100 Creatives

100 Dallas Creatives: No. 17 Artful Advocate Vicki Meek

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. In the 1980s, Vicki Meek made her way to Dallas as an artist in residence for the City Arts Program, but she soon found that her calling lay in the administration side of the arts in the city that was slowly become her home. In 1983, she took her first job as an arts administrator at the City Arts Program to help build a more equitable funding system. By 1997, she took over the South Dallas Cultural Center. Now, she's one of the city's most recognizable arts advocate.

How did you first find your way into the South Dallas Cultural Center? Well, I didn't really find my way into the South Dallas Cultural Center; it found me. In 1997, Margie Reese was running the Office of Cultural Affairs and she was concerned about the lack of activity at the Center. At the time, I was doing a temporary foray out of the arts, working as a community organizer for the East Dallas Community School where my kids attended. This was my one break from the arts in my career but as it turns out, it actually was the missing piece of the puzzle in my quest to serve my community, because once I agreed to take over the South Dallas Cultural Center, I quickly realized the focus needed to be on the kids.

What has been your motivation to pursue this path? At the risk of sounding flippant I have to say my motivation was the desire to never be a starving artist (I love designer shoes too much!). I am a realist and I knew that given the cultural climate of America and the rampant racism inherent therein, the chances of me making a living as an artist were very slim. White artists were not making a living at it so I knew not to put too much energy into treading that path. I initially thought after getting my MFA that I wanted to teach on the college level. That idea quickly evaporated once I understood that nobody in his or her right mind was ever going to offer me tenure. So that's when the arts administration avenue became my way to make a living wage. This was the late 70s when I joined the staff of the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, a time before there were college degrees in arts administration and everyone doing these jobs was an artist. It was a wonderful, energizing time!

If you had to describe your aesthetic in five words, what would they be?  Memory, reclamation, heritage, multi-layered, and African-centered.

What in your daily life inspires you?
 The younger artists who exhibit a strong commitment to an aesthetic rather than just being "art stars," children exploring their creativity, elders who hold the history, my art-making peers, community activists who stay focused on the real issues, music, dance, my own offspring, my siblings, so many things... 
 In addition to your work at the South Dallas Cultural Center, how else have you and are you currently contributing to Dallas arts scene?  I'm always engaged in some form of support for other artists either being a mentor, a donor, or collaborator. I believe in being an active member of any community I'm a part of so that means I'm never idle! I am a big supporter of jazz musicians in the area and that often means I'm a donor to their projects as well as a regular audience member. I do believe in putting my money where my passions lie!

What brought you to Dallas and what's keeping you here? As is true for many women who end up in places they never dreamed they'd be, a man brought me to Dallas! What keeps me here is my love for this city. Dallas has afforded me the opportunity to do just about everything I ever wanted to do. Even though I haven't pursued my studio practice here as much as my administrative career, it allowed me to live economically and raise my kids in a relatively safe environment so, in a way, it also supported my art life...I pretty much operate as a global being so my time here has been well-spent developing contacts all over the world so that my art production doesn't suffer. 
 What's your next big project?

I have two solo exhibitions coming up in May and October, and Elia Arce, my business partner, and I are developing an artist/creative person retreat in Puerta Viejo, Costa Rica, called The Institute for Creative Research, that we hope to have up and running next year. I plan to spend half the year there and half here once I retire next year. I'm also hoping to take advantage of an invitation to do a 3-month artist residency in Berlin next year. 
 What is something that Dallas doesn't know about you? 

Dallas doesn't really know me as an artist so I'm thrilled to be retiring back into that part of my life. Dallas also doesn't know that I'm a mommy and a great one.

Mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it? 
I would definitely step up my philanthropy to my favorite arts and community organizations and I would endow an international travel fund for kids at South Dallas Cultural Center.

100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons 44. Artistic Integrator Erica Felicella 43. Multi-talented Director Tre Garrett 42. Anachronistic Musician Matt Tolentino 41. Emerging Veteran Actor Van Quattro 40. Festival Orchestrator Anna Sophia van Zweden 39. Literary Framer Karen Weiner 38. Man Behind the Music Gavin Mulloy 37. The Godfather of Dallas Art Frank Campagna 36. Rising Star Adam A. Anderson 35. Artist Organizer Heyd Fontenot 34. Music Innovator Stefan Gonzalez 33. Triple Threat Giovanni Valderas 32. Cultural Connector Lauren Cross 31. Critical Artist Thor Johnson 30. Delicate Touch Margaret Meehan 29. Fashion Forward Charles Smith II 28. Dedicated Artist Carolyn Sortor 27. Political Cyber Banksy Wylie H Dallas 26. Dance Preserver Lisa Mesa Rogers 25. Rob 'Ain't No Creative Like A Bow-Tie-Wearing Creative' Shearer 24. Scholar of the Stage Susan Sargeant 23. Photographer of Record Justin Terveen 22. Music Man Jeffrey Liles 21. Keeper of the Safe Room Lauren Gray 20. Playwright Jonathan Norton, Man of Many Words 19. Filmmaker and Funniest Comic in Texas Linda Stogner 18. Gallerist Jordan Roth, the Art Scene Cheerleader