Oak Cliff — and really, I suppose when I say Oak Cliff these days, and when you say Oak Cliff these days, I/you really mean North Oak Cliff — is not a secret anymore. Not to you, not to your parents, not to anyone. If I were to see you in the street and say to you, “Hey, cool s— is happening in (North) Oak Cliff” — because I tend to swear when I’m not on this blog, and certainly when I’m in the street — you would only think that was strange because I just randomly brought up that subject when we were having a conversation about hypothetical scenarios and grudges, my two favorite conversation topics.
So, what I am about to talk about is not new, but maybe is interesting. To streamline my wording here: FEEL FREE TO SKIP TO THE NEXT ONE.
Okay, we all good now?
On Friday night, after a drink at the The Cedars Social (not in Oak Cliff, but adjacent, I suppose), I first went to dinner in the Bishop Arts District. Specifically, at the Veracruz Cafe. If you haven’t been, it’s not really one of the “name” restaurants there — Hattie’s, Tillman’s, Eno’s, Oddfellows — but it is really good, especially if you are able to sit outside. Because:
There really is no other part of Dallas like Bishop Arts on a Saturday when the weather is that perfect mix of sun kissed and breezy, with people of every creed and color, and babies and dogs, and everyone is doing something interesting or interested in something about everyone…
It was, like I said, a Friday, but pretty much everything else in that sentence held up on my visit, and generally does. It didn’t feel like Dallas. I’m not saying that as someone who doesn’t like Dallas. I do. A lot. (And though it is reminiscent of other cities, it didn’t make me wish I was in another city.) Let me (try to) explain. The best parts of every city don’t feel like the city they are in. Instead, they are part of sort of a super city, where you are taken out of your environment and put completely in the moment. Some other cities are better because you don’t have to search as hard to find those places, those connections to the super city. Anyway (pt. II).
From there, it was a winding trail from Bishop Arts to the new Oil & Cotton annex, at the intersection of Tyler and Davis, where WIGWAM was having its opening night shindig. Oil & Cotton is worth a visit on its own. Best way I guess I could describe it is sort of like the best art class ever, except it’s many of them. Here:
Owners and instructors, Shannon Driscoll and Kayli House Cusick met while volunteering for the Better Block, a neighborhood improvement project that included a free public art studio. Shannon had been working as an art conservator of works on paper as well as teaching adult workshops in traditional handcrafts and materials-based projects. Kayli was a piano teacher and children’s arts curriculum writer who had recently relocated to Dallas to raise a family with her husband, artist Matthew Cusick. The community response to the Better Block studio was positively overwhelming. Neighbors of all ages came into the space to create together using a variety of donated materials with guidance from area artists. The synergy was perfect. Encouraged and assisted by our friends and neighbors, we decided to make our temporary outpost permanent.
Oil & Cotton opened in September 2010. Another alumnus of the Better Block Project, WIGWAM, is occupying its annex this month. Walking up Tyler and seeing the scene outside, it was another one of those super city moments. You weren’t in Dallas, weren’t in Oak Cliff, and didn’t want to be anywhere else. Inside, the room full art and crafts and arts and crafts was an endless treasure, each shelf and corner and wherever else holding something else to marvel at (or maybe take home). Sorry. I may be going on, but I think you shouldn’t be afraid of being excited about something. Anyway (pt. III, the last).
The whole experience was like the best kind of party, where everyone is on the same rhythm, and the conversations aren’t just stepping stones to other conversations, where you’re not constantly looking over someone else’s shoulder while they are looking over your shoulder. So, yeah, I’m not telling you a secret. But it’s worth saying again.
(I left out the part about a sort of goose chase looking for a 7-11 — or an ATM — and ducking into the Kessler for a moment and a few other things. I was trying to focus the vacation photos portion of my presentation on the main journey and not the side trips.)