INTERVIEW: SPIDERWEB SALON

  Conor Wallace and Courtney Marie of Spiderweb Salon. 

Conor Wallace and Courtney Marie of Spiderweb Salon. 

You've probably heard the name Spiderweb Salon before. We say it a lot on the blog, whether it's on our Den10 or through sharing some of their literary work, but you might still be confused as to what it is. They sure as heck aren't gonna cut your hair. They're a "salon" as described by definition # 2 and they are everywhere. Spiderweb curates live shows and zines that feature all kinds of work from Denton artists - and they've been doing this for a year now. Within the span of that year, they got a lot accomplished. A gaggle of zines, a showcase during 35 Denton and plenty of recognition from art lovers. Conor Wallace and Courtney Marie are the two creative masterminds behind Spiderweb Salon. We hung out with them a bit in anticipation of their one year anniversary show (and pool party!) this weekend and asked them a couple questions, but never got to the bottom of why Courtney hates citrus so damned much. 


WDDI: Who are you guys again? 

Conor: Well, I’ve lived in Denton my entire life. I work for Denton ISD transportation- during the day I drive youth from home to school. I am also a singer and a song writer and make music with my friends here in town, which is how I met Courtney Marie.

Courtney: I have lived here five and a half years. I currently work as a barista at Jupiter House to pay the bills. My passions include books, writing, photography, music, cooking, poetry, art, and my friends.

What inspired you to start Spiderweb Salon?

Conor: I missed seeing my writer-friends doing readings, and I play music but not everything I write fits with a band, so I thought it would be neat to get everyone together to share what we are working on creatively, to talk about it and encourage one another. I used to be a part of a similar thing at Tex Gallery a few years ago, but it wasn’t as focused on local artists, it was more about something new for the audience, things other venues in town wouldn’t necessarily host. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel comfortable performing there myself because my stuff didn’t feel avant garde enough.

Courtney: I had lost my job just before the summer and was feeling pretty aimless and depressed. I thought I was going to move away from Denton, but instead, one thing led to another and we started Spiderweb Salon. Conor and I were trying to find something to do that would nurture our various creative interests, inspire and motivate us and our friends to keep creating, and also be fun. It was a great idea to me because as a writer, I have found there are few outlets for readings or workshops in town, especially not affiliated with the Universities.

 

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The two of you started operating creatively together as {we, bees} before Spiderweb Salon was created. Do you operate differently within the context of your band and Spiderweb or are all of your creative interactions the same? 

Courtney: I first really got into music, singing specifically, with Conor and several other good friends when I joined their band Ella Minnow in 2010. The bands we play in together are very collaborative, there are lots of people involved and I usually don’t take the reins. {we, bees} is different, it’s just the two of us brainstorming and making art and putting ideas into action. Our collaborations have included poetry, music, various writings and art, and photography projects, but the biggest project is, of course, Spiderweb Salon. 

Conor practically vomits ideas- while I struggle to come up with even a single concept I like or something I’ve deemed worthy of working on, he’s already come up with a hundred different proposals. I am incredibly hard on myself as an artist, and one of the million things Conor has taught me is to accept imperfections, be myself, and let go of the things that keep me from doing what I want to do with my time and passion.

Conor: {we, bees} is anything creative that Courtney and I work on together. I feel like the longer we work together, the more we approach projects as a unit, as equal contributors. As far as Spiderweb is concerned, I don’t think I ever would have gotten it off the ground without Courtney Marie, and it definitely wouldn’t still be around right now. She has taken the idea and built a community out of it. I help a lot with brainstorming ideas and working out the logistics of what we do, but as far as passion and organization are concerned, Courtney is the queen bee.

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Tell us the inspiration behind and the reasons for the Spiderweb mantra - ‘You are here, we support you.’ 

Courtney: Think of your creative life as a map. You could be doing a thousand different things, all over the place, but when you are at a Spiderweb show, all that matters is that you are there, expressing yourself and learning and growing. You are here, but you get to decide where you’re going, too. That’s what it means to me, at least, and I think it is a good mantra because it is open to interpretation. We support you is pretty simple. I think artists are not always effectively encouraged or nurtured by the community. A simple reminder such as this might do wonders for someone who is struggling.

Conor: To me, You Are Here means whoever you are, any fears or preconceptions about creating art or performing at a show are dropped and you can just give yourself to the creative project you’re working on and the people who are there to support you. You shouldn’t be afraid of where you are creatively. That’s how we get better.

To us, Spiderweb seems to push poetry above all else (at least recently). Is this a calculated choice? If so, why? 

Conor: I can see why you would think that, after National Poetry month just happening in April, and with the recent show we hosted for some traveling poets, but we are definitely a mixed-media, mixed-performance collective and don’t want to highlight any art form over anything else except for specific showcases. I will say there aren’t many venues for poets to perform, and we are glad to give them the opportunity.

