Oh, Canada: Buzz is not from Dallas. We're not a huge fan of the live music scene, and we detest nostalgia, so the wrangling over the future of Deep Ellum always sounded like so much real estate development talk to us.
But...goddamn. As little as Buzz the philistine cares about historic preservation, even we had to take a breath when we heard about the cock-punch DART delivered to the people who care deeply about the neighborhood.
Get this: Which artists did DART select as semi-finalists to help design the public art at its planned Green Line station in Deep Ellum? Surely Frank Campagna, the longtime Deep Ellum artist and owner of the Kettle Art gallery whose work long graced the exterior of the Gypsy Tea Room, must have made the cut. He's the guy who coordinated the murals in the Good Latimer Expressway tunnel and fought to save them. Lived in Deep Ellum forever, through seedy times and good times. He at least had to be a semi-finalist, right?
Wrong. He didn't make the cut. Five other artists did—four from Texas, including one who lives in Deep Ellum. The fifth is from far, far, far North Dallas. He's Dwight Atkinson, a public artist from Vancouver.
That's in Canada.
First Céline Dion, now this. Hey, Canada, give us a break, eh?
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Campagna's rejected proposal suggested a past, present, future design that would "embrace the history of the area, including the Freedman's town aspect, blues musicians, cotton industry, the railway and pawn shops," with a future defined by more modern materials such as steel and glass. Unfortunately, he left out the back bacon and Moosehead beer.
DART spokesman Morgan Lyons says more than one artist might be selected for the art design at three sites at the new station, and DART's chief architect David Ehrlicher assures us that local viewpoints would be included in the final plan. "Our track record speaks for itself," he says. "For each light rail station...we've invited members of the community to sit on site-specific committees to define what's important to the community."
For his part, Campagna isn't stamping out sour grapes; he just wants to look out for his 'hood, which he fears is on the brink of being bulldozed into a characterless corporate wonderland, which, when you think about it, pretty much captures Dallas 2007.
"The biggest problem I've always had with Dallas is that it's so busy trying to be an international city that it's constantly bringing in outsiders as opposed to hiring from within," Campagna says. "It needs to embrace what it is."