Arts & Culture News

What Are the DFW Art Awards?

Sometime in early December an interesting status popped up in my newsfeed requesting votes for the "DFW Art Awards." I'd never heard of these things, but then again, I don't know everything that happens around Dallas. I started asking my art friends and contacts. My questions were immediately met with bafflement, skepticism, and a small touch of optimism. That my initial curiosity was met with any traces of optimism when I was expecting outright cynicism and distrust of something with such a bombastic title surprised me. But most people were just as puzzled by it as I was and some hadn't heard of the "DFW Art Awards" until I introduced it to them. So, I reached out to the awards creator, Daniel Yanez of the Basement Gallery to walk me through what exactly he is trying to accomplish. We talked about community building, the categories he used to classify artists, the positive feedback he's received, and the big, shiny trophies he's awarding artists.

Where did the DFW Art Awards come from? Pretty much this year I made a goal to go out and, I guess, to support art in a different way. I wanted to show a lot of artists who are doing a lot of good in the community. Things that were going unnoticed. And do something to motivate the art scene. In Dallas, a lot of areas and communities are falling apart and a lot of these artists are helping the communites. I wanted to hopefully get the different communities to notice some of these artists who are doing these great things.

What was the initial process to nominate or vote for awards? We set up an email where people could nomiate their favorite artist. Left it open for the arts community and the regular community for artists in their community for about six weeks during October and November -- we even stretched it an extra week in December. We wanted people to tell us what artists they were seeing around. It gave us an opportunity to get to know some of the artists we didn't know, even me personally.

And then there was voting? The whole point of the awards is community based. I wanted to leave it open to the community to nominate people as well. The more we get people involved the more the artsits would see they were getting recognized in their community and that was important to us. I was wowed by what so many artists are doing. It's crazy, there's a lot going on in Dallas. Some of these artists blew my mind.

How did you go about promoting it? Mainly social media. We had the idea probably in September. We didn't get to do a lot of promotions in that regard as far as the nominations went. But it was pretty cool. Immediately we had over 100 nominations. It was pretty good turnout.

So walk me through this, nominations and then you narrowed down for voting? We went through all the nominations and tried to pick the top 5-6, Some of the categories only got a few nominations. Some people had six people, some only had four. We put them up for the voting.

What do the winners actually, um, win? This year is our first year doing it, of course. Right now they will be getting a trophy. It's going to be a nice trophy, 8 inches tall. They'll also be receiving these goodie bags. Gift certificates to a lot of nice places.They'll get an exhibition in the Latino Cultural Center. They'll get a chance in the limelight. And they'll meet a lot of new contacts not only through Basement Gallery, but through other galleries we've linked up with as well. It's something that we're working on.

You've picked yourself a pretty big name for your awards, do you except to grow bigger next year? When we first had this idea we never imagined that it would be on this scale. So many galleries and artists have said this is exactly what the art scene has needed. My vision for the future is I want art to be recognized on the scale as movie awards or music awards. We just want it to get bigger and we want it to become something everyone goes to see and support. I want the community to get together and recognize what these artists are doing. Maybe grants, who knows, reward money, to help them out through the year. That's our ultimate goal. We're starting to build a committee already. Which is very exciting. We're really looking forward to starting on next year after these awards to be over. If we had the whole year for next year, it will be 10 times better.

And will it always be popular vote or will build a panel of judges for some awards? We've been talking about it. 
This year I think it was good to get the community involved, it helps for promotional stuff. It's something we did with the money in our pockets. Next year, maybe we'll have judges, maybe some people that have recognition that's respectable. It's something we're debating right now.

DFW Art Awards will take place at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9 at the Latino Cultural Center. There will be performances, drinks, food, and an art exhibition of the winners. Tickets are available for $20 on and must be purchased in advance.

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Lauren Smart
Contact: Lauren Smart