City Hall

Give the Three Ross Ave. Underpass Proposals One Final Once-Over Before Tonight's Meeting

For as long as I can recall, the city's been talking about making the Ross Avenue underpass at Central Expressway in the Arts District an art project all on its own. Tonight, it inches closer to reality: On your way home, you're all invited to an open house meet-n-greet at the Latino Cultural Center with the three finalists for the project, which is still a ways off from becoming reality given it has to go through the Texas Department of Transportation and the city council and points in between before getting the okee-doke. Nevertheless, at 6:30 tonight there's a public forum at which those so interested will be asked for their input.

Kay Kallos, Public Art Program Manager in the city's Office of Cultural Affairs, tells Unfair Park this afternoon it was the surrounding neighborhood that got the project "back on track after years of being backlogged," and that "the neighborhood's driving the goals for this." I asked her to outline some of those goals; she was kind enough to send the entire list, which follows along with the other two finalists' works.

But among those topping the pops: "The project must provide a visually welcoming environment for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists" and "The inclusion of elements that reflect the robust cultural environment of the Arts District and/or historical references to the City of Dallas is encouraged." (Judge for yourself.) Kallos says the CityDesign Studio at Dallas City Hall also got involved, lending the OCA one of its interns funded by that National Endowment for the Arts grant it received last summer.

The three finalists are: Bill FitzGibbons, who, in 1988, became the Department Head of Sculpture at the San Antonio Art Institute; Koryn Rolstad, a former arts commissioner for King Country Metro Arts Commission who's based in Seattle; and Joe O'Connell and Blessing Hancock of Arizona. Kallos says those finalists were chosen from 41 submissions -- some of which, she says, were turned in by locals.

"I think it's really important to emphasize all our Dallas artists are working around the world," she says. "Nobody works local only, and all the artists showing their proposals tonight show globally, and two [FitzGibbons and Rolstad] have 25-plus years working in public art. And the other two are really young and have a lot of work in the Southwest. There were local artists who were considered for the project. And it's not a requirement, but I can tell you we have never, ever, not in the two years I've been here, had a call where we didn't have Dallas-Fort Worth artists submit. If that were to happen, ever, we'd have to rethink how we do this."

Says Kallos, tonight's community meeting is a big deal for the OCA -- it's the first time in its history it has asked for the public's input on a public art project.

The selection panel will be in attendance tonight, and those attending can offer them their comments either in person or in writing. The panel will then reconvene tomorrow and announce its first-place finisher on Monday.

After that, Kallos says, TxDOT has to review and approve the submission, after which it'll go to the Public Art Committee of the OCA, then the Cultural Affairs Commission and then, last stop, the Dallas City Council.

"So it'll be fall till we have a time line for construction," she says. Still, the future is now. Or below, anyway.

From Kallos, the "goals for the project" are, as determined by the neighborhood:

* The project must provide a visually welcoming environment for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

* The final project must encourage pedestrian and cyclist usage of the space by creating a sense of safety. The final artwork should use materials and methods reflecting best sustainable practices.

* The design must include energy efficient lighting features to create a safe environment.

* The inclusion of elements that reflect the robust cultural environment of the Arts District and/or historical references to the City of Dallas is encouraged.

* The proposal will also be reviewed by a team from the Texas Department of Transportation to ensure that the project meets the requirements for street safety and the use agreement for the location.

* Safety considerations prohibit the use of all red or all blue light, flashing lights or any element that could distract or interfere with drivers through the space.

* Any design element that would inhibit drivers' sight lines or create hazards as determined by TXDOT will not be accepted.

* Public Art Installations cannot create dark areas or limited visibility areas that could create safety issues for pedestrians.

* Artwork that would be mounted to the overhead structural support cannot exceed 100lbs per hanging point.

* The bridge structure cannot be altered, nor employ any modification that would compromise the existing structure.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky