A series of recommendations for fostering the arts in Dallas will be released today by SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and Creative Time, a New York-based public arts organization. In October 2009 Creative Time received one of the inaugural two Meadows Prize artist residency awards from the Meadows School.
Creative Time’s residency has taken the form of a yearlong study of the Dallas art community to identify strengths and potential areas for growth. During the course of three weeklong visits to Dallas over the past year, Creative Time’s team met with a wide range of members of the art community, including artists, curators, collectors, gallery owners, visual and performing arts organization leaders, school administrators, philanthropists, writers, community organizers and city officials.
“Our goal was to begin an inclusive dialogue about where Dallas could focus energies to nurture its artistic life, a conversation that we hope will continue long after our residency has ended and will lead to new initiatives, policies and opportunities for artists,” said Creative Time President and Artistic Director Anne Pasternak.
The group identified 13 key elements necessary for the Dallas art community to thrive. Many are already in place and working effectively, while others are lacking or nonexistent, Pasternak said. For each element, Creative Time developed several recommendations to further strengthen programs and structures and to create new opportunities.
The 13 key elements are:
• A sustainable artist community and opportunities for live/work space
• Cultural institutions with international reach, innovative programs and historically relevant collections
• Great patrons who support the creation, presentation and acquisition of art
• Mid-sized and small art spaces that support the creation of new and experimental work by local and international artists
• Skilled and visionary arts leaders in institutions big and small
• Excellent contemporary art galleries with international reach
• Residency programs for national and international artists to create in Dallas
• Master of Fine Arts programs to train and attract artists
• Arts education in Dallas public schools
• Public art to engage broad audiences and activate public spaces
• Engaged audiences
• Experienced art writers featured daily in primary news media
• Civic championing of the arts through policies and urban planning
Dallas excels in the caliber of its artists, museums, collections and MFA programs, as well as in its curious audiences and generous philanthropists and collectors, the report said. In addition, the city has plentiful live/work spaces for artists and a strong sense of community. However, the report noted, there are very few small and mid-sized alternative spaces supporting the production of new work; arts coverage in the local press is limited; and artists are fragmented across a large geographical area, undermining their sense of community and potential for collaboration. Dallas also could benefit from greater opportunities for art to be created within its diverse communities, the report said.
The 58 recommendations in the report provide ideas for both individual and collective action. For example, the report said:
• Artists could rent studio buildings together, purchase property collectively and get actively involved in the communities around their studios.
• Artists and arts organizations could explore opportunities to present work in unexpected and diverse sites throughout Dallas.
• Cultural institutions could commission new work and support artistic experimentation, collaborate across disciplines and involve the local artist community by hosting professional development workshops and artist events.
• Institutions should hire skilled and visionary leaders, invest in the training and growth of their staffs, and provide respectful and competitive compensation packages to attract and retain the best in the field.
• Patrons could be encouraged to support small and medium-sized organizations, which are the stepping stones between the studio and the museum, as well as opportunities for local artists to advance their work through travel grants and residencies.
• Galleries could collaborate with each other as well as with universities, alternative spaces and cultural institutions through events such as book launches, film screenings and museum member tours.
• MFA programs could expand their course offerings and connect with the larger art community by requiring students to attend shows and openings off campus, visit local artists’ studios, attend lectures at museums and galleries and intern at local institutions.
• Newspapers, universities and museums could expand the discourse on art by sharing resources, such as having arts journalists contribute essays to museum publications and university faculty write columns in newspapers and online magazines.
• City leaders could support temporary art projects, re-evaluate public art master plans and make sure public art commissions are professionally curated and maintained. To begin to link fragmented populations, civic leaders should promote new ideas in urban planning, integrate art into all areas of policy and champion cultural production.
• Audiences should spread the word about exhibitions and events, advocate on behalf of the arts in schools and local governments, and support local institutions by becoming members or volunteering.
To read the full Creative Time report, visit smu.edu/creativetimereport
“This is an important moment for Dallas,” said José Bowen, dean of the Meadows School. “We’ve built wonderful new performance spaces and we are clearly ambitious in our desire to be a major cultural center. The report highlights the existence