Ten Burning Questions For The Dallas Art Scene.
Welcome to Canvassing, our weekly look at the conversations that surround the Dallas art world. Pull up a chair. Stay with us for a while. The view's pretty nice from here.
Last week, D Magazine's Peter Simek wrote a thoughtful piece wondering if the Dallas art scene has flamed out of late.
It's a fair thing to ponder, really. And Simek is indeed correct in pointing out that the scene has of late lost some key people who helped make our art scene exciting — and, worse, that we seem poised to lose a few more soon. I wrote something similar about this possibility over a year ago for Glasstire, and I am saddened to see it coming somewhat to pass now.
However, I disagree with Simek's opinions on the causes for this recent exodus. In my eyes, the reasons behind these departures certainly remain structural at their core. No amount of talent, ambition or hustle can overcome the fact that there are simply not enough jobs, resources and opportunities in the region to help retain our top artists. And that's an important thing to consider: Most everyone who has departed this scene in recent memory has gone on to more structurally solid art scenes.
Structure — and, specifically, how resources and opportunities are allocated – is a reflection of values. And, the truth is, our city, writ large, does not value artists.
This is the fundamental reason why talented artists leave Dallas. They go to places that values them more than we do.
All the same, I'm still optimistic about the Dallas art scene. Talented people are working very hard to shift the structure of our scene, and provide additional resources and opportunities in a sustainable way. This is exciting — and I will continue do what I can to highlight these efforts wherever possible.
Still, given Simek's piece, now seems as good a time as any to wonder aloud if the Dallas art scene is closer to a blow-up or a burn-out. So let's do that, by asking the big questions currently facing the area art world.
1. Will artists, organizers and curators like Raymond Butler and Artist DIY be able to continue to improve and evolve?
There are people in this town who put together art exhibitions that are very accessible and have catchy themes, and they include artists with varying skill sets and, often, non-art school backgrounds. These crowds are already successful — and increasingly recognized. But what's the next step for these individuals? What happens when they do a show with two or three artists instead of 12 to 16? Can accessibility meet consistent quality? And who decides that?
2. Will established galleries improve their accessibility?
Put frankly, Dallas is not a white city anymore. It is Latino/Hispanic, white and black. How the gallery scene – the entry-point for artists' careers — handles these shifting demographics of this city will be key to Dallas' future in art. Just know this: Anything that is all or mostly white is not a true representation of our culture.
3. Will critics realize that no one has a monopoly on culture?
Here's a truth bomb: I don't like around 92 percent of the art that I see. In turn, I get irrationally happy if I see three shows that excite me out of the 10 or 12 stops I might make in a night. There is nothing wrong with being critical, of course, but it's also important to realize that there are multiple art scenes happening at the same time. Our culture is always bigger than any one critic, artist, collective or gallery. It's time we recognized this and maybe dug a little deeper into the fringes — and not just the popular ones.
4. How are this city's young upstarts from a couple years ago using their influence or positioning for the collective good?
Some of us have gotten (albeit still very small) pieces of the pie. Some of us have won hard-fought footholds. Will we become consumed with our own careers, only help a narrow few? Or will we be generous with our privilege?
5. Can there be an art scene in southern Dallas or in Pleasant Grove?
Is there an art scene there? Have we just missed it? Are artists, curators and critics simply not interested or curious in what is going on with half of our city? What would make that space interesting?
6. Will the gallery scene shift from the Design District? If so, where will it grow?
Cohn Drennan moved to Expo Park. Red Arrow will move to Oak Cliff. Will more galleries follow? Is Deep Ellum/Expo Park the new (old) center? Will The Cedars finally emerge? Is West Dallas inevitable?
7. Will the Dallas art scene continue to be dominated by modernist paintings?
Dallas is still a very painting-dominated city. I don't have the time to count the exact percentage of shows I see that center around paintings, but my guess is that the figure there would come out to around 80 percent. Why's this a problem? Because I don't think this reflects the national and international conversation about what is interesting about art.
8. What will be the next Aurora?
Aurora is one of the best success stories going in the Dallas art scene. A grass roots movement achieves scalability? What's not to like? Better yet: What will be next? Who (aside from maybe one person I can think of off the top of my head) is thinking in terms of engaging tens of thousands of citizens? Can it be the Dallas Biennial?
9. Will our municipal government, business leadership, local foundations and collector class make the same investment in supporting Dallas artists as they did in building the Dallas Arts District?
It's not a question of resources. It's a question of values. Saying that one supports something and actually supporting it? Those are two different things.
10. Will our local art market support galleries like Xhulong?
I remember how sad everyone was when And/Or closed. Can Dallas support new media or technology based art and artists?
These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves — and answering, too. No, we cannot control everything, but I do believe in the people here, in the talent here and in the possibility that we can become great.
Our scene is filled with kind, passionate, hard-working people — ones who succeed in spite of great odds. No one person can boot-strap an entire scene, though. It's the combination of all of us that will make Dallas great.
What I believed 18 months ago; I believe now.
Do-It-Yourself is not enough. We have to start Doing-It-Together.
• Yrjo Edelman, Tracey Harris and David Crismon at Craighead Green from 5 to 8 p.m
• Gabriel Dawe, Vincent Falsetta and Sarah Ball at Conduit Gallery from 6 to 8 p.m.
• “Partly True and Partly Fiction” by Paul Manes at Cris Worley Fine Art from 6 to 8 p.m.
• “Monopoly” by Mike Osborne at Holly Johnson Gallery from 6 to 8 p.m
• “MoonBrightChime” by Mel Priest at Galleri Urbane from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
• “Always + Forever” at Red Arrow Contemporary from 6 to 9 p.m.
• “Harvest” at Mary Tomas Gallery from 6 to 9 p.m.
• “Begin To Dissolve” by Andrea Myers at Circuit 12 Gallery from 6 to 10 p.m.
• “Before Disappearing Into the Wilderness” at Beefhaus from 7 to 10 p.m.
Cover image of Gabriel Dawe's “Plexus 15 Post Study,” courtesy of Conduit Gallery.