Dallas’ Design Society and PechaKucha present evening of art, architecture, poetry and music.

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Into the Wild is a month-long investigative blog series that explores an array of events hosted by The Wild Detectives, a café/ bookstore that brings the Dallas community together through interesting events hosted in a welcoming atmosphere.

 

Audience members chat and cool themselves with complimentary fans as they wait for Design Society's PechaKucha Night to begin. (Photo by Sara Magalio)
Audience members chat and cool themselves with complimentary fans as they wait for Design Society’s PechaKucha Night at The Wild Detectives to begin. (Photo by Sara Magalio)

The outdoor performance space of The Wild Detectives café was filled with people chatting enthusiastically and waving complimentary white paper fans Thursday evening, as they waited for the start of “Origin” a presentation put on by Design Society, an affiliate of The Dallas Architecture Forum. The Design Society partnered with PechaKucha, an international presentation network that uses “20×20,” a presentation format where 20 images are each shown for 20 seconds, and the images advance automatically while presenters talk along to the images.

PechaKucha Night is a form of presentation that is now in over 1,000 cities. It began in Tokyo in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture as a way for young designers to network and share their work in a public setting. Every PechaKucha Night city is hosted by a local organizer, which ensures that each PechaKucha Night is relevant to that city.

This PechaKucha was the inaugural event for the Design Society, a group that “provides a platform for empowering interdisciplinary discourse in the design community” according to their Facebook page. The Design Society decided to choose the theme of “origin,” since this event marked the beginning of public events for the group. Design Society members meticulously curated a group of artists from a variety of backgrounds, including studio artists, designers, architects and musicians, to speak on the idea of origins, in whatever capacity that topic meant to them. The presenters were allowed to ask questions, but a Design Society representative noted that not one presenter asked a question before the event. They all just went for it.

One of the first presenters was Evelyn Henshaw, a project manager at STASH Design, a sustainable, commercial design firm in Dallas that is dedicated to utilizing salvaged objects to create spaces for businesses. Henshaw interpreted the event theme as “the origin of learning from our ancestors, people before us.” Henshaw revealed that she gained many of her carpentry and construction skills from her father and grandfather and showed signs of creativity and innovation as a child, constructing a skateboard ramp from cabinetry and a chicken coop from an old play set.

Evelyn Henshaw presents at the Design Society's PechaKucha Night host by The Wild Detectives. (Photo by Sara Magalio)
Evelyn Henshaw presents at the Design Society’s PechaKucha Night hosted by The Wild Detectives. (Photo by Sara Magalio)

Henshaw later translated her ability to create new constructions from recycled materials to her professional life, both in working with STASH Design and in helping to build churches and buildings from recycled materials for communities in need in Peru and Uganda. Whether she is experimenting at home, working for STASH, or volunteering abroad, Henshaw noted that for her, the action of taking something old and repurposing it into a new useful object or building allows her to stay inspired and “keep her creative juices flowing,” while also staying connected to her origins by using the skills she gained from her father and grandfather.

Another presenter, Lisa Huffaker, has trained as a singer, musician, poet and visual artist and integrated all of these mediums into her presentation. As a visual artist, Huffaker’s work has been featured in D Magazine and the Dallas Morning News, and she has appeared as a visiting artist for the Dallas Museum of Art. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals, including Southwest Review and Poet Lore. Huffaker also sings with The Dallas Opera and teaches creative writing in museums, youth shelters and libraries.

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Lisa Huffaker: Poet, musician, visual artist, and “Origin” presenter! Lisa’s prize-winning poems have been published in many publications including Southwest Review and Poet Lore, among others. Her latest project, White Rock Zine Machine, in which she transforms retired vending machines into whimsical sculptures offering tiny books by Dallas writers and artists, has been celebrated in local magazines, and awarded grants by the Dallas Office of Cultural affairs. In addition to being a classical singer by training, she also served at the Dallas Museum of Art as a visiting artist last summer. We can’t wait to hear experience her presentation during origin powered by Pacha Kucha at @thewilddetectives this Thursday, June 14! #dallasarchitectureforum #pechakucha

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Speaking with Huffaker before the event, she hinted at the unconventional nature of her presentation. “They encouraged us to be as creative as possible with our presentations and that’s what I set out to do,” Huffaker said.

Huffaker noted how the idea of design can bridge the gap across multiple art disciplines, and she was enthusiastic about presenting under the topic of design, because it allowed her to utilize her various talents in her presentation on our origins. “The idea of design is important in many disciplines and art forms, including studio art, architecture and poetry,” Huffaker said.

