Visual Art

What Life is Like for a Working Dallas Artist, and How That Life Can Improve

Last week's Not Waiting For Permission, the 2nd Annual State of the Emerging Arts at UTD's CentralTrak, continued the out-in-the-open conversation that's forcing people to take notice, and perhaps sides, in their support of local art.

For too long it seemed the conversations dictating the fate of independent galleries and outside-the-gallery work were taking place around kitchen tables in the homes of supporters of the scene. The motif that's formed lately has been to break off the table's legs and heave the damn thing through the window, allowing everyone outside to climb through.

The panel, hosted by Green Bandana co-founder Daryl Ratcliff, continued the trend. Panelists included Brandy Michele Adams, gallery director of W.A.A.S Gallery; Sally Glass, artist and Editor-in-chief of semigloss. Magazine; Lucy Kirkman, artist, S.C.A.B. member and co-owner of Studio Don't Fuck This Up; Michael A. Morris artist, educator and advocate of cinematic forms; and Francisco Moreno, artist, gallery director of The Fort Worth Drawing Center and gallery teacher at The Warehouse, who transcribed the conversation, phone rings and all, on white paper hanging behind the panel.

Here's what we learned:

People Give a Shit. It wasn't just about the size of the turnout for a Thursday night talk on art, but the makeup as well. From baby boomers to baby-faced twenty-somethings, the crowd radiated a rainbow of colors and tone. Representatives from The Office of Cultural Affairs were in attendance, as well as writers from various media outlets, young artists and people who just wanted to be a part of the conversation.

It's a Struggle Out There. Kirkman summed up the struggle that is being a full-time artist: "Life happens. You can't always afford to rent your studio because you have to get a full-time job to support your family."

As an artist living out of her studio, she listed a few necessities: "affordable studio space, support from the community at-large and from the press encouraging discussion."

Morris related his role as transplant, and how that shaped his perception before moving here. "I've really been surprised with how well things have worked here. When I moved here I hoped it would be possible to fund things out of their own homes without overhead. But I didn't think Dallas was built with the infrastructure to support that, so I've been pleasantly surprised. It's been fascinating to see people over-coming geographic differences. People are using things at their own disposal. I would love to see a dedicated space for film and video work. If someone beats me to it that's fine."

You Want Something? Go Get It. For the panelists, this meant legal advice, grants, and for Adams, forming a do-it-yourself mentality. "Don't wait for permission. We all need to take the initiative in our life. We've been looked upon as the big-hair, horse-riding, shit kickers. So, do it yourself; the time is now." Adams has taken her own advice to heart. "WAAS has been a gamble. We thrive as an at-risk gallery. If artists need supplies, we try to supply material from old supply houses and building materials left on job sites."

For as Far as We've Come, We're Still Behind. "Dallas as a city in general is less diverse in a lot of ways when it comes to the integration of all the cultures," Glass said. "I don't know what the answers are. It's an important question to ask though."

Although Adams believes that Dallas will be the epicenter of the next art boom, she worried everybody might not be invited to the party. "When I moved back from here from Los Angeles, I asked a friend, 'Are we still segregated?' I grew up in Oak Cliff. I've always been blind to color. We all bleed the same and that was another reason to create WAAS. I wanted to give a platform to diversity."

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Lee Escobedo