Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Giovanni Valderas runs one of the hottest galleries in town. He programs the work of both up-and-coming and established artists in his comfortable, well-lit space. But you won't find his space in the Design District. As the director of the Cliff Gallery at Mountain View College, Valderas has been tasked with creating an artistic culture on the campus of Oak Cliff's community college. And by all appearances, he's more than risen to the challenge.
The University of North Texas graduate not only programs and teaches at MVC, he also serves as the Vice Chair on the Cultural Arts Commission, which the mayor uses as his arts community advisers. And Valderas is a mixed media artist whose earned a reputation for his riveting collage art. We chatted with him about his work as all three, and what's next.
In polite cocktail party conversation when someone asks you, "What do you do?" how do you respond? Depending on what hat I'm wearing for the evening, it'll range from "I work at Mountain View College" to "I serve on the CAC." I'm actually really bad about disclosing the fact that I'm an artist, I tend to assume everyone knows.
It seems that much of your art is derived from your heritage and your personal history, is that a fair assessment and can you explain why that's important for you? Definitely. Major influences derive from my heritage and the neighborhood I grew up in. The Oak Cliff area of Dallas is a bright spectrum of old houses, quinceanera boutiques, panderias, pawn shops and piñata stores, it's hard not to be influenced by something so authentic and deeply absorbing. In addition, as an American with Latino ancestry, I'm interested in deciphering the complex history the US has played throughout Latin America. Clandestine operations and subversive methods were often implemented in Latin America for the sole benefit of the US. As a result, many families (such as mine) were displaced, exploited and killed because of US "progressive" policies. Needless to say, all this has given me a visual language to work from.
What's been one of your most proud moments in your art career? Awe man, I have been extremely blessed so many times over; it's difficult to think of one moment. Most recently, the US Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic acquired three of my pieces, which I'm excited about. Given the context of my work, I think it's a perfect place for them to be at. I do realize that success is fleeting and the only thing that is sustainable is the friendships I've made along the way, I cherish those moments.
As the Vice Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission, you know much of what goes on in the arts on the civic level. Is there anything you want to clear up that the press or the average person gets wrong? (I'm completely openminded here, so be tough!) HA! I don't know if I want to answer this one... Honestly, I think the biggest misconception people hold is that the CAC is this all powerful - all knowing body that has the freedom to do what it pleases. In reality, we serve as an advisory board to council and in my case to Mayor Rawlings. To get anything of importance accomplished on the civic level we need consensus from the community, elected officials, city staff and art advocates. Progress can be slow, really slow and at times I get frustrated because the artist side of me is accustomed to adapting to change and coming up with a creative solution to finish the objective. Of course, all of this doesn't come without an element of risk and we all know government doesn't like to take risks.But, I'm still optimistic because at this very moment I feel everything has aligned, we have the right people in place to make some large strides in the next year! So hopefully, the next time we talk Lauren, we'll be discussing the fruits of our labor.
Let's talk Cliff Gallery. You are really turning that into a local art hotspot. What are some of your programming tactics? The Cliff Gallery is this hidden gem in Oak Cliff and I've been fortunate enough that artists whom I respect and admire also recognize the potential the gallery holds. As far as tactics, I'm aware of the stigma community colleges have; the truth is we serve a different demographic than a typical university, we have a community that faces different socioeconomic challenges. Most of our students have never been to an art museum, so I've made it my goal to bring the same type of experiences usually reserved for major galleries and museums to MVC. By creating opportunities for students to work with visiting artists or by simply providing an amazing exhibit, I hope to inspire but most importantly, challenge conventional thought.
Anything on the docket for the gallery next year yet? We have a lot of good things coming up in the spring. In addition to our great line up at the Cliff Gallery, I've been working with curator Lilianna Bloch to take over the MVC campus with amazing installations beginning in the month of May. I've also teamed up with John Spriggins (Gallery Director at Richland College) to expand our gallery programming outside our individual campuses. In April, during Dallas Arts Week we are debuting the " SEVEN" exhibit at Dallas City Hall. "SEVEN," will bring local contemporary artists who happen to work at the DCCCD and expose their work to a mass general audience utilizing alternative public spaces. It's our hope that this show brings a dialogue and creates interest in people who are not familiar with each respective college in the DCCCD and who don't necessarily get a chance to see artwork on a contemporary level. City Hall's classic Brutalism architecture lends itself perfectly to large installation artwork. It's my hope that this exhibit opens up the doors to other city-owned facilities to exhibit local emerging contemporary artwork.
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons 44. Artistic Integrator Erica Felicella 43. Multi-talented Director Tre Garrett 42. Anachronistic Musician Matt Tolentino 41. Emerging Veteran Actor Van Quattro 40. Festival Orchestrator Anna Sophia van Zweden 39. Literary Framer Karen Weiner 38. Man Behind the Music Gavin Mulloy 37. The Godfather of Dallas Art Frank Campagna 36. Rising Star Adam A. Anderson 35. Artist Organizer Heyd Fontenot 34. Music Innovator Stefan Gonzalez