If I had a Million: Ideas to Inspire and Improve from Artists in the Trenches

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A couple weeks ago, we reported on a panel discussion at CentralTrak, "1.2 Million Stories: State of the Emerging Arts," conceived by

Green Bandana Group

founder, Darryl Ratcliff, and featuring such prominent young voices as Kevin Rubén Jacobs, Danielle Georgiou, Jerod Davies and Bryan Embry. Lasting more than 90 minutes, the discussion struck a deep nerve, providing a needed voice for local individuals who have dedicated their entire beings to their craft and who have, in the short years of their burgeoning careers, already made both serious investments and profound contributions to our city. In Ratcliff's own words, he wanted to "talk about what we can continue to do to grow our community, and how established, well-intentioned art patrons and institutions can help Dallas become a premier city for the arts."

A monolithic discussion with an immense scope, we were only able to focus here on the blog the next morning on a particular section of the conversation we found especially pertinent. Some of you expressed concern that by narrowing our lens, we had too brazenly ignored other sections, and we assured you that we were already working with Ratcliff to bring you more. As promised, here is our follow up - in the spirit of the original collaboration, here are six voices, some from the panel and others similarly entrenched in the battlefield of Dallas arts, who have an idea or ten about how to expand upon and improve our city's sense of culture.

Per Ratcliff's original query: What is something that you think would make a huge impact on the Dallas arts scene that would cost less than $10,000.00?

Darryl Ratcliff, Arts Hype-Man, Founder of Green Bandana Group and co-founder of theSPACE Ratcliff's original question - and the entire panel, in fact - stemmed from questions he posited while attending Radical Regionalism. As Green Bandana Group's tagline so aptly puts it, Ratcliff is just "trying to find the cure for starving artists." For the record, he's already started working on the last of this list, and you can find out more at theSPACE. [I'd] start a creative venture capital fund that would make investments of up to $1,000 into various creative endeavors. The goal would be to generate a return on investment and prove that private equity has just as much of a role in spurring our local creative economy as nonprofit giving.

Or, I would seed a Materials For The Arts nonprofit that would collect materials that companies throw away that artists can use as materials for their work. We would need a warehouse space, a van and driver to collect the materials, and someone to keep track of who is donating and receiving materials. If we can drastically reduce the cost of an artist creating work, we can help an artist live off of their creativity.

Or, I would throw 10 amazing parties. Free food, free drinks, no agenda except for creatives to interact and meet each other. We can build all of the multi-million dollar structures we want, but it is by fostering our creative community that we will turn Dallas into a world class arts city. It has to be intentional.

Jerod Alexander Davies aka DTOX: Muralist, Body Painter, Hip Hop artist, Clothes Designer, et al. Davies is the founder of the Just-Us League, whose commissioned work can be found throughout the City of Dallas, at Children's Hospital and at Dreamworks, among many other notable places. His answer at the panel, which you can see in the above-posted video, is largely what inspired us to dig deeper and ask it again and again.

Big question, lot of answers. Free walls. There's a difference between murals and graffiti, true, but there is a world of blends all in-between whether someone is walking up to it with acrylics or spray paint ... Just a public gallery where people drive by. Dallas High School downtown has wood over all its windows, these oversize windows - it's seen from the 35 exchange. If we just get boards and get artists to paint these and switch them out, it's an outdoor gallery seen by three levels of highway and the backside of downtown. It's an historic building, but we don't have the money to bring it to code. Let's decorate the outside. Let's skins wrap these buildings that we can't work on the guts...

Every overpass and every bridge, let's get a stencil of old, historic figures and let's start pasting their big heads under every bridge and put in a bar code to scan, and it tells you about this person. So as you're walking home, you can learn about Texas history under every bridge where there's a guy sleeping. And, that's just the bonus. Put art in the public's eye. Let's wrap every trash can. Just like Deep Ellum has wood around every trash can, why can't every trash can have art around it? Why can't there be planter boxes paid for by Home Depot and Lowe's who throw out the scrap wood. Where's just the people who cut it down and put it into workable shapes and make stuff out of it?

