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Bernice Montgomery tries to bring some culture to the stuffed shirts downtown, but they just want a T-shirt and some lunch
Bernice Montgomery tries to bring some culture to the stuffed shirts downtown, but they just want a T-shirt and some lunch

The art district?

There are misnomers, and there is false advertising. There seems to be a fine line between the two, and dancing that line is the Summer Arts Explosion, downtown's daily lunchtime "in progress" arts exhibit. Public relations people just love to use words such as "explosion" and "extravaganza," even when (especially when?) they're more hype than truth. Yeah, it's summer, and there are artists, but in no way is the event exploding -- simmering, maybe, but that's because it's getting so damned hot. In fact, the Summer Arts Explosion is merely eight tables lining the walkway in front of the shops and restaurants of One Main Place's Plaza Level. And, on two visits, at least half of the tables were empty.

However, these artists (at least the ones who have been there) aren't the kind of arts-and-crafts people often seen crowding the streets during this city's many fairs and festivals. These folks actually design murals for the city and exhibit them at honest-ta-gawrsh galleries. Their work is what keeps the Summer Art Explosion from fizzling completely.

Ronnie Jessie of the city's Office of Cultural Affairs has thus far scheduled two painters, two wood sculptors, a silkscreen artist, a watercolor printmaker, a pastel-portrait artist, and a pottery artist for the event. The works have mainly cultural themes: Bernice Montgomery paints bright, vivid urban scenes featuring African-Americans; Ivory Henderson creates African-influenced wood sculptures; and Anoid Neal offers pottery and paintings featuring African-Americans. Actually, the diversity of the art forms is greater than it sounds; all the colors of God's li'l rainbow are included.

Jessie says cultural themes are preferred because the Summer Arts Explosion is part of the Neighborhood Touring Program, which takes art into communities through teaching, exhibits, and performances. The program usually works in Dallas' outer communities, but Jessie says the Summer Arts Explosion targets downtown because it has no free arts center. The event allows downtown employees to be exposed to art without making an extra trip to a museum or gallery. But do people rushing to One Main Place for a quick lunch really have time to spend with the arts? From a viewer's perspective, it didn't seem like many people noticed, let alone stopped at the tables to view the art. Something must be working, though, since Jessie says the manager of One Main Place has requested that these artists stay for the month; initially, the artists rotated every week.


The Summer Arts Explosion

Plaza Level, One Main Place,
1201 Main

Every weekday in July,
11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Fact is, downtown Dallas could use a little culture; throw in some hot-dog vendors and a few rambling preacher men predicting the apocalypse, and this whole thing could really take off. We're all for a little life amongst the concrete ruins that we call downtown. Same goes for Viola Delgado, a watercolor printmaker who usually works mainly in murals. Of course, she says most people who stop only want to know what she is doing when she places strips of tape on a canvas to create patterns. Nevertheless, she thinks Summer Arts Explosion is a great idea. She says she plans to spend her time painting, hoping that "maybe by the end of the week someone will buy something."

Bernice Montgomery has nothing but kind words for the event, insisting that her T-shirts are selling very well and that the postcards from her recent exhibit at The Irving Arts Center are just "flying off the table." Thank God they're not exploding off the table.


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