Before Giovanni Valderas was the director, the Cliff Gallery at Mountain View Community College wasn’t exactly an essential stop for those who visit art galleries on the weekends. But in the last year and a half, Valderas has turned the gallery into a hotspot. Now Valderas is ready to activate another space. After accepting a position as assistant director at Kirk Hopper Fine Art, today is his last day as gallery director for Mountain View.
A year and a half may not seem like a long time, but for Valderas it represents an enormous amount of work and tremendous contributions to a school he has known since childhood. Growing up nearby, he used the college’s jogging track and wondered the halls, studying the artwork scattered throughout the building. Mountain View has a great habit of buying artwork from its students. He put a new exhibit in the Cliff Gallery every month, and also oversaw the permanent collection as well as Kiva, the student art gallery. He will remain with the school as an adjunct instructor with the art department.
When Valderas took over Cliff Gallery, no one showed up to exhibits but the artists on display. Valderas immediately realized the need to bridge gaps across the city and made it a primary focus. For example, Draped Up & Dripped Out was an exhibit comprised of 25 artists from Houston with a focus on the area’s hip-hop scene. The exhibit was so large that it was displayed both at the Cliff Gallery and the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. It was perfectly designed to bring new people to the gallery: Fans of hip-hop, anyone interested in seeing a huge collection of artwork from the fourth-largest city in the country, as well as the folks who showed up at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and wanted to see the rest of the exhibit.
“People gravitate towards a communal spirit,” Valderas says. More than anything, he likes to see people from different parts of Dallas come together and create something special. This is extremely important. Instead of waiting for validation from another city or trying to imitate a different scene, Dallas artists should be identifying all the unique talents spread out across the area. Once all these resources have been identified, they need to be pooled in as many different ways as possible. This will create something truly remarkable.
Valderas is infectiously enthusiastic about the current state of Dallas arts and culture. “Dallas is on the verge of greatness,” he says. “We’re on the cusp.” Cultural centers are vital because they inspire people to become artists. A sculptural painter, Valderas was largely inspired by the Oak Cliff Cultural Center to become an artist. But he also credits artists with DIY spaces for playing a huge role in getting the local scene to where it is today. This is another great point.
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DIY spaces are not only growing this scene, but also providing a blueprint for the unity that is needed for it to progress. An artist with a DIY space often uses it as living space, workshop, gallery, and even performance space. These DIY communities bring all sorts of different artists together and create new districts. As a part of the Cultural Affairs Commission, Valderas is an advocate for giving these artists as many grants, residencies and other types of resources as possible. And rightfully so.
Valderas is constantly thinking of ways to engage people with art. He has some fascinating ideas, like flooding Dallas with so much artwork that it competes with advertising. It’s a wonderful notion, even revolutionary. “There’s so many artists doing great things!” he says. “We basically just have to put them on steroids.” If only more people talked about art like this.
Standing in the Cliff Gallery, Valderas is still struck by how gorgeous the space is. He was always pleasantly surprised when people showed up for exhibitions and grateful for the positive responses. He is excited about his new position at Kirk Hopper Fine Art and looks forward to interacting with the Deep Ellum community and all the different types of creativity that it attracts. “I can’t wait to see what we can do,” he says.
But looking back, Valderas is greatly appreciative of the support he received from the college administration and staff, he will miss the interaction with students in a gallery setting, and is particularly proud of the role he played in helping an artist setup a permanent installation inside the building. As fate would have it, a particularly moving piece by Kirk Hopper hangs from a wall in a Mountain View hallway. Its title is “Goodbye, Goodbye.”