Lisa Huffaker playing the flute during Design Society's PechaKucha night hosted by The Wild Detectives. (Photo by Sara Magalio)
Lisa Huffaker playing the flute during Design Society’s PechaKucha night hosted by The Wild Detectives. (Photo by Sara Magalio)

Huffaker demonstrated this ability to mix media to create design with her abstract presentation. Instead of simply describing photos that relate to her career, as the other presenters chose to do, Huffaker instead created 20 original illustrations. As these compositions changed on the screen, Huffaker recited lines of poetry reflecting on the origins of the universe and one’s life journey. After each line, Huffaker played a series of notes on her flute, allowing the audience to contemplate her words before hearing the next line of her poetry.

Some of Huffaker’s striking lines include, “All I know is I’m in the middle of something which is nothing,” and “What will it have meant this walk across the stage, this little feat of having lived a life.”

Audience member Tim Cloward attended the event to support wife Lisa Huffaker, but he was also interested in seeing the PechaKucha form of presentation for the first time. Cloward noted how an event like this showcases “how different organizations could come together to express a common idea of beauty.” Cloward also remarked on the fact that “these presenters have to be very disciplined to get their ideas across in such a short amount of time,” but that the short presentations also “allow for a variety of interesting presenters.”

By the evening’s conclusion, viewers were indeed introduced to a variety of interpretations on origins in design, from a young aspiring designer learning carpentry from her grandfather, to architects discussing the process of translating a line drawing into reality, to a poet sharing lines on their interpretations on the origins of life itself.

Infographic showing data points on PechaKucha. (Graphic by Sara Magalio)
Infographic showing data points on PechaKucha. (Graphic by Sara Magalio)

New York-based avant-pop group performs with local dancers at Dallas café.

Into the Wild logoInto the Wild is a month-long investigative blog series that explores an array of events hosted by The Wild Detectives, a café/ bookstore that brings the Dallas community together through interesting events hosted in a welcoming atmosphere.

 

 

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Ominous clouds loomed over the outdoor space behind The Wild Detectives café Thursday evening, but the threat of thunderstorms didn’t faze the members of the avant-pop band Reliant Tom and their local guest dancers, who were set to perform in just one hour.

Reliant Tom is a two-member avant-pop band started by SMU alumna Claire Cuny and her partner Monte Weber. The group incorporates vocals, instrumentals and musical tech with abstract dance performance in their concerts. The group has received attention from publications including The Deli Magazine (NYC) and Audiotox.

Cuny’s sister Grace Cuny, who is also an SMU alumna who performed in the show, explained that Claire has merged her talents in dance and music from her time in college, where she received a B.F.A. in dance performance and performed in university musicals. After moving to New York City, Cuny was a part of multiple bands until she created Reliant Tom with her partner Monte Weber, and the rest is history.

Claire Cuny of Reliant Tom rehearses trio of local dancers. (Photo by Sara Magalio)
Claire Cuny of Reliant Tom rehearses trio of local dancers. (Photo by Sara Magalio)

Before the performance, the musicians and dancers helped to move the equipment inside when the threat of rain appeared imminent, and then back outside again when the potential for severe weather passed. These sudden changes immediately before the show did not seem to affect the performers when the show began, as they seemed completely composed while performing even though their rehearsal time had been cut short by moving equipment.

Marie Lawrence, one of the dancers and yet another SMU alumna, shed some light on the group’s ability to adapt at the last minute when she explained that the performance as a whole was the product of only one week of rehearsals. Evidently these performers were already accustomed to last minute production and alterations. Even with this abbreviated rehearsal schedule, Lawrence said that the “simple and efficient rehearsal process allowed [the dancers] to quickly absorb the choreography pretty easily.”

Reliant Tom performing at The Wild Detectives. (Photo by Sara Magalio)
Reliant Tom performing at The Wild Detectives. (Photo by Sara Magalio)

At the beginning of the performance, the dancers held small lights that accented the pathway of their arms as they moved fluidly through the space. These lights initially seemed to be simply a prop to augment the movement of the dancers, but in a subsequent song, the dancers used the lights to mimic using a lit up phone screen. As Cuny and Weber performed, the dancers sat idly on the stage and seemed to ignore the performance going on right next to them, starkly contrasting their previous dancing.

Claire Cuny explained to me that this pantomime representing one’s absorption with technology was meant to represent the group’s “mixed feelings about social media.”

Dancers pantomime using cellphones on the stage during the performance. (Photo by Sara Magalio)
Dancers pantomime using cellphones on the stage during the performance. (Photo by Sara Magalio)

 

Cuny continued to explain, “We wanted to make a statement on the passive age we live in and start a conversation about our absorption with social media, where people share a post on Facebook and think they’ve made a change.”

Claire and Grace Cuny perform a duet during the Reliant Tom concert held at the Wild Detectives. (Photo by Sara Magalio)
Claire and Grace Cuny perform a duet during the Reliant Tom concert held at the Wild Detectives. (Photo by Sara Magalio)

In the second half of the performance, Claire Cuny performed with her sister using chairs on a small area rug. The sisters moved seamlessly together with periodic pauses in abstract shapes. In my conversation with her before the show, Grace Cuny revealed the personal importance of performing this duet. Cuny explained, “Being the little sister, I always looked up to Claire and her work, so working on this duet with her and collaborating with her on an equal level was a big deal for me.”

