CentralTrak, the University of Texas at Dallas’ graduate arts program, had its first show since going nomadic at the beginning of the summer. A Hard Place, which had been curated before the program's dissolution, was at 500X Gallery, just down the street from CentralTrak's old address.
The show highlighted the bleak, utopic modernism of brutalist architecture, an interesting choice given the school's decision to move away from the modular cast concrete structures that once defined UTD, which is also restructuring its arts program.
The gallery show offered some hope that CentralTrak, which had its lease terminated in June, will at least continue to exist in name and spirit.
“I do not know concretely where we are going, but we’re discussing a whole bunch of possibilities,” says Brian Scott, the event and facilities manager for CentralTrak’s former location.
Frank Dufour, who was named the interim director of CentralTrak earlier this year, told the Observer he’s no longer acting in the position. Scott is seemingly the last man standing.
“We will continue to collaborate with other groups, which is what we really want to do, and 500X is an ideal collaboration because it’s a collective of artists, self-motivated,” Scott says. “We’re definitely going to be homeless for a bit.”
Some ideas for where and how CentralTrak will live on are being floated, according to Scott. Perhaps it will continue to present shows at other galleries. But it's unlikely that CentralTrak, which at one time served as the only long-term arts residency in North Texas, will return to its former glory.
A Hard Place was the culmination of more than a year of planning and came across as a labor of love by several galleries that didn't want to see the show canceled because of CentralTrak's difficulties.
“Without their being a controlled explosion, we couldn’t cancel the show,” says Gary Farrelly, a former resident of CentralTrak and co-curator of A Hard Place. “When we found out that CentralTrak had encountered some difficulties with their space, a lot of people like Brian [Scott] and Frank Dufour, and also people at the Lorenzo Hotel and R02 Art and fellow co-curator Gundela [Schmitz’s] gallery, kind of really rallied around and ensured that CentralTrak’s identity can be projected onto another space remotely so that the show could happen.”
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UTD seems to be determined to redefine its arts programs — diverting attention from the "plastic arts" such as painting, sculpture and printmaking to the new Art and Technology department — so passion and hard work may not be enough to ensure CentralTrak’s survival.
In 2014, students fought to save the Art Barn, the college’s former visual arts building, after it was slated for demolition. The 29-year-old building was torn down in July.
Before the Art Barn was demolished, UTD students digitally scanned the entire building in the hopes that one day it could be rebuilt. The same could be done for CentralTrak, which was unique to the Dallas art scene.
“I always felt that it’s essentially an art embassy; it’s a genius idea,” Farrelly said. “For me, when I talk about CentralTrak, I think it’s extremely important as a piece of infrastructure in the city. It creates a site of encounter between the outside world and Dallas that’s not just a museum or art fair.”