Courtney: If there is a need for artists to be heard and respected in Denton, we’d like to be able to fill it. Recently, some poets from Chicago asked if we’d be willing to host their tour if it came through our town and we were delighted to be able to make it a variety show completely balanced with local acts as well. We’d never done anything like that before and we would definitely do it again! It’s fun that Spiderweb has become a flexible venue in this way. The focus is always shifting, but never about one specific artist or art form: rather, it is simply ideas, collaboration, and supporting others.

Tragically, I think art in many forms has been dominated by men in the past, and seeing proof that this can change in the future is inspiring to me.
— Conor Wallace

What’s been your favorite Spiderweb Salon performance so far? What did you enjoy about it? 

Conor: Maybe not a particular performance, but there have been at least three times I have said, “This is my favorite Spiderweb Salon show.” I love the idea of celebration without any precedent- a holiday or some long-term achievement -so when we had our masquerade last fall, where people were dressing up and painting their faces, and making art that reflected the event, I thought that was really great- the whole evening had a wild and unexpected tone.

I also really loved the first Ladies’ Night Showcase. Tragically, I think art in many forms has been dominated by men in the past, and seeing proof that this can change in the future is inspiring to me. Social change you can see.

Courtney: I have to agree with Conor, it would be impossible to single out a performance that has been my favorite! The great thing about Spiderweb is the collective experience. Each show as a whole is incredibly powerful, which is why we encourage attendees to come before the show begins and stay until all the acts are finished. Not only is this respectful to all the artists involved, but it promotes the idea of the show itself being the performance, with everyone working together. I sometimes compare this experience to attending the theatre- you wouldn’t show up halfway through a play and leave before it finished!

I have really loved the shows we’ve had at the house venue, but recently hosting events in a more public space has been really positive- it’s awesome to be able to reach more people and bring the artists involved in our collective a little more exposure.

The Ladies’ Night Showcase was also a favorite of mine, everyone worked so hard: the all-female lineup had everything from shadow puppets to a performance piece that connected everyone in the audience to each other with a rope, incredibly passionate readings and music and awesome paintings; it made my heart happy, and the fundraiser aspect let us give back to the community while we were doing it. We look forward to hosting a similar showcase soon, for sure.

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Which area of the arts do you think Denton is the most under-appreciated for? 

Conor: People know us for our colleges, our college of music, our music festival, and a few national musical acts that have made it out of here. Music is highlighted above all else, but I think it could still be appreciated on a different level, both locally and nationally. We sometimes forget about our writers, poets, visual artists, and they’re everywhere, I think the architecture of the town has not yet found a way to showcase them properly. I’m not saying our artists should be legends held above the rest of the population, but it would be nice to see all of our creatives embraced and nurtured.

Courtney: Literature. There is an incredible number of talented writers and poets here. I don’t think we as a community are suffering from a lack of appreciation, but I definitely think we have a problem with how we go about promoting the literary events we already have, and cultivating the creativity of writers in our midst. There’s a huge push in Denton to support local music, which is great, but I envision a culture where all art can co-exist on the same stage.

Are there any collectives that influence the way you guys operate? 

Conor: I already mentioned Tex Gallery... Good Bad Art Collective, The Porch, Bolivar Art Collective, even the Denton Greater Art’s council. Hell, even the universities. We’ve tried to go and learn about events hosted by these people, and I guess we pay them tribute when we find something in them that works for us.

Why do you think that Spiderweb has caught on so quickly in Denton? 

Conor: We’ve made ourselves accessible and inclusive, and we have such a high population of people that are without a place to collaborate with others or showcase their creativity. Personally, I don’t think of this as an organization or a business, I think of this as a social group or family. I think that open, caring nature comes through in the things we do.

Courtney: The format of our shows is unique, and we put a lot of emphasis on respecting artists. I think that is something that is often neglected at other events in town, whether it’s an open mic or rock show, either people get distracted or they’re there to socialize. We operate under the idea that you come to our shows for a reason, to appreciate the art and learn something. I think the people who are involved in Spiderweb Salon appreciate that, and it makes them want to come back.

What are your future plans for Spiderweb Salon?

Courtney: We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, and let it continue to evolve the way it has this last year. Someday we would like our own space where we can host shows, workshops, and have a permanent gallery. Until then we want to continue to collaborate with local organizations, print zines and host showcases and workshops from our home and at local businesses, support as many artists we can, give back to the community, and have fun.

Conor: I would like to see interest grow and more contribution, from artists and from our town as a whole. We would like to be a cultural influence on Denton and help shift the focus to our artists and our people, rather than mainstream media. I believe we should try to support people we know, that we can see and touch, more than nameless celebrities we will never meet.

 


If you want to celebrate Spiderweb's 1 year anniversary, go RSVP on their event page