry Dallas areas

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has issued the first two liquor licenses to restaurants in the formerly dry areas of Dallas, according to a press release we received today.

A mixed beverage permit ihas been issued to Bee at 202 West Davis St. near the Bishop Arts District. This will be the first restaurant in Oak Cliff to serve alcohol without a private club permit since the area went dry in a 1958 election.

The first convenience store south of the river will be able to sell beer and wine as well. That store is on South Loop 12 Ledbetter.

On Nov. 2, a local option was held, legalizing wine and beer off-premises, as well as mixed beverage permits in restaurants that hold food and beverage certificates. Those votes were canvassed, with the results certified and reported to TABC and the Secretary of State in mid-November. TABC accepts applications only after they’ve been certified by the city and county.

A lawsuit has been filed to contest the election, but an injunction has not been ordered, so TABC has begun issuing licenses.

At issue is whether the election is valid. The election in the 1950s that turned parts of Dallas dry were Justice of the Peace district elections. The repeal was citywide. Under Texas law, only a JP district election can repeal a previous JP district election.

About 10 restaurants have liquor licenses pending. Bishop Arts District could be one of the biggest winners if the election is upheld.

—  David Taffet

Bishop Arts First Thursday to feature classic car show

As part of its First Thursdays series, the Bishop Arts District will host “Cruise Night” Nov. 4, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring classic cars from the Classic Chassis Car Club.

Merchants say they expect to fill at least two blocks of the urban historic district with lacquered fenders, polished chrome, white-wall tires and leather upholstery.

Classic Chassis Car Club is the organizational sponsor for the event and club members will furnish more than two dozen cars to anchor the it. Members of the general public are also encouraged to bring their special “rides.” In keeping with the club’s membership policy, “Cruise Night” is open to all pedigrees of collectible vehicles, from restored classics to brand-new exotics, from art cars to vintage two-wheelers.

Vehicles will be displayed between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. in reserved parking spaces along Bishop Avenue and Seventh Street. Early arrivals are welcome, and car owners need not remain for the entire duration of the event. There is no entry fee and no competition.

TWCD holding  Masquerade event as Halloween weekend fundraiser

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas will host “Masquerade 2010” Saturday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. at the Sammons Center for the Arts, 3630 Harry Hines Blvd.

The annual fundraiser will feature a wide variety of silent auction items, casino tables, live jazz music, tarot card readings, ballroom dancing and a contest for the best  masquerade costume.

Auction donations in the form of items or certificates for good or services are still being accepted and are tax-deductible.

Auction items already donated include original artwork, tickets for sports, theater and other entertainment events, spa packages, overnight hotel stays and travel packages, celebrity memorabilia, gift baskets and more.

The casino at the event will include poker, blackjack or roulette, and the best players can win prizes.
Tickets are $25 in advance, available online at TWCD.org, by calling 214-520-7828 or by e-mailing twcdoffice@twcd.org. Tickets at the door will be $35.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Annual tour of Oak Cliff homes to be ‘best ever,’ organizer says

Gays’ homes featured prominently in Old Oak Cliff Conservation League’s 36th event

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

EXTREME MAKEOVER  |  An historic church and 11 homes will be featured on this year’s Oak Cliff Tour of Homes. The tour has been credited with encouraging people to buy and renovate older homes throughout the area. Others have built new homes, like this one, in historic styles. (Courtesy Old Oak Cliff Conservation League)
EXTREME MAKEOVER | An historic church and 11 homes will be featured on this year’s Oak Cliff Tour of Homes. The tour has been credited with encouraging people to buy and renovate older homes throughout the area. Others have built new homes, like this one, in historic styles. (Courtesy Old Oak Cliff Conservation League)

This weekend the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League holds its 36th annual Home Tour, and “almost all the houses are gay this year, which will make it the best friggin’ tour ever,” said OOCCL President Michael Amonett.

The Oak Cliff Tour of Homes is one of the oldest home tours in Dallas and one of the largest. Members of the LGBT community is actively involved in the conservation group and in the tour.

Home Tour Chair Michele Cox said that actually five of the 11 homes on this year’s tour are gay-owned and noted that D Magazine readers voted this the city’s best home tour.

In addition to OOCCL’s president, gay residents head most of the 29 neighborhood associations and many of the tour sponsors are LGBT-owned businesses.

