David Schulze stands in front of his easel, paintbrush in hand. He dabs a little color on the canvas, then nods contentedly.

“Painting is very soothing to me,” he says, his gaze fixed on his work. “I started painting about four years ago, after my mother died, because I wanted to bring something new into my life. Not that I thought it would replace her or anything — but I just knew my life would never be the same without her.”

And in just four years, he has managed to accumulate an impressive collection. Scores of paintings hang in his small living room, and dozens more are stacked on the ground. Most are Texas landscapes, with a few impressionistic pieces peppered in.

“If people buy my art, I want them to buy it because it speaks to them,” he says. “You should never buy a piece of art just because it matches your couch.”

Spoken like a true artist. And after a few minutes in his home, a visitor gets the feeling that Schulze heeds his own advice: His digs reflect a mixed-match style that’s all his own. There also might be an assumption that a guy like him resides in an artsy, funky part of town — somewhere like East Dallas’ Little Forest Hills or Oak Lawn — but that’s not the case. Schulze lives right here in our own suburbia: a neighborhood known more for its prime shopping and real estate than its art scene.

But Schulze and a group of other neighborhood artists aim to change that with the North Dallas Artist Studio Tour. The last weekend of this month, Preston Hollow and Far North Dallas artists will open their studios — many of which are in their homes — for the third annual studio tour.

There is no charge for the tour, and the way it works is simple: Neighbors can obtain a map of participating studios by visiting northdallasart.com. There are 14 studios in the tour, and neighbors decide which ones they’d like to visit, and in which order. All studios will be open Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, April 29, from 1 to 5 p.m.

The hope is that by visiting these galleries, neighbors will discover there are homegrown artists among us.

“Because we’re in a residential area, often working behind closed doors, I think people just assume there isn’t an art community in our neighborhood, but that just isn’t so,” he says. “We are not some distant institution. We are right here shopping at the same groceries stores and banking at the same banks — we’re part of this neighborhood, and so is our art.”

And while our neighborhood’s art community might be smaller than in other parts of town, it boasts tremendous talent and variety. In fact, this year’s studio tour features paintings, sculptures, photography, pottery, collages, metal art, mosaics, textiles and jewelry by 28 artists.

“This is the most range we’ve had yet, so there’s something for every taste” Schulze says. “Plus it’s a chance for neighbors to chat with us face-to-face. And I love to hear feedback about my work, even if it can make you feel very vulnerable. Overall though, I think the tour is just a really great way to start a neighborhood dialogue about local art.”

Debby Shannon has participated since the tour began in 2004, and she says it’s exactly that kind of neighborly discussion that she looks forward to every year—and lucky for her, her small garage studio is full of conversation pieces.

“I did this collage after a trip to ,” she says, pointing to one piece. “And this is just a painting of a barn I saw in the country, and that one I sketched in Paris.”

Each piece looks as different as its back-story. Some are modern, bold paintings — others are collages that have been styled to look like the weathered pages of a scrapbook.

“I get bored a lot, so I try lots of new styles,” she says. “I’m always experimenting, and that’s partly why I do art demos during the studio tour. I can show people the creative process of all the different art styles they’re seeing in my studio.”

Several other tour artists also will be conducting art demos, meant to teach our neighborhood more about art and perhaps even encourage other aspiring artists on the block.

“I always urge people to try creating their own art, because I think the best way to gain a true appreciation for art is to try it yourself,” Shannon says. “But second to doing it yourself is seeing how it’s actually created — that definitely gives people a new appreciation for what they see hanging on the wall.”

And that appreciation is growing more and more each year, says participating artist Martha Box.

 “We’ve grown slightly each year, steadily adding an artist or two to our line up, and we hope that continues to grow,” she says. “And the neighborhood turnout has gotten better with each tour. That’s really encouraging because when we started the tour, we wanted to help art find a place here in our neighborhood, and it’s finally starting to do that.”

And because the North Dallas Artist Studio Tour is truly a neighborhood event, it’s appropriate for everyone in the neighborhood.

"Last year, we had random neighbors wander in just because they read the signs," Box says, "which was great, because that’s what it’s supposed to be — a casual neighborhood gathering to let people know that there is a vibrant art community here, even if they don’t know it yet.”





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