"Dedicated to the promotion, development, and support of the visual, musical, physical, and literary arts in the North Texas area in order to serve the needs of all citizens through participation, exposure, and educational opportunities."
Combine a friendly casual Texas feel with the excitement of a flourishing art scene and the result is Denison- "Small Town- Big Art!" The downtown art scene got it's start over 30 years ago as artists began relocating to Denison's Main Street. Many of the beautiful 19th century buildings had fallen on hard times as businesses had moved outside of the district. However, for artists these large spaces with incredible character sparked an interest in the heart of downtown. In some ways Denison's story is similar to other art communities. Artists found an area where the buildings were large and inexpensive and then converted them to studios and lofts. As the recession hit, many of the galleries were forced to close down but the art couldn't be held back. The artistic appeal of Denison still reaches out to those who love diversity. Along its eight block length, you will find numerous shops and galleries showing a diverse assortment of paintings, sculptures, stained glass, photography and ceramics created by regional and national artists. In the Spring and Fall, the Denison Arts Council makes calls out to local artists to set up and show their art at various festivals including the Dia de Muertos festival. Denison has its own unique character. Though it's still a work in progress, today the downtown area is undergoing a renaissance.
The Denison Arts and Cultural District (DACD) encompasses a 30-block area of downtown. It features:
art galleries and studios,
antique and specialty shops
performance venues and green spaces
a historic theater and art schools
restaurants and wine tasting rooms
recording and dance studios
museums, loft living spaces
a library, and the Old Katy Depot all nestled among buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Located just 65 miles north of Dallas, Denison has a rich cultural heritage. It's not surprising that artists are drawn here. The city was once home to over twenty vaudeville theaters various acts, including the Marx Brothers, performed. In the 1920's the Denison Opera House was the scene of the first full length comedy routine ever performed by the Marx Brothers. Prior to that they had been a musical act. According to Harpo Marx's autobiography, "Harpo Speaks", the Opera House manager needed the act to perform for two nights but the second night had to be different from the first. He suggested a comedy sketch and though they didn't have anything prepared the brothers agreed in order to get the work. The audience loved it, and from then on they decided to stick to comedy.
Movie houses were a mainstay in Denison for many years and at one time there were scores of theaters such as the Interstate, the Majestic, the Supurba, and the Star. Howard Hawk's epic film "Red River" had its world premiere at the historic Rialto movie theater.
While there are many arts works currently on display in Denison galleries the most valuable piece of art ever to be housed on Main Street was the result of a large art theft: The Quedlinburg Treasure was stolen from a German cathedral at the end of World Ward II by an American soldier from Whitewright, Texas. It ended its 35 year journey, stored in a Denison bank vault before being discovered then shown at the Dallas Museum of Arts. It was later repatriated to Germany. The book, "Treasure Hunt: A New York Times Reporter Tracks the Quedlinburg Hoard" details the story from Europe to Texas. The 2016 documentary, "The Liberators" is about the 200 million dollars worth of stolen art that was hidden away in our small town, as well.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Denison's most famous native son and the 34th president of the United States was also an artist. He was inspired by Winston Churchill, who urged him to begin painting as a way to ease the pressures of public life. Some of Eisenhower's works are on display at the Eisenhower Birthplace.
Denison was named one of the hottest art destinations in the US by Art Talk magazine in 2004.The Denison Arts Council received a Texas Commission on the Arts grant and a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 2005. In 2009 the Denison Arts Council was proud to announce the recognition as a new State Arts & Cultural District by the Texas Commission on the Arts.
The Denison Arts Council is striving to bring a strong sense of creative community and a dedication to the transformative power of art. Whether you are visiting Denison for the first time, or you are lucky enough to live here, you will come away with an incredible experience when visiting Denison and it's galleries and shops.