Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Erica Felicella is endlessly likable. That she would be a driving force behind one of the city's coolest art events comes as little surprise after spending an afternoon with her. This executive director of Art Conspiracy is intelligent, grounded, and friendly. And she really cares about the community.
In all aspects of her life, she's invested in engaging both local artists and the general public. But nothing seems forced. Her work as a performance artist is brave and thoughtful, and she is one of the biggest cheerleaders of Dallas and its arts scene. She chatted with Mixmaster in anticipation of this weekend's Art Con X, and this interview is excerpted from that larger conversation.
How did you get connected with Art Con? Sarah Jane Semrad. I met her before Art Con days during Pigeon Stone Projects, which was basically taking the gallery concept into alternative spaces, but run like you would for a gallery. I've always said that every time I've taken a meeting from Sarah Jane, I left with a t shirt and a packet. You can't say no to her. And it was a perfect fit for me. Once you get bit by the Art Con bug, you can't leave.
In addition to ArtCon, you're an artist yourself. What do you do? I started primarily in photography. I've moved in the last 2-3 years to primarily performance art. I've been making a stink in the city in the performance world for a while. Endurance performance is probably the best way to describe what I do, I've done a couple of pieces outside that realm, but my pieces take a long time of R&D before actual production. In 2012 I did a piece called "Visible Shell" that had me confined in a space for 48 hours on view, in public, in an acrylic box. I had a full team of performers that rotated in and out every two hours for 48 hours. I wrote the same sentence on a piece of paper over and over.
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I didn't live here at the time, but remember reading about and thinking, how is that woman able to do that? I do everything I need to do to make sure I'm safe. I talk to doctors, I train, but I don't practice because I feel that would make it inauthentic. But everything I could do to prep for it is done. Meetings with psychiatrists because I'm going to lose my mind, and psychologists to have the therapy to talk about, dietitians. I had to have a full team of nurses and doctors because I had to have a catheter. And, well, I'll probably never do that again. But I had to do it. 48 hours, something's going to happen.
Are you working on something now? I've done four pieces this year. I did a performance at the Perot Museum calls "Grand=Stand," which was basically about how we perceive ourselves and how the world sees us and how different those points of views are because we're our worst critic. And I have a problem with grandstanding in general, it makes me very uncomfortable. But being an artist you have to do some of it. For 24 hours, I opened up my social media channel, and asked everybody to send me statements that I would not say about myself that they find to be valid or true, positive or negative and I compiled that whole list without going through it and I read it out loud on a podium and it was heavy. I wouldn't have said any of it. Some of it made me laugh, some of it was super embarrassing, some of it made me cry. And I'm working on a piece I've done several times called Unburden, I did it at RO2, and I did it in the Arts District and I'm slated to do it one more time, but I've been pretty busy with Art Con.
Do you find that there's something that unifies your works? Most of my work is about community engagement. And what's really humbling is that I try really hard to make sure my work is relevant and if nobody engaged than I failed. Unburden was a gamble, but it succeeded. I've had people who come just for it, you can see them sit right down and then they leave.
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons