Big Plans for South Dallas' Cedars Include an Artist Residency, Studio and Soda Fountain

The view from the future Cedars Union.
The view from the future Cedars Union.
Lauren Smart

There's an energy percolating in downtown Dallas. Well, not downtown, exactly. South. In a neighborhood known as The Cedars. On the heels of the Alamo Drafthouse announcing it will make its first Dallas home on Lamar Street, murmurs of other new developments are cropping up. Some remain merely rumors; others are taking actual steps toward becoming real.

Take for example 1201 S. Ervay, a large brick building that once housed the Boedeker Ice Cream Co. Currently home to an office supply company, the building was recently acquired by the Bowdon Family Foundation for a project they're calling The Cedars Union.

"It will be a one-stop shop for artists," says the foundation's executive director, Robert Hernandez. "We're still putting all the particulars together, but the idea is that there will be two components: an artist-in-residence program and space and tools for artists to use."

For years, the Cedars has been a neighborhood that attracts artists, playing home to RE Gallery, art collective Homeland Security, and several prominent Dallas artists' studios. Which is one of the reasons it caught the eye of the Bowdon Family Foundation.

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The idea for the Cedars Union came from the younger members of the Bowdon family, who found that transitioning to life as an artist after school can be rocky. So, with the means at their disposal they wanted to create something for the community that would include everything from part time work to professional development resources -- think job bank and hand saws.

As they work toward development, everything is a bit in flux. Hernandez lists the five program components they plan to provide: "One, a physical work space and tools; two, professional and entrepreneurial workshops on the practical and pragmatic things that artists don't think about, like liability insurance; three, an international artist in residence program, in which we'll give an opportunity [to an artist] from anywhere to be here; four, employment in anything and everything creative. Like if the Dallas Opera needed a carpenter and someone with those skills needed part time work, and there you go; five, creating a partnership with a micro lender so that artists will have access to credit."

Throughout the city, artists are raising questions about how to get money, and the Bowdons are interested in providing and answer, but not as a handout. Instead, the Cedars Union hopes to help artists run their practices like a business. Most important, they want to help.

They've created an advisory board with big Dallas art names like Jeremy Strick and Kenny Goss, because they're committed to doing this and doing it well.

To subsidize the venture, the foundation plans to transform small pieces of the expansive space into revenue generators, like a street level soda fountain and an underground speakeasy, as well as using the top floor as a gallery and event space. But it will be late 2015/early 2016 before anything officially opens. In the meantime, the Bowdon Family Foundation is footing the bill for professional practices workshops at CentralTrak.

"This is about creating a legacy for the artists here in Dallas and helping those artists that need that next push get that extra resource," says Hernandez. "We want to eliminate the mentality of a starving artist and to elevate the level of self sufficiency of artists who want to do this full time."


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