Pop-Up Art Gallery paints
a pretty picture downtown

By Lana Sweeten-Shults of the Times Record News

Sorry, Andy Warhol. It isn’t pop art.

It’s the Pop-Up Art Gallery, a one-day tiptoe through creative cerebralism in an out-of-left-field space with a mayfly-like modus operandi, since this gallery’s life span is just a few hours long.

The sage brick-and-mortar Guggenheim it is not. But, like the Guggenheim, the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts & Culture’s temporary Pop-Up Art Gallery, descending on downtown Saturday, celebrates art.

It will open from 3-6 p.m. in the iconic “Big Blue,” a business center in the midst of oil and gas country that also happens to be home to the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum.

It’s an unusual space for art, but alliance Executive Director Margie Johnson Reese planned it that way.

“We wanted people to see that art happens everywhere,” she said, and it isn’t as if Big Blue, also known as the First Wichita Building, 719 Scott St., hasn’t been a conduit for other unique art projects.

In 2015, photographers gathered to shoot photographs for the “Blue Skies for Big Blue” project, which culminated with an art exhibit.

Visitors to the Pop-Up Art Gallery will get to view artworks by 150 youths ages 5-17 created under the guidance of eight “Teaching Artists” over four weeks this summer. The exhibit is the product of the summertime arts workshops.

While these local Teaching Artists have shared their creative skills with youth — skills from singing to performing to painting and sculpture — they also have been students themselves.

The Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts & Culture brought in national master artists to teach them how to teach.

The program, dubbed the Teaching Artists Learning Laboratory, started when Reese arrived in town six months ago.

She knew what Wichita Falls needed and had a vision to build a thriving arts community. To do so, she wanted to establish a corps of teaching artists who would share their skills with the next generation. It also would be the first step to building an economy based on the arts, which in turn would encourage artists to stay in Wichita Falls.

“It was really clear that the first thing we needed to do was find our artists,” Reese said, and the alliance did. Then it moved forward with training them. The hope is that this initial corps of eight will teach more artists.

Saturday’s Pop-Up Art Gallery will feature the works of youths from several community organizations, including the Southside Youth Senter, MLK Center and the East Branch YMCA.

It also will spotlight performances by opera soprano Ashley Renee Watkins and New England Conservatory pianist Lewis Warren. They will play a mini-concert at 4 p.m. before launching into another concert at 7 p.m.

Watkins, who is on the faculty of the Lincoln Center, is one of the national master artists who worked to develop the teaching skills of local artists. And Warren has performed in Wichita Falls for a Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra fundraiser.

The symphony had long wanted to bring Warren back to town. Symphony board president Katie Parkey said Reese suggested the group join the alliance in Saturday’s Pop-Up Art Gallery, where you might not find Andy Warhol-inspired pop art but where creative cerebralism will be in tow.