‘Long Live Skypony’ | Local Gallery Unites Art Community

(Left to right) Patron Amy Ananian, Owner Douglas Winters III, Owner Kiki Curry, Musician Jerry Don Branch, Director of Media Relations-City of Plano Steve Stoler | Image by Skypony Gallery

Skypony Gallery, located in The Shops at Willow Bend, advocates for community through art, recognizing their loyal patrons and visitors as the bedrock of their sustainability amid the mall’s redevelopment.

Centennial, a Dallas-based real estate company spearheading the improvement project, states they transform “retail real estate into real experiences, real community, and real value,” per their website. Centennial’s plan for The Shops at Willow Bend was outlined at Plano’s recent city council meeting on February 12.

The plan includes demolishing 530,000 square feet of the existing shopping mall while retaining 400,000 square feet of space that encompasses anchor stores Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s, Macy’s, a restaurant area called The District, two smaller retailers, and three parking structures.

At the council meeting, Michael Platt, the executive vice president of mixed-use development at Centennial, presented an ambitious plan to create a dynamic “mix-use destination” to serve as a community hub. Platt described the envisioned development, noting that it will feature a plethora of indoor and outdoor shopping options, four lush green spaces, and a 7-story mixed-use building that will house offices above ground-floor retail spaces.

Additionally, there will be one- to two-story retail buildings, a five-story mid-rise residential building, and a single three-story multi-family building. A well-connected internal street system will allow for seamless navigation throughout the development, which will also feature 10 acres of open space for public use.

The Bend will also boast an impressive 18-story hotel, vibrant streetscapes, best-in-class retail merchants, a lively restaurant district, picturesque courtyards, and event and festival spaces. The landscaping will be highly amenitized, and ample sidewalks and parking will promote a seamless experience for all visitors. Platt explained that the rebranding of the development as The Bend reflects the on-trend and modern marketing that will be evident in the overall experience.

Steven Levin, founder and CEO of Centennial, said at the council meeting that The Bend “has the potential to be one of the most dynamic, exceptional, community-based retail, restaurant, entertainment, and shopping destinations in Dallas-Fort Worth — the best in Plano, Texas — bar none.”

The end result of the renovation and revitalization of The Shops at Willow Bend is designed to promote a place where the community can come together to congregate, enjoy, experience, and explore. Skypony Gallery has been adhering to the model of community-first since the beginning, and owners Douglas Winters III and Kiki Curry maintain that this is what has allowed their gallery to survive during these difficult times before the mall begins its transformation early next year.

“The mall is not dead. Take a look around here in Skypony,” said Curry, looking at a steady stream of people inside the gallery.

The nearly 9,000-square-foot gallery held one of its bi-monthly events on February 17 to showcase over 40 local artists, displaying everything from original paintings to sculptures, handcrafted jewelry, and special-made hats. The event included live music from Jerry Don Branch and Mike Arnold, holistic wellness workers, cocktails, and light bites. More than anything, the event united a loyal base of customers and new guests who showed up to support the artists.

“There’s nothing like it,” said patron Greg Jones. “Skypony keeps me coming to this mall. From the owners to the artists, this is a really special place. You just want to be a part of it, and that looks like me having several pieces of one-of-a-kind art in my home and coming to these events to support local artists and our community.”

The mall is roughly “50% occupied,” said Winters, noting the importance of the redevelopment to keep Skypony and other big-draw businesses like the Knife steakhouse in operation.

“Without this development, we won’t be able to stay,” Knife owner George Stergios said, according to Community Impact. “We need to make this happen.”

When asked how Skypony has managed to stay afloat during these struggling times, Winters told The Dallas Express, “Our events are a big draw. The foot traffic in the mall is suffering, so we have to take it upon ourselves to market and bring in the people. We need the community’s help to spread the word and continue to show up. This is more than just art — it is a way to make the world a more beautiful place.”

Winters explained that they have a big following that began when Skypony was at Valley View Mall.

“People who know our art and artists follow us,” said Winters, who partners with his wife, Curry, not only as the gallery owners but as professional artists.

“We also have interesting and fun events where people can come to experience a wide variety of events as well as meet the artists, taking more than just a piece of exceptional art home, but actually becoming a part of the DNA of the art community,” said Curry.

“Our parties make for a great night out,” she added. “They are unique each time and free to attend.”

“When you think of an art gallery, sometimes you think of pieces out of their price range,” said Winters. “That is not the case at Skypony. We want to be able to sell art to anyone, no matter where they are in life.”

Winters explained that original pieces can be purchased as well as prints. In addition to what is showcased in the galley, Skypony also offers commissioned pieces.

“We do commissions all the time,” said Winters. “Anything anyone comes to us with, because we have so many exceptional artists, we can do that. And we love doing this for clients — it is truly personal and very special.”

Whether you prefer southwestern art, cityscapes, vibrant contemporary, portraiture, still life, abstract art, or another genre, you are bound to find it at Skypony.

“Come experience Skypony for yourself,” encouraged Curry. “We hope our gallery offers others the opportunity to open their heart and minds to truly experience art — this is not a hoity-toity gallery. This is a place where all are welcome and invited.”

“Long live art. Long live creativity,” added Winters.

The Dallas Express contacted the management team of The Shops at Willow Bend to inquire whether they will keep Skypony Gallery after the redevelopment. Krista Medlock, marketing director for The Shops at Willow Bend, replied, “We are delighted to provide a home to tenants who serve as a welcoming and inclusive place for artistic expression within our community. As we look to the next phase of The Shops at Willow Bend, we remain committed to continuing to provide a destination that nurtures both community engagement and creative expression.”

Although Medlock’s response to DX’s inquiry may have been inconclusive, there is no doubt that Skypony Gallery holds a special place in the hearts of its patrons and the wider art community.

The gallery has become a vibrant hub for creative expression, and Winters and Curry hope Skypony Gallery will be an artistic component of the development’s overall vision. From DX’s visit, it is evident that the community is committed to supporting this cherished gathering place and will continue to stand in the gap to ensure Skypony Gallery remains.

Jones said it best: “And long live Skypony!”

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