Garage Arts Project brings art communities together to learn, create new styles

Garage Arts Project. dancers in white against a blue sky
Renuka Rajagopalan brings a background in bharatanatyam dance to her collaborative nonprofit, Garage Arts Project. Photography courtesy of Garage Arts Project.
Garage Arts Project started with one bharatanatyam dancer and has since turned into a collaborative arts project and annual BRIDGES festival.

If you took a peak in most of your neighbors’ garages, you could probably guess what you’d find. Cars. Lawn equipment. Workout gear. Old paint cans.

But in Renuka Rajagopalan’s garage, you’ll find a dance studio, fit for collaborating with artists of all kinds.

Rajagopalan is a trained bharatanatyam dancer, a type of classical dance that expresses South Indian religious themes and spiritual ideas. After visiting India for a dance concert in a small suburban town, Rajagopalan found that the intimate, immersive energy of the performance was missing from Dallas’ large stages.

“Just the energy of how pure and intimate the experience was,” Rajagopalan says. “I wanted to bring that to the Dallas area and to my neighborhood that would expose [people] to different art forms in different neighborhoods.”

Her husband got to building, and the Rajagopalans turned their Plano home garage into a dance studio that would host small, immersive events for Dallas-area artists. She called it the Garage Arts Project.

The project started with a yoga workshop, followed by an Afro-Cuban live music and dance event. Shortly after, Rajagopalan had to shut down the garage for the pandemic.

Courtesy of Garage Arts Project
Garage Arts Project has hosted several collaborative events, bringing together dancers and artists of all types.

“I wanted to see how they could jam together, coming from completely different disciplines, and it was so cool,” Rajagopalan says. “We ended up having an impromptu dance workshop, and the kids had a chance to feel the drums and the beads. … The idea was basically to have an experimental space and intimate space. Very carefree, non-judgemental and safe space for artists to collaborate with somebody who is completely outside their genre.”

After she was able to throw live events again, Rajagopalan hosted a live festival called BRIDGES, which featured 20 artists, dancers or musicians, five music and dance cross-collaborations and around 150 guests. BRIDGES ran again in 2022 at ArtCentre of Plano, with 20 artists, four collaborations and a second festival location in Houston.

“It fits to do it here in Plano because the Plano/Frisco area is such a multicultural part of different people and different communities that live here in this space,” Rajagopalan says. “It plays along with that idea of bringing, providing a space for bringing different people to come together, and what better way to do that than using arts as a bridge.”

This year, Rajagopalan has hosted online artist collaboration events called Art Salad, a dance production called Four Seasons, an artist showcase at the Cox Theatre in April, and Plano’s second annual Celebrate the Arts! showcase.

While this year’s BRIDGES festival will be hosted in Frisco to hold more artists, artists from around the metroplex will participate in the two-day event.

It starts Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. with a pre-event social at Frisco’s Discovery Centre Black Box Theatre, followed by a gallery viewing of visual artists with drinks and hors d’oeuvres and a pop-up showcase of emerging young talents. At 8 p.m., the main showcase starts with collaborations of visual and performing artists who aren’t commonly paired to create a unique art experience.

“The whole idea is to keep creating pieces that are very unique and refreshing in nature,” Rajagopalan says. “I want to make sure that when Garage Arts presents something, the artist is able to find venues where they can take their collaboration into other spaces and make it into a bigger production.”\

Courtesy of Garage Arts Project
Courtesy of Garage Arts Project
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