Home for homeless art
Without too much fanfare, and with a still-leaking roof and the occasional uninvited mouse, Carol Brewer's hard-won permanent home for the Dallas Street Art Project opened last Saturday in a rehabbed machine shop at 1325 North Peak St. in Old East Dallas. Brewer's friends and colleagues, homeless advocates, and "outsider art" collectors gathered October 23 to open the space formally in hopes of promoting art sales and raising money to keep the building leased and the program operating. Brewer has championed the nonprofit corporation whose mission since 1995 has been to inspire homeless people to turn innate creativity into opportunities for more stable lives.
"The artists did the work," Brewer says of the converted shop. "They hung the Sheetrock, painted the floor, did the plumbing." The project's new digs have a storefront with large windows, an open gallery space, and studios in the back. "It's a miracle this thing got off the ground," she says of the project, which began when she met Roosevelt "Stickman" Wilkerson and started organizing a ragtag band of homeless outsider artists in a McDonald's parking lot throughout 1996. Wilkerson's carved tree branches are on view, as are the works of other homeless artists.
Gallery director Nick Fetterick, interior designer-furnishings director for Uncle Julio's restaurants, is a dedicated collector of self-taught art and hooked up with Brewer after he saw her first outsider display at the Dallas Public Library. "People assume that the only dream a homeless person has is to find a home," he says. "That's important, but these people dream of being artists as well." Fetterick says most of the works sell in the $20-$200 range. Wilkerson is one of Brewer's first success stories. "Stickman" sold enough carvings last year to move off the streets. "We won't fall into the trap of making this a residential program," Brewer says. "It's just a safe, visible, indoor meeting place to enrich the lives of people on the fringe of society in Dallas."
South Texas artists caught the attention of Terrie Sultan, the curator of contemporary art at Washington, D.C.'s Corcoran Museum who was juror for the McKinney Avenue Contemporary's "A Fresh Look at Texas Art." Of the 42 artists selected from 1,295 entries for the MAC's exhibition, 14 are from Austin, San Antonio, and Houston. Locals are well represented too, but few are established or well known around here. Sultan will explain her choices at the exhibition's opening reception on November 6.
Annabelle Massey Helber
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