North Texas Daily

Doing it Denton: Alternative arts blog keeps tabs on what’s cool

Doing it Denton: Alternative arts blog keeps tabs on what’s cool

June 14
09:58 2013

Mollie Jamison/Staff Writer

Somewhere between the 300 and 400th block of Congress Street, three young adults meet at Seven Mile Café, their local coffee hangout. They sit with their MacBooks propped in front of them and sip from fancy white cups on saucers. They have no pen or paper, just ideas. They shout over the sound of coffee beans grinding and converse about the future of their blog, We Denton Do It, and the parts of the creative community they plan to showcase next.

“The blog is nothing more than a reflection of what the arts scene is in town,” said Will Milne, a member of the WDDI team, who doubles as a professional photographer and instructor. “Depending on how the arts scene changes would depend on our content and what we’re showcasing. If Denton gets really into death metal in the future, we might do another redesign where the blog is black and in all bleed cowboy font.”

WDDI founder Glen Farris, and a handful of other contributing writers, have collectively been blogging about interesting and innovative musicians, artists, restaurants and businesses in Denton for almost three years. They write reviews and do Q&As with business owners, creators and entrepreneurs. Their blog features places like the Dime Store (Denton Independent Makers Exchange), as well as bands like Space Camp Death Squad and flavorful, original recipes for grapefruit mint sorbet.

“In a lot of ways we really focus on not just arts in general, but on the Denton creative class,” said Alyssa Jarrell, another member of the WDDI team who had a significant part in the website’s February redesign. “One of our biggest goals is to be a resource and a reflection of the creative class. A place where we can bring together all the creative resources in Denton and showcase them really well. In doing so, we are trying to continue the progress for the city of Denton.”

Farris said that WDDI exists because Denton has a high quantity of people producing creative work from art and music to design and technology.

“Our culture is crafted by the creative endeavors of people,” Jarrell said. “Because we write reviews and do interviews, people say, ‘I think interviewing me about my business would be really beneficial.’ I’m like ‘I don’t care if your salon exists here unless you are doing something like a tattoo parlor combined with a crazy Mohawk gallery with live printmaking while you’re making pho in the back.’ That would be awesome – that’s a salon to talk about.”

The bloggers also host events and parties to bring together members of the creative class, including their most recent, an election party in May, where red, white and blue bow ties, straw hats and high heels were a popular trend.

“We have a lot of younger people fresh out of college that are full of ideas and creativity and haven’t been overly jaded by life yet,” Milne said. “They were talking together, drinking beer together, and taking photos and networking.”

In addition to emphasizing the importance of creativity and progress, members of WDDI also celebrate democracy and local government. They created another website called votedenton.org that features bios of local politicians and provides information that encourages voting participation.

“We desperately need more avenues to introduce our citizens, particularly our young, smart, creative ones, to important issues facing their city,” said City Council member Kevin Roden, a friend and fan of the website’s staff. “We Denton Do It is doing just that. They are innovating local news in Denton and are helping fix our local democracy along the way.”

The average voting age in Denton is 63 years old, with only four to six percent participation among the voting population.

“Those aren’t the type of people we want making the call of where are city goes,” Ferris said. “That’s why it’s really important to us to get a younger crowd.”

Across the nation, communities thrive and flourish from the influence of local artists. One of those communities is the Waterloo Art District in North Collinwood, Ohio, where officials have designated an area of lower income housing for artist-only residents.

“I’m from Northeast Ohio and there is an area in Cleveland that has been really economically depressed for a long time and they have all these cheap homes there,” said Dave Koen, a contributing writer for WDDI and creator of Triple Threat Press printmaking in Denton. “They are getting people loans to buy them but the condition is they have to be an artist. They are kind of using artists and creative thinkers as a catalyst.”

The Dime Store features one of their sellers or artists per month on WDDI. In May, Koen’s business appeared on the blog.

“We Denton Do It isn’t the first and they won’t be the last,” Koen said. “There have been plenty of blogs that have showcased different aspects of the Denton arts scene. No one entity can cover everything that’s going on. I think it’s cool that there are people that want to showcase these things. It kind of gives validity to the things that people are doing.”

WDDI plans to sell advertising space in the future, to local businesses whose ideas they support and wish to promote. They plan to use their revenue to float the cost of the blog, pay contributors and to occasionally throw a killer bash.

“We have this great creative core here, but how do we as a city really show that off?” Jarrell said. “We need to bring in more commerce; we need to bring in bigger companies.”

SIDEBAR

Artspace is a national leader in the field of developing affordable space that meets the needs of artists through the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and new construction. Artspace’s mission is to create, foster and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations. Artspace is America’s leader in arts-driven community transformation.  With headquarters in Minneapolis and offices in Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington DC, Artspace runs a network of 32 affordable arts facilities in 13 states.  Representing a $500 million investment in America’s arts infrastructure, our facilities provide more than 1,100 affordable live/work units for artists and their families as well as a million square feet of non-residential space for artists, arts organizations and creative enterprises.

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