Danielle Georgiou: Dancer, Performance Artist, Ph.D. Candidate CentralTrak resident Danielle Georgiou is the founder of DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) and is one-half of the performance art duo, Slik Stockings. She performs, curates and writes about art on a never-ending loop. Below is her original statement, from the panel.

Because I am a performance artist and there aren't that many of us here, but there are people who are interested in it, I'd say creating workshops and bringing people in because other performance artists will come in for zero dollars and do a weekend workshop here. Because I think every performer can benefit from that. There's so much of a performative element in painting and in sculpture and in installation. It's not just about breathing techniques and theatre training or dance training, but if you have some of that in you, imagine what you could make. Imagine what those people could make and how that would affect people who just walk by and seeing this happen. Because I remember a couple of months ago in Deep Ellum, there were these guys dressed up like Super Mario Brothers painting the side of Quixotic World, and I was like, "Yeah! Please. Thank you! Thank you for this." There's so much humor in life and if we're afraid to do it, we can't do it. I think performance artists like to bring that out.

Morehshin Allahyari and Andrew Blanton, Video and New Media Married since 2008, Allahyari and Blanton come to UNT via the University of Denver. Allahyari's work was most recently seen at Oliver Francis Gallery in April, and Blanton was part of the six-week, collaborative performance/installation, Harakiri: To Die For Performances at CentralTrak.

Art. Community. Local. International. Hacker Space. Experimental. New Media Art. Center for Engagement. A Cause. A Place to Create. Digital Art. Digital Art on Display. Collaborative. Building Communities. Exploration. Bringing Together. Dallas Dirty New Media. Underground. Accessible. Open Source. Emergent. Collective Creation. Collective Building. Alternative Space to share || create || challenge || organize || engage. Teaching. Learning. Open Event Hosting. Open to Ideas. Ideation. Iteration. Simply a Center + Space in Dallas for New Community Building + Public Engagement in Art Creation + Exhibition.

Bernardo Diaz, Adjunct Instructor, Artist-in-Residence at West Dallas Community Centers A painter, Diaz teaches at SMU's Meadows School of the Arts and has "been researching and developing a course addressing issues and topics surrounding Art as Social Practice," which he says is an "umbrella term used to address a wide variety of socially engaged art practices that make visible and raise critical inquiry of site & context specific social issue."

[I would] take a third of the funding to organize a series of conversations relating to the role of artists within the social fabric of a given community ... I'd take the rest of the funding and utilize it to provide teams of participating artists with some start-up money to either launch a long term project or carry out a short term project focused on a collaboration with the communities in which the artist may be working. This is not to say that artists should cease pursuing their studio work. There is space and place for both modes of production. What is unfortunate is that this kind of work is not being taught or addressed at any level of artistic training within Dallas.

There are artists that I've met and organizations I've worked with here in Dallas in one capacity or another that are already confronting some of these questions including Janeil Engelstad with the Making Art with Purpose Initiative, Lauren Woods with A Dallas Drinking Fountain, Robert Hamilton & Cynthia Mulcahy with Seventeen Hundred Seeds, as well as La Reunion, Big Thought, Oil & Cotton, and Art Conspiracy. These are the ones I'm familiar with and I'm sure there are more organizations that I have yet to learn about, but it's clear that those of us with an interest in the social are not alone and we should refuse to buy into the idea that art can only be made for one specific audience, that we must restrict ourselves to a single medium, or that our work can only exist in certain places as dictated by our training. At a time when artists are constantly questioning the structures of power relationships in other facets of society we must also place art through the lens of critical inquiry. It's easy to question ideas you disagree with; it's the ones we agree with that should be reanalyzed.

It's important for me to point out the work that the Meadows School of the Arts is doing through their Forum for Art and Urban Engagement with the return of Will Power in the Division of Theatre, new Art and Urbanism instructor Mary Walling Blackburn in the Division of Art, and a continuation of this conversation through an open webcast of this year's Creative Time Summit coming up on October 12 & 13. Dallas is ripe and ready for artists to take a role in shaping its cultural and social development while also addressing the communities that have to live and exist with those changes.

Have ideas of your own and need a platform? Let us know in the comments below what you would do to refocus our city's energies and revitalize our arts.

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