Pop-Up Style: Life and Times in Oak Cliff

Jeremy and Kelsey Turner aboard their Vintagemobile, a green school bus turned boutique.

There’s a quiet pop-up revolution happening in Oak Cliff — it’s a revolution that is bringing together elements of the arts, community and social responsibility. It’s about neighbors knowing one another and working together to create a great place to live. It’s family-friendly and involves everyone — people with kids, neighborhood old-timers and the newly arrived.

There are pop-up events here almost every weekend. There are pop-up dog parks, pop-up better blocks, and pop-up vintage shopping in the Vintagemobile — a green school bus.  Streets and bridges are closed to vehicles and opened to bicycles, walkers with dogs or strollers and roller-bladers. Food is cooked on the street and in trucks and enjoyed by neighbors. Artisans sell their creations. Produce is sold while local rock bands play. Murals are painted on walls. A pop-up bar raised money last fall for local charity Promise House.

At Tyler-Davis art gallery Gallery Bomb, owner Brandon Sellers hosts pop-up art shows — one night events that are strictly buy-the-art-right-off-the-wall-and-take-it-home-with-you. The second Saturday evening of the month often turns into a block party at Tyler-Davis — store and gallery doors open, music, lots of friendly people strolling and chatting and good times.

Kings Highway neighborhood association president and recent Ciclovia de Dallas (a recent pop-up bridge party on the Houston Street Viaduct) organizer Jonathan Braddick explains, “Pop-ups are about not waiting for someone else to create something great in your neighborhood — instead, doing it yourself with your friends. It’s the philosophy that things don’t have to be perfect or expensive to be meaningful and fun. It’s energizing and empowering to create an low-budget event that demonstrates adaptive reuse.”

Vintagemobile owner Jeremy Turner came up with the idea of a moveable store with his wife and friends. The “store” has been all over the Metroplex in the past few months — and even did a road trip to Waco and Austin. Jeremy says of pop-up shopping, “We’re selling more than just a product, we’re selling an experience. We can take our shop to where the people are.”

You can’t talk about pop-up style in Oak Cliff without talking to Jason Roberts. Roberts, who is currently running for Congress, is the guy behind the Better Block Project demonstrations, Art Conspiracy, bringing the trolley back to Oak Cliff, and advocating tirelessly for bike friendly streets. “Pop-ups allow people to team together, have a finite start and end time, and lower the barrier to entry for people who may just want to test out an idea they’ve had at the back of their minds for a while,” he says. “From bike-in movies, to art crawls and food truck expos, we’re embracing the idea of bringing our communities together and creating a better quality of life for everyone. I’m excited to see so many young and creative people moving into the area.”

Brent Turner, the developer of Sylvan | Thirty at West Dallas’ Sylvan and Fort Worth Avenue, has organized numerous pop-up events on the empty land that will become a swank new mixed-use development in the next year. He’s held pop-ups like farmers markets, events with local bands, Truckstock — food trucks and music, Feast in the Field with Fish Fry Bingo, and on and on — all on an empty dirt lot before the first shovel has been turned for the development.

Turner says the events will continue even after the development is finished. “These pop-up events bring the communities together in such a fun and relaxing way. We will continue to provide for them as long as the communities enjoy them.” Brent adds, “What I enjoy the most about the events is the diversity of folks that come; all walks of life show up from all over the city.” He says that the pop-ups have been financially successful for the vendors who have participated, too.

Pop-up events. Community. Art. Adaptive re-use. Simplicity. Who doesn’t want to live this way?