Art is transformative. It can shift our perceptions of an area's livability, remind us of a neighborhood's history and even rebuild communities. None of that is lost on buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, the nonprofit dedicated to restoring the energy, joy and beauty of fallen neighborhoods through good design.
The group has announced its first major public art project and is seeking local visionaries to paint in the blanks. The target: historic Tenth Street District, an outlying Oak Cliff neighborhood and former South Dallas freedman community. bcWORKSHOP's collaborative program Activating Vacancy is looking for visual and performance artists or groups, arts educators and designers to submit some ideas, then dig their heels in.
Projects can fit into three sizes: Small ($250 to $5,000), Medium ($5,000 to $12,500) and Large ($12,500 to $20,000) and are available exclusively to Dallas-area artists.
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In its heyday (the '30s through the '50s) Tenth Street was a self-sufficient point of pride for Dallas African Americans, but the tone changed as the highway moved in during the mid-'50s; it destroyed nearly a quarter of the housing and forcibly isolated the thriving community. When the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 and segregation gave way to migration, the more financially stable residents moved their families out and closer to the city.
During the last 60 years, new construction has reduced the district's margins. Family residences have converted to rentals. Crime has risen, and housing has diminished by half of what it was at its brightest. Twenty years ago the neighborhood got some attention: Tenth Street District was named on the list of America's Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places, and was declared historic Dallas landmark. But most of that was pillow talk, and save for some new DART locations and a couple other isolated efforts, Tenth Street District has been allowed to decay.
It's an ambitious public art program, certainly. But we have some big, beautiful minds in Dallas, housed in the craniums of extremely thoughtful, socially conscious artists. It will be interesting to see who applies by the August 21 deadline, and what projects are chosen to shape the future of Tenth Street District. Let's see what you got, Dallas.