Flowers and a thank you note from Reliant Tom reading, "Thank you for being here and for being you." (Photo by Sara Magalio)
Flowers and a thank you note from Reliant Tom reading, “Thank you for being here and for being you.” (Photo by Sara Magalio)

 

At the performance’s conclusion, the dancers gave out flowers to thank the audience for attending the show, and the dancers performed and improvisational section. Instead of planned movement, the dancers spontaneously respond to the music, allowing the audience to witness the dancers’ interpretations of what the audience was hearing in the moment.

After the performance, I got the chance to speak with Christopher Dolder, the recently appointed chair of the SMU Division of Dance who attended the performance to support his past students. Dolder noted that the “nuanced connection between the movement and the music allowed the audience to be a part of an experience, not just witness a show.” The audience’s involvement in the experience was evident as the group concluded their last song and the final soloist exited the space. Cuny thanked the audience, and after enthusiastic applause, the audience sat for a few moments in a reflective silence before moving to converse with those around them, highlighting what Dolder described as an “ambient dream state” created by the performance.

Infographic mapping out Reliant Tom's 2018 tour dates. (Graphic by Sara Magalio)
Infographic mapping out Reliant Tom’s 2018 tour dates. (Graphic by Sara Magalio)

Dallas café creates community through literature, music, theatre and more.

Into the Wild is a month-long investigative blog series that explores an array of events hosted by The Wild Detectives, a café/ bookstore that brings the Dallas community together through interesting events hosted in a welcoming atmosphere.

 

 

Nestled on a quiet side street in Dallas’ Bishop Arts District, The Wild Detectives storefront is not immediately visible to the casual passerby. Those who are familiar with this bookstore; however, know that to find a stimulating place to work and study, converse with intellectuals in the community, enjoy a music or theatre performance, and even share a drink at the bar, they need look no further than this eccentric space.

The Wild Detectives gets its unusual name and overall mission from a loose translation of Roberto Bolaño’s novel Los Detectives Salvajes (The Savage Detectives, 1998), who according to Mexican author Juan Villoro “are life investigators, inspectors of the experience.”

From its opening in 2014, The Wild Detectives has been committed to instilling a sense of community, where patrons can be inspired by both visiting artists and those sipping a coffee beside them. The Wild Detectives was founded by Spanish civil engineers and long-time friends Javier García del Moral and Paco Vique, who wanted to create a space where they could mix their two passions: “books and booze,” according to their website.

What seemed like a simple mission soon turned into a celebrated business, receiving significant praise including being named Best Bookstore by D Magazine for three years in a row from 2014 to 2016 and being featured as a Best New Thing in Town by the Dallas Observer in 2014. The Wild Detectives was also featured at a 2016 UT Arlington TEDx, in which Javier García discussed the value of conversation in advancing the understanding and acceptance of various cultures. The Wild Detectives continues to advance this idea through hosting thought-provoking lectures, discussions and performances, and through the implementation of ideas such as wifi-free weekends, which encourage patrons to disconnect from their devices and converse with each other.

Photo of the front of Wild Detectives bookstore
Entryway at The Wild Detectives bookstore (Photo by Sara Magalio)

I spoke with Andres de la Casa-Huertas, the Media Director for The Wild Detectives, who shed some more light on how this company is able to provide such diverse events and opportunities for its patrons. He explained that when it comes to scheduling events “the process is very organic, sometimes the events come to us, other times we see who is touring and we reach out to them to see if they’re interested, but we always are thinking about what people would be interested in seeing.” When asked about the impact of wifi-free weekends and how it has changed the atmosphere of The Wild Detectives on those days, de la Casa-Huertas noted that this practice has helped to advance the mission of the business, to create conversation and facilitate cultural awareness.

Photo of Wild Detectives Cafe
The Wild Detectives café (Photo by Sara Magalio)

As I sat at the bar in this cozy bookstore, sipping my refreshing black iced coffee and admiring the vast assortment of books lining the walls, I began to speak with the barista, Olivia Leigh, who shared her impression of The Wild Detectives and what drew her to work for this business.

Leigh has been working at The Wild Detectives for two years. When asked about her perception of the overall atmosphere of the café, Leigh immediately responded, “Eclectic, definitely eclectic.” Leigh continued to explain that what drew her to The Wild Detectives was the array of events that The Wild Detectives hosts, from poetry readings to drag shows. Leigh described The Wild Detectives as a “cultural destination,” where people from many different walks of life can come together and appreciate art and literature. “People often walk in and are a bit confused,” Leigh said. “But I always tell them to ask questions. This is a very welcoming and inclusive environment, and once people get used to it they often come back again and again.”

For Dallas residents looking to catalyze their personal life investigation, 314 W Eighth St. is an excellent place to start.

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