109 resident embraces art, Race Street

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Art, greasy burgers, a bluegrass barber shop, and a 109 resident are all part of an upcoming festival on Race Street.

Debby Stein, 109 resident and former owner of an art gallery on Bluebonnet Circle, is busy coordinating Embrace the Street 2, which will take place 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 6. The event is part of the Build a Better Block Project, which has the 2800-2900 blocks of Race Street at its heart.

“Here we have freedom,” she said. “I see this as the place I want to hang out. This has a main street feel.”

Stein describes the project as do- it-yourself [DIY] urbanism that helps enhance a neighborhood without spending a lot of time and money while creating walkable, public space.

“It’s grass roots, you do it from the ground up,” she said. “It’s what we are doing here. It's bringing citizens together and getting it done.”

The scene

A cat curls inside the window sill of mejo okon art studio where Okon lives and works. Down the street, past a community garden and graffiti-style mural, several artists gather around a table placed in a center aisle between booths. They talk about how more multi-use zoning needs to be available so artists, like themselves, can live, work and sell out of the same space.

Artist Jan Ayers Friedman wonders aloud if they’ll be “priced out” of Race Street once the area is developed.

“We have different philosophical discussions about the arts,” said artist Kim Collins, “That’s a two-edged sword sometimes.”

The burgers

Lunchtime at Greasy Bend Burgers neared standing room only. Owner George Palmer said the business, which is located next to a barber shop that has live bluegrass music on Fridays, moved onto Race Street about a year ago.

Palmer said he named the place after what the area was called in the late 1800s, and so far, it is doing OK.

While greasy burgers are a staple at Greasy Bend Burgers, Palmer said he also offers a portabella burger to give customers a healthier option.

“It’s not a health food store,” he laughed. “It’s a greasy burger with some fries.”

Palmer said he hopes Embrace the Street 2 will help get the word out about what’s happening on the street and bring people who may have never been to the area.

The event
 
“The area will be transformed into a walkable district with a community garden, outdoor street market, live music, kids plaza, art galleries and open studios,” according to an Embrace the Street press release. “Existing businesses and restaurants will be open, with the addition of several unoccupied venues that will house a music and beer garden sponsored by Martin Brewery, a pottery studio, and an information center offering details about future development in Riverside.”
 
Stein said the first Better Block project began in Oak Cliff in 2010, and numerous projects have since taken place across the country.

“I’m excited about what’s happening,” Palmer said. “I think it’s going to take off. It’s just a matter of time. We’re waiting on some more development.”

For more information about Embrace the Street 2, visit http://www.riversideartsdistrict.com/.

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