Denison began to grow as a railroad town in the late 1800s by means of the Katy Depot. The railroad still runs through Denison, though passenger trains are a thing of the past. Instead of passengers getting off a coach for a stretch, there are now visiting art hounds who run from gallery to gallery – at least twice a year.
Denison has recently attracted a lot of art-buyers, sellers, and artists themselves because of bi-annual, art festivals known by slogans such as “Small Town, Big Art”. To have shown some remarkable pieces from world-famous artists, such as original work by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, the slogan is fitting for this town of about 30,000 people.
In the 1980s, a lot of Main Street was in need of renovation, and some local eyes realized that the lofts of the old buildings needed some reconstruction instead of going to waste with the cobwebs of time. Despite the reconstruction, the architecture of Main Street has retained the heritage of its late-1800s design, and it has turned seamlessly into a bonafide arts district.
From the old Katy Depot on West Main Street for about a mile to the east, there are about a dozen art galleries, each one of them showing work from the proprietors, some of them from around the nation, as well as representing other, well-liked and talented local artists, sometimes a half-dozen in each gallery.
Mr. Alfred Robinson operates the Fresh Light Gallery nearest to the railroad on West Main. Primarily, Fresh Light is open on the weekends and by appointment. Near the Fresh Light Gallery, there is currently some available loft-space for artists who are in need of a comfortable and spacious place to work.
Local artist Jimi Morris, a graduate from the University of Texas Studio Arts program, was working in the evening in one of these lofts. There was no one else in the entire upper-floor (yet), which is in the process of being cleaned for more workspace and other artists, but Morris is not wasting time.
He said, “Another artist from around here, Brandon Willis, and I were talking the other day – and, at least for local artists, some people hype you up at first, then they don’t care what you’re doing after that. It’s great for me to be around other artists who are supportive regardless of what other people are saying or even buying right now.”
Morris made the keen observation that some people spend a lot of money on giant art-frames only to put cheap reproduction prints of famous work inside of them. He said, “At least for me, I would much rather have someone’s original artwork – art that is unique – especially if I were going to spend so much money on just the frame.”
As in the past, there is an upcoming fall tour, which takes place the first weekend of November in 2005. Also, in the spring when people begin to visit nearby Lake Texoma, there is an Arts and Wine Renaissance. These bi-annual events have been staples in the last few years that have kept more art in the galleries and appreciation for art on the rise.
Taking a walk down Main Street, one sees the Myerscough Fine Arts Studio, the Art Place Gallery, Images, Studio 406 by Donna Finch Adams, the Mary Karam Gallery, and the 416 West Gallery, which has made Denison a bridge for its move to the market of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A few more of the popular galleries on Main Street, such as Tellkamp’s Art Studio, were closed temporarily for remodeling.
Along with the art district of Denison, for those who may not be as interested in the fine arts or simply tagging along with those who are, there are at least four antique shops, several tasty cafes, as well as coffee that is available in one of the bookstores along Main Street.
Denison is historic to the eye – the architecture of its railroad heritage is a remnant of another time. Near Alfred Robinson’s Fresh Light Gallery beside the railroad, there is the Red River Railroad Museum, as well as an ever-burning torch in memory of those who have served the nation and its ideals of freedom for all and equality before the law.
Denison is the birthplace of Dwight Eisenhower, a former President of the United States, so it offers some historical attraction such as the site where he was born, as well as modern attractions such as the art, which ranges from traditional to more contemporary – a little bit of something for everyone in the family.