People in Your Neighborhood: Karen Weiner

Let me introduce to you Karen Weiner, Director, founder and driving force behind The Reading Room at 3715 Parry Ave. in Dallas. Swing the Book Swap on Saturday, May 11 and introduce yourself.

Have you ever thought about who lives and works near you? Every day we leave our homes and head to familiar places, passing familiar faces, some of whom we recognize but will never stop to take the time to truly know.

Today I’m beginning a new series I’m calling People in Your Neighborhood, named fondly for the Sesame Street segment that introduced us to all the individuals that make up our community. I’ve chosen the video above to hint at my first neighbor. She’s someone I’ve known for a few years and met in a professional context (I actually just found a really nice rejection letter from her when she was the Residency Director at South Side on Lamar in 2005). Since then our paths have crossed more and more as we’ve both found our places in DFW’s ever-growing art scene. Let me introduce to you: Karen Weiner, Director, founder and driving force behind The Reading Room at 3715 Parry Ave in Dallas.

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The Reading Room

The Reading Room presents visual art, text and performance and all of its overlapping incarnations. Perhaps you’ve already visited the unassuming space behind its garden entrance; it opened in July 2010. There is nothing quite like it in Dallas. From straightforward framed art on the walls, to collaborative performance, to kids’ sing-a-longs about Yankee Doodle, to mushroom demonstrations by local experts, TRR is a project space seeking to share knowledge. Its strength lies in Weiner’s ability to maintain a clear vision while still allowing the space to evolve project by project.

Below are edited comments from our email get-to-know you correspondence:

KAren Weiner

Karen Weiner. Photo credit: Kevin Todora

MM: How would you introduce yourself?

KW: Art maker, collector, advisor, organizer, with a newspaper fetish.

MM: How would you describe the Reading Room?

KW: The Reading Room is a project space that features monthly exhibitions, readings, performances that involve the interplay of text and image. The curating is often driven by particular concepts I want to explore. For example, recently Kris Pierce worked with voicemail language and technology.

Kris Pierce installation detail.

Kris Pierce – Missed Calls.

Last fall we attempted to have a dialogue with the Texas State Fair in Janeil Engelstad‘s exhibition Y’UTOPIAS.

Janeil Engelstad Y'UTOPIAS

Sprout demonstration from Janeil Engelstad’s Y’UTOPIAS

Brandon Kennedy‘s Exit For Sale show explored the balance of media with sculpture and signage. And Terri Thornton and I, who was on my list from the beginning, had talked about having a show about the act of reading. Her work is simultaneously delicate and powerful.

MM: How do you decide what will be on view at the Reading Room?

KW: I look for work locally but also beyond Dallas, in other Texas cities, in New York and sometimes on the web.

Eric Zimmerman

Detail from Eric Zimmerman’s Telltale Ashes & Endless Harmony.

Usually the artists do not have gallery representation. In the few cases when they do, I ask that their Reading Room project is something that goes beyond their gallery work. For example Jesse Morgan Barnett‘s upcoming installation or Eric Zimmerman‘s Dallas/Houston two-city doppelganger show or Vincent Falsetta‘s index card archive.

Vincent Falsetta's Index card exhibition

The Index Cards: Vincent Falsetta-  Dec 2011

MM: What are you interested in or what do you offer DFW that is unique?

KW: I am interested in information and in conversation. There is always a book in the space that relates in some way to the current exhibition. Recently TRR has started having a selection of art journals, zines and small publications like Sally Glass’s semigloss or the Austin-based magazine Pastelegram. On Sunday, May 19th TRR will launch the Dallas Pavilion Book Project published by the Free Museum of Dallas. You can come to pick up your copies, meet people involved in the collaboration and find out about the plans for the presentation at the 2013 Venice Biennale with Jaspar Joseph Lester. There will be brief remarks by Michael Corris at 5:30 pm.

MM: How would you describe and/or what do you like best about your neighborhood?

KW: The location in Exposition Park across the street from Fair Park is very particular. It is urban, with sounds from the DART trains and buses, as well as historic. The buildings in Fair Park were built in 1936 for the Texas Centennial and feature WPA type murals and sculpture. The Dallas Museum of Art was located there until moving to the Arts District. The small size (650 square feet) and ivy-covered facade of The Reading Room offered an irresistible opportunity. It is charming and doesn’t look like a gallery.

And I like my neighbors: CentralTrak, 500X Gallery, The Power Station, Oliver Francis Gallery, Gray Matters. 500X has been around for 30 years, Gray Matters is occasional, and Oliver Francis is pretty new. Perhaps the common denominator of us all is an element of the unpredictable.

MM: What’s next at the TRR?

KW: This Saturday May 11th from 4-9pm will be Book Swap.  The private nature of reading will be turned over to become public in a participatory event designed to encourage conversation about reading. You can swap out your discards for something new while enjoying cocktails and micro readings every hour on the hour by local literati.

book swap

Image from last years Book Swap 2012

 5 minute readings schedule of events for Book Swap:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

4 pm Dee Mitchell, curator, Wordspace chair

5 pm Shay Youngblood, DMA writer-in-residence

6 pm Dan Rockwell, former Arts & Letters staff,

7 pm Sally Glass, editor, Semi Gloss

8 pm Joe Milazzo, Writer’s Garret writer-in-residence

9 pm Brandon Kennedy, artist, book collector

the neighborhood idea (whether it is real or virtual) is great one

So swing by the Reading Room this Saturday and introduce yourself to Karen, her neighbors and the readers above. Don’t forget to bring a book(s) and a willingness to linger.

also by Margaret Meehan

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2 responses to “People in Your Neighborhood: Karen Weiner”

  1. Karen… Keep up the great work… Very impressed with what you have done so far. You are a vital addition to the Dallas Art Scene..

  2. Loved catching up with you after a long period of time.
    Please let me know when you re-open. Would love to come to the gallery.

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