Susan Carol Davis comes back to her roots
I’m banished to a brown, wooden booth with a big, black X on the top of each of my hands, still searching the room for her face. Just a few feet away, two bartenders are serving drinks to East Side’s Thursday evening crowd.
“Where is she?” I wonder as I tap my foot impatiently. I desperately try to find the familiar face I’m looking for or where the Wild Women for the Arts event is happening. The Guardian of the Front Door checks to make sure I haven’t wiped off the X’s he drew on my hands with a Sharpie, signaling to everyone that I’m under 21. He seems to be waiting for me to try to run up to the bar and sneak a drink – instead I walk up and ask if I can find her outside on the patio.
Making a bee-line onto the wooden deck, his eyes still on me, I scan the crowd of people drinking and chatting. And that’s when I finally spot her petite figure wearing a bright, floral blouse.
Sitting at the end of one of the picnic tables, Susan Carol Davis is surrounded by women with glasses of wine in their hands. Her short, blonde hair falls back as she laughs at something one of them has just said. She seems to be having the time of her life, a time I’ve missed sitting in the booth for the past 20 minutes.
“Oh, there you are!” she says as I walk up. I hold up the double “X’” of shame on my hands and explain what happened.
“You poor thing!” says one of the women, who turns out to be Georgina Ngozi, the new Executive Director of the Greater Denton Arts Council. I sit down and breathe a sigh of relief.
Susan introduces me to all of the women sitting around her. Some of them are old childhood friends of hers and others she has just met tonight but they all have one thing in common: they are powerful women helping shape the arts community of Denton. And Susan seems to know all of them, which makes sense because she is like a physical manifestation of the Denton arts community.
She is an actress, both in front of the camera and on the stage. She is a producer of documentaries. She is a creative consultant for her own company, Curious Dog Creative, where she helps people tell the stories they want to tell. She helped create Artists Enclave, a nonprofit organization that celebrates all forms of art in Denton. She is involved in seemingly every creative organization and artistic cause around the area from the Thin Line Festival to the Greater Denton Arts Council. And most of all, she loves people and is a true Dentonite.
She grew up here in Denton and now, after going from Fort Worth to Nashville to Los Angeles, Susan has come back home to help shape the arts community in the same way it shaped her as a young girl.
Susan’s journey to find her home in the larger community of the arts wasn’t as simple as you’d expect. Even though she wasn’t involved in theatre in school and didn’t get her degree in performing or producing, she has always been surrounded by creativity that helped cultivate her love for the arts.
She remembers going to watch big, wonderful movies in theatres with her parents and has memories of her home constantly being filled with good music. To Susan, being surrounded by art was a normal way of life.
Her passion for storytelling started when she was six years old and would hide away in her bedroom, creating stories with tiny figurines of Disney characters she had bought on a family trip to Disneyland. She would wake up in the morning and run over to where she kept Snow White and Tinkerbell so she could pull them out and create a new story for them with her sheets acting as the stage.
Her life is made up of little, creative moments that show the bigger desire within her to tell wonderful stories. When she got her first teaching job out of college, she used creative writing to inspire her students. When she went to graduate school, she learned how to do liturgical dance. When she worked for St. Stephen Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, she used puppets and plays to get children involved. Even when she didn’t realize it, she depended on telling stories and using creativity to help others.
It wasn’t until after attending TCU that she began acting classes and performing on stage. Sitting in the darkness of the last row of theatre seats at Stage West in Fort Worth, where she ushered, she would watch the actors playing out a story in the spotlight. She remembers thinking, “Oh, I want to do that!”
So, that’s exactly what she did. She moved to Nashville and became an arts education major. Thus began her pursuit of the arts, leading her to Los Angeles in the summer of 1999 where she lived for 14 years. She starred in movies like My Dog Skip and acted in television shows like Desperate Housewives while making meaningful friendships in a community of performers like herself.
In 2013, she decided to come back home to Denton so she could take care of her mother. But she also came back because every time she visited from Los Angeles, her friends took her to art shows and performances. With each visit, she was reminded that Denton is a place where the arts are alive, and she wanted to be a part of it.
Susan returned to the place where she had once dreamed up stories and found comfort in telling them, to a place rich with history and stories of its own to be told. Now that she is back home in Denton, she is helping grow and support a community of artists.
With the help of her co-chair Randall Good, Susan made a big impact in Denton by creating Artists Enclave two years ago. At the time, Susan just wanted to create a place that promoted Denton’s growing artistic community by supporting artists and their work. And while that’s still the case, Artists Enclave has broadened her life in new ways she never imagined, forming a creative community that nurtures her too.
So far the group has held 20 events and received non-profit status in the fall of 2017. From installing art in local businesses to hosting writing workshops for high school students, Artists Enclave is actively cultivating art in Denton.
Even though things are going well, Susan says they are just scratching the surface in what they are able to do and who they are able to reach. She believes the eclectic personality of Denton’s creative community opens the doors for all types of art, which also means there needs to be more space for these forms of art to be expressed. She intends to be part of helping new homes for art evolve in the area.
Susan has many hopes and dreams for Denton. Even though she has spent a lot of her time in Nashville and Los Angeles where many flock to achieve their artistic dreams, she knows Denton is right where she belongs.
“Maybe one of the reasons I was supposed to come back here – apart from being a caregiver for my mom – was to see that returning to your roots enables you to have a good understanding of a community where you’re trying to grow something new.”
Susan belongs here, sitting on the outdoor patio of East Side around a group of women who care just as adamantly about the artistic community as she does. Resting her chin in her palm, Susan nods gently as her new friend, Georgina, talks about her plans for the Greater Denton Arts Council.
They talk about their dreams and goals as individual artists and for the community under a strand of twinkly lights stretched over their heads that has begun to shine brighter against the fading evening sky.
Yes, this is exactly where Susan belongs. She is home.