Amonett said that the tour has contributed to much of Oak Cliff’s renovation efforts.

“This tour is an ambassador for Oak Cliff and has been for 36 years, long before we were trendy,” Amonett said. “People came across [the river] and got a different perspective of Oak Cliff than the preconceived ones they had before.”

“What stands out for me is that Oak Cliff has become hot and fashionable,” said gay Realtor Steve Habgood, one of the sponsors of the tour.

He said that much of that has to do with Bishop Arts District and some of the city’s hottest new restaurants like Bolsa.

“This allows people to come and experience what it’s like to live in Oak Cliff,” Habgood said.

Amonett said that the tour highlights various neighborhoods where homes have been renovated and updated.

That encourages others to buy on the block “and pretty soon you’re Winnetka Heights,” he said.

He said that Oak Cliff homes are better built and more stable than homes elsewhere in the area.

“We’re built on rock,” he said. “Our homes don’t slide around like they do up north.”

The 11 homes on the tour are all from North Oak Cliff neighborhoods.

“I begged both the Oak Park Estates rep and the Kiestwood rep all year to find me a house in their neighborhoods and it didn’t work out,” said Amonett. “Kiestwood has a promising house next year — a very cool mid-century that sits diagonally on their lot. The guy was just not ready right now.”

Kiestwood and Oak Park Estates, the two southernmost Oak Cliff neighborhoods, are both south of Kiest Park but inside Loop 12.

Amonett described the variety of houses included on this year’s tour.

“We have a new house built to look old, a new house built to look new, a house that is really two houses — one old and one new,” he said.

Angus Wynne Sr. built his own house in Wynnewood North on the highest point in the area. Wynne developed the neighborhood and its namesake shopping center that originally included department stores, offices and a hotel.

THIS OLD HOUSE  |  This Hampton Hills neighborhood home, within walking distance of Hampton Station, is one of the homes featured on this weekend’s Oak Cliff Tour of Homes. (Courtesy Old Oak Cliff Conservation League)
THIS OLD HOUSE | This Hampton Hills neighborhood home, within walking distance of Hampton Station, is one of the homes featured on this weekend’s Oak Cliff Tour of Homes. (Courtesy Old Oak Cliff Conservation League)

Chris Medsger is the current owner of the Wynne house. He said he has been updating the house since he purchased it four years ago when he moved back to Dallas.

He said that when he previously lived in Dallas, he lived on Turtle Creek Blvd.

“I thought Oak Cliff was down-market,” he said. But now he said he wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Tour organizers approached him about opening his house for the tour. The renovations were done, but he said he put in a new garden for the tour that covers half of his backyard.

Organizers told him to expect about 1,500 people to come through his house each day.

Amonett described the variety of homes included on the tour.

“Two of our homes are award winners,” Amonett said. “And one of our homeowners is in the middle of an election campaign.”

The Lake Cliff Historic District tour home won the Preservation Dallas 2010 award for “Best New Construction in a Historic District.”

“The home on North Oak Cliff Blvd. was named one of the 12 WOW houses in Dallas in this month’s D Home,” said Cox.

In addition to the 11 homes, Cliff Temple Baptist Church on Sunset Avenue, across the street from the main office of AIDS Arms, is also on the tour.

Cliff Temple, founded in 1898 is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a state historical marker. Amonett described the church as a liberal congregation with a number of LGBT members.

Last year the tour returned more than $20,000 to its member neighborhoods, Cox said, for a variety of projects. Some areas used the money for cleanup and crime prevention. Others used the money for projects such as updating a park.

“Family memberships come with purchase of two tickets and it’s not illegal to be a same-sex family at OOCCL,” said Amonett.

Old Oak Cliff Conservation League Fall Home Tour. Oct. 9–10, noon–6 p.m. Tickets are $20, $15 for seniors over 60, children under 12 free. Available at Hunky’s in Oak Lawn or Oak Cliff and at Daniel Padilla Gallery, 838 W. Davis St. More information is at OOCCL.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Art in the Cliff

Oak Cliff’s arts community thrives by making the old new again

DAVID TAFFET  | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

THEY AUTRY BE PROUD  |  The Kessler opened as a movie palace owned by movie cowboy Gene Autry, but Edwin Cabaniss and Jeff Liles, pictured, have renovated it into a performing and visual arts venue. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
THEY AUTRY BE PROUD | The Kessler opened as a movie palace owned by movie cowboy Gene Autry, but Edwin Cabaniss and Jeff Liles, pictured, have renovated it into a performing and visual arts venue. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

First the Bishop Arts District brought gay-owned restaurants to Oak Cliff. Art galleries and stores followed closely. But not since the Bronco Bowl was torn down to make way for a Home Depot a decade ago have performing arts been so evident in the Cliff.

The Kessler Theater on Davis Street in Winnetka Heights has been around for decades, but although it’s in the process of renovating its art deco design, it’s also hopping with activity.

Originally owned by Gene Autry and opened as movie theater, it fell on hard times with the advent of television. The building cycled through many uses — it was a church at one time, and later still, a bowling shirt factory.

In 1957, the Kessler took a direct hit from the great Oak Cliff tornado, a disaster most familiar to Oak Cliff residents today from a large photograph hanging in Norma’s Café across the street. (The twister ripped right through the theater but left the structure standing.) A few years later, the building was further devastated by fire. For most of the past 25 years, it has stood empty.

Then Edwin Cabaniss, who lives in the neighborhood, bought the theater for his wife, a dancer who teaches tap and ballet. The couple’s love of the arts translated into turning the space into a clearing house for live performance. Work continues on updating the building, and when dance, guitar, piano and voice lessons aren’t taking place there, Jeff Liles books live music. Cliff native Edie Brickell will appear there Nov. 16; acts are booked four nights a week.

Visual arts are part of the ethos as well. In the gallery upstairs, an exhibit of black-light 1960s posters ran this summer. The theater, opened in March, looks better than it has since Autry owned it — and is more active.

The Kessler isn’t the only venue bringing life back into this gayborhood. Down the road, the Texas Theatre on Jefferson Boulevard has also reopened with a classic movie series. Best known as the place Lee Harvey Oswald was cornered after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it’s worth a visit, if only for its historic significance. After several failed attempts to save the building through the years, it is now owned by the non-profit Oak Cliff Foundation that is working on renovations.

Next door is the newly opened Oak Cliff Cultural Center with 5,000 feet of space, which the city of Dallas used to replace the Ice House Cultural Center. The Ice House was the original early 1900s building where 7-Eleven got its start: They froze water in this building on Polk Street and sold ice in their first store just a few blocks away on Edgefield Avenue.

Dallas converted the Ice House into one of its small neighborhood cultural centers years later, where artists and playwrights were often featured, including Martice Productions, which specialized in gay/Latino comedies.
Gerardo Sanchez of the center said the new space features an art gallery that will house eight shows per year as well as a dance studio that’s already being used by arts groups, dance groups and classes. With the Texas Theatre next door, Sanchez said there are a lot of possibilities.

“We’re hoping to partner with them,” he says.

TeCo Productions is an ambitious theater company that operates out of the newly renovated Bishop Arts Theater on Tyler. The company started in Atlanta in 1993 and moved to Dallas where they performed at the Hall of State in Fair Park until a patron donated the dilapidated Blue Bird Theater just off Jefferson Boulevard.

The Blue Bird was a silent movie theater built in 1917 — talkies never made it in this part of Oak Cliff. Outside, the drab brown cement building is easy to miss. The surprise is the 170-seat proscenium-stage, state-of-the-art theater inside.

This year’s schedule includes gay writer Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity starring New Arts Six; the show opens in December. The season also includes a world premiere of a mystery in October, and in February, their annual new play competition. Last year’s Southwest Airlines Jazz Series regularly sold out.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 8, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Catch some fur at 'Experimenting with Bears' art exhibit tonight and then hit Collision 3

Tonight, local artist Daniel Padilla will feature his newest exhibit “Experimenting with Bears.” The collection also features work by Houston artist Hans Payan. But they warn the exhibit isn’t for everyone. They don’t mean twink-only lovers. Padilla mentions the party is adults only because the work features erotic nudes in all mediums.

The exhibit opens at 6 p.m. at the Daniel Padilla Gallery in the Bishop Arts District.

Down the street, don’t forget to catch Collision 3 at the Rorschach Gallery.  We featured the event in this week’s Best Bets. With live music and flowing wine, the renegade art show also runs with good intentions. Proceeds from the night benefits Arts Fighting Cancer helping patients here in Dallas.

Might as well get your art fix for the weekend. If it’s all in the same ‘hood, why not?

—  Rich Lopez