Monte Jensen, along with his partner, Martha, are owners of Denton's Mellow Mushroom: Eclectic Food and Drink. Jensen grew up on a cattle and crop farm, earned a Business degree, and served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Since settling in Denton with his family 20 years ago, Jensen has become deeply entrenched in Denton culture and community as an accomplished local business owner and supporter of the arts.
As a long-standing community member and business member of the Arts Council, Monte is familiar with Denton's transformation into a small-town destination with big heart. Mellow Mushroom was formerly a 107-year-old warehouse that the Jensens renovated into the vibrant and gleeful restaurant that it has become. With the thought of Denton's future in mind, individuals like Monte Jensen are planting seeds to grow the arts scene in our town while preserving the history that precedes us. He is evidence of this spirit, of this Denton-state-of-mind.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My family has lived in the area for the past 20 years. Prior to that, I traveled a bit courtesy of the US Army. Currently, we live in Denton & own the Mellow Mushroom on E. Hickory.
How does art inspire you?
Art moves me, takes me places and can teach me things about ourselves.
What is one of your most notable artistic experiences in Denton?
Ooh, that's a toughie. There is SO much great art taking place here. If I had to narrow it down to one, I'd say taking my son to the Campus Theatre's local production of Monty Python's "Spamalot".
What do you believe is the role of the arts in Denton?
The arts are firmly intertwined with the very fabric of our city & are inextricably tied to Denton's success. Much of how we define ourselves can be directly tied to the arts. The arts enable Denton to thrive as a destination, whether via university students, families looking to relocate, or for a day trip to explore, attend festivals, or other events. The arts have become the heart of our "social hub", downtown. The mix of public/private art is concentrated to such a high density here. For a city our size, or otherwise, you'd be hard pressed to find another place with the volume of arts-related opportunities we have.
What is one of your favorite works of art and why?
I love the visual arts, but music is my soul salve. One that I come back to is a song, by Guy Clark, called "Dublin Blues". I used to sing it to my son when I was putting him to sleep. It's a heartbreak song about a man who finds himself in arguably some of the world's greatest destinations -- The Spanish Steps in Rome, Dublin, but all he really wants is to get back home, to Texas. He wants to be at the Chili Parlor Bar, a margarita in hand. It's similar in theme to Gary P. Nunn's "London Homesick Blues". On a visual side, Frank Reaugh's paintings of Longhorns, some of which were featured at UNT on the Square a couple years ago are striking in their simplistic, stark portrayal of West Texas. In general, I tend to be drawn to the direct; the musical stylings of Willie Nelson's "Red Headed Stranger", the simple prose of Ernest Hemingway, or the unforgiving Texas landscapes of Frank Reaugh, or Fred Darge.
How does art create community?
Art binds us. We all experience it through our own particular lens, but people congregate, commune &, in their own way, become one, via art, for a time. I'd venture it's difficult to have serious discourse while tapping your toes to your favorite ditty.