Quirky art colony flourishes in dying Dallas mall

DALLAS — It's one of the most anticipated real estate developments in all of Dallas — the demolition of Valley View Center, a "dead" mall, and replacing it with an urban village called Midtown.

But while North Dallas is focused on a shiny new beginning, there's a quirky, cool, sub-culture taking root as the old shopping center awaits execution.

"It's hugely unusual," said local artist Doug Winters.

In advance of the wrecking ball, the developer of Midtown has leased out 30 percent of the storefronts at the old Valley View to artists, enticing them with cheap rent and a funky vibe to what's called the Midtown ARTwalk.

"Anybody who's a painter or artist who wants to rent space for 50 bucks a month, they can come in here. And it's just kind of an artist collective community," said developer Scott Beck.

Two-and-a-half years after artist Doug Winters was the first to move in, there are now 140 artists working [and selling] at Valley View.

"It's a gift," Winters said.

Winters and with wife Kiki now direct what's called the Dallas Midtown Art Project.

"You don't get the opportunity. No one gets this opportunity. For an owner of a building to hand over a third of it for artists to go rampant and start their business," said Winters.

At the heart of this experiment is the Gallery at Midtown. While most galleries take a 50 percent cut of an artist's sale, here the artist gets 90 percent. In exchange, artists are required to volunteer in the gallery one day a month.

"It's 14,000 square feet," said Kiki Winters. "It used to be a Lane Bryant dress shop, back in the old Valley View days."

So, what happens after Valley View is bulldozed into history?

"He wants an art community in this part of Dallas, and so do we," Doug Winters said.

Beck says the artists will have a permanent home in the new Midtown development. Art and artists, he believes, will create a sense of place unlike anywhere else in North Dallas.

"It can be an area where local artists can thrive," Beck said.

For now, he says, Valley View is home to more artists working under one roof than anywhere else in Texas.

And what an unusual roof it is.


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