At The Intersection of Madison and 12th in Oak Cliff, An Art Park Rises From An Empty Lot.
At the intersection of Madison and 12th in Oak Cliff, a grass lot running alongside this residential neighborhood has, in just the past few months, undergone a vast transformation.
Once barren, the lot has now been dubbed the Oak Cliff Art Park. Large, interactive metal works are strewn about the space: Rebar curved into the shapes of cranes and flowers lie at one side; a massive steel gate rests at the other. There's also a whispering bench, a sign and a sculpture created out of an actual support beam from one of the World Trade Center towers that fell on September 11, 2001.
“It seemed like it happened from one day to the next,” says Oak Cliff-based artist and Basement Gallery owner Daniel Yanez. “One day, I drove by and I was like, 'Where did this stuff come from?'”
Now he knows. At the very back of the park, Yanez is working on the white wooden fence that marks the property's edge. He's in the process of painting a mural that will stretch across the entire length of the fence — more than 100 feet in total. It's a monster of a piece, one that incorporates a few different styles: The far left side of the fence is painted with the geometric lettering Yanez has become known for; as it stretches on, the text begins to evolve into a simpler, more free-handed style. Three days in, he's only just now hit the halfway mark.
The work was commissioned by the land parcel's owner, Ralph Isenberg. These two have worked together before — Isenberg had previously commissioned a piece of Yanez's for the Oak Cliff Bank Tower where Eisenberg's offices are located — and, from his lofty perch, Isenberg can see the lots on Madison.
Isenberg, among other things, is already a serious art connoisseur, boasting a vast collection that he cycles through his office. The Oak Cliff Art Park is too meant to feature works he owns: The sculpture created from salvage of the World Trade Center, for instance, is the sister to one he keeps outside the Oak Cliff Bank Tower. So the space is essentially Isenberg's. But Yanez, an Oak Cliff fixture in his own right, whose Basement Gallery has become a support system and home base for local artists like him, has been allowed plenty of input, too.
“I like to say it was a 50/50 thing, a give and take,” he says. “Ralph has a lot of respect for the artist.”
An Oak Cliff resident with a family of his own, Yanez hopes the park can be an inspiration to the youths at the nearby Dallas Can Academy and Promise House, whose neighborhood is being threatened by re-zoning and gentrification.
Says Yanez: “I like to believe this gives them promise in knowing there is something different out there for them and dreams are possible no matter what background you're from.”