Dan Mojica was all set to accept the Community Arts Recognition Award at the end of February.
But the fickle North Texas winter snuffed out the ceremony, an annual party staged by the local agency that gives the award, the Greater Denton Arts Council.
The council rescheduled the party for Friday night.
In honor of Mojica, Denton Time decided to ask Mojica about the many little details that make up Dan’s Silverleaf, a venerable watering hole and Denton music venue.
If you’ve ever been inside the Industrial Street bar, you’re familiar with the odd angles of the interior, and the collection of odd and unrelated objects that make Dan’s Silverleaf the distinct local spot that it is. There’s the curved bar with a guitar sculpted into the surface, the beat-up orange cooler where anyone can get a plastic cup of water at the end of the bar, right at the doors to the back patio. Bistro tables are scattered around in front of the stage, and when the joint is jumping, the curving counter on the back wall serves as prime real estate to stand by (or lean on), drink in hand. The indoor stage is shopworn, but the lights flush the pocked and scraped surface in enough warmth to give the space a familiar, well-fitting kind of feel.
The easy-rider bicycle
There it is, hanging from the ceiling. A low-slung bicycle (think the panhead Harley-Davidson bike Wyatt rides in Easy Rider) with two small wheels and ordinary bike saddle.
“That was a fabricated bike by my friend Repo,” Mojica said, referring to Denton resident Justin Sires, who organizes the Pistons & Paint car show. “One day he rode in on that bike and I said, ‘I need that.’”
And so it was. Mojica got the diminutive bike, with its blackish paint job and light tires. It hangs over the best spot in the bar for watching a show.
What’s with the bovine skull?
Right in the middle of the proscenium arch is a painted cow skull.
“It’s actually a buffalo skull,” Mojica said. “My mom’s cousin Kenny might have been in a hunting situation. I’m pretty sure it’s bleached. My mom gave it to me and I put it up.
“A lot of the things in the bar are things people gave to me, or things that I’ve found and that I like. Some of them are things I’ve found at garage sales,” like a handmade miniature hot air balloon, a taxidermied fish and a mounted deer head.
The skull could be a metaphor for the talent in the bar — often homegrown and native to the Southwest region, embellished a little but mostly basic. It’s painted with a signature Southwestern pattern — chevron shapes in alternating sienna, gold and black. (It’s also a lot more fragile than it looks. A stagehand tried removing the skull — just for a second, so that a drape could be hung across the stage — for the Halloween musical Cirque du Horror. “Wow, this might be broken, a little,” the stagehand said. “Don’t you dare break that,” another volunteer said, eyes wide and wincing at the way a piece of buffalo bone moved in the volunteer’s hand.) Other skulls — with antlers attached — line the walls.
Ann Sheridan lies on her side, head propped up on her elbow, over the famous Dan’s Silverleaf sound booth. Is she a good-luck charm for the perpetually dubious sound engineer, Jimmy Smith?
“I’ve always liked Ann Sheridan,” Mojica said. “I’ve always thought she was a very beautiful woman, and she was from Denton.”
The Hollywood starlet lies — the rise of her hip pointing to her name between two shafts of cartoon bamboo — above a description: “The ‘Oomph Girl’ born Clara Lou Sheridan in Denton Texas on February 21, 1915 and died in Los Angeles, California on January 21, 1967.” Her likeness sports Max Factor brows and that Hollywood smolder.
“I commissioned it,” Mojica said.
The painter Mojica commissioned is Dallas artist Robert Hamilton, a University of North Texas graduate. Inspired by his love of tattoos and the folk art of Mexico, Hamilton is the artist behind Denton’s Day of the Dead festival. Hamilton painted the entrance to the pumpkin patch, all of the scenery for Cirque du Horror and almost all of the puppets and barges in the festival parade. That explains the color and movement in his painting of Sheridan.
Gussying up the joint
Mojica was wrapping up some major renovations at the bar recently. The restrooms will be moved back into a space shared by the bar and what used to be the office of Little Guy Movers, owned by Dan’s Silverleaf co-owner Marcus Watson and Chris Hawley. And for months, Mojica has watched crews build a covered stage at the south end of the bar patio.
“It’s designed so that bands can load in their gear more easily with ramps, and giving it some cover,” he said.
Mojica said the patio stage — which was used last weekend during 35 Denton music festival — doubles the bar’s capacity for shows.
“They’re too close together to really have two acts going at the same time, but once its done, we’ll be able to alternate shows — you’ll be able to turn around, go out on the patio and watch a band, and then go back inside when they’re done. It’s funny. Our busiest days are when we have music.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.
COMMUNITY ARTS RECOGNITION AWARDS
What: Greater Denton Arts Council’s annual award ceremony to honor a person who has worked to support the local arts and culture landscape in Denton. This year’s winner is Dan Mojica, owner of Dan’s Silverleaf.
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Patterson-Appleton Center for the Visual Arts, 400 E. Hickory St.
Details: Admission is $30. For reservations, call 940-382-2787.
On the Web: www.dentonarts.com