Art Outside the Box

Creative couple turns industrial warehouse into Dallas art world’s next destination

Creative couple turns warehouse into Dallas art world’s next hot spot

The Box Company's Jason Koen and Nancy Koen
Jason and Nancy Koen with the work of Francisco Moreno, the first artist to show in the Box Company's project space. Photo by Kendall Morgan
The Box Co.
Nancy Koen just outside the big box-in-a-box that will house rotating art exhibitions. Photo by Kendall Morgan
The Box Co.
The Box Company lives up to its heritage with 14,000 square feet of industrial space. Photo by Kendall Morgan
The Box Company's Jason Koen and Nancy Koen
The Box Co.
The Box Co.

Nestled in the South Dallas sweet spot between Expo Park and the Cedars, an unobtrusive corrugated warehouse is poised to become the Dallas art world’s newest hot spot. The Box Company is an edgy project space for local and international talent, imagined by entrepreneurial couple Nancy and Jason Koen.

The circa-1930s building at 2425 Myrtle St. was formerly a cotton depot and the Camacho Box Company (hence the new moniker). The couple has ties to the building: At age 12, Jason worked at the box company, which was founded by his grandfather, Gabriel Camacho.

Nancy, editors’ choice winner in the 2015 CultureMap Stylemaker Awards, has spent most of her career creating companies like the jewelry line B. Stellar, as well as managing apparel and accessory brands such as Puma and Valentino. A skateboarder in his spare time, Jason opened a shop called Chrome in Expo Park in the mid-’90s.

Former Angstrom Gallery owner David Quadrini opened just a few doors down, and the two became fast friends, inadvertently leading Jason into a life in art. As exhibitions coordinator with the Goss Michael Foundation, as well as a freelancer for the Dallas Contemporary and the Dallas Museum of Art, Jason has worked closely with the likes of Michaël Borremans, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Richard Patterson, Michael Craig-Martin, Marc Quinn, and Julian Schnabel.

When he and his wife had the opportunity to buy the building through a family trust, it was the perfect time to turn their respective skill sets into a functional business with an artistic bent.

“A lot of this had to do with finding a use for this building, which my granddad left [to the family],” Jason says. “We’ve tried to sell it over the years and lease it in different ways, but we have a passion for art and tried to come up with something unique.”

Throughout the last nine months, the Koens and their family and friends have cleaned out 14,000 square feet of storage (including decades-worth of old machines and junk). A single white cube that will serve as a “large box” to showcase art was constructed front and center, and a small box upstairs was devised to house an additional show by a developing artist.

Because the couple’s ties in the community run deep, they’ve had a great deal of support from local galleries and painters, allowing them to mount an intriguing set of exhibitions right out of the gate. First on the roster is a showing of Francisco Moreno’s “Scribble Paintings,” which opens October 1, 7-10 pm, in tandem with Erin Cluley Gallery. Painter Paul Winker will take over the smaller space upstairs.

The remainder of the now-empty building — 8,000 square feet in all — will eventually be transformed into artist studios that can be customized according to their renter’s needs.

“We’re set up in such a way we could build out their own climate-controlled space,” Jason says. “We could even do something like a residency program. We have the facility and the amenities.”

“We’re hoping to host different artists and also have art being made in the studios,” Nancy adds. “There’s going to be a lot of creative energy going on in the building, which we’re exited about.”

The Koens anticipate mounting six exhibitions a year, but more important to the pair is the opportunity to revitalize one of the few remaining under-utilized neighborhoods in a city undergoing rapid gentrification. 

“It’s really desolate here, and this part of town used to be really pumping,” Jason says. “In the Depression era through the 1950s, it was a really lively, cool area. We want to establish our art space as an alternative art institution and reinvigorate the historical charm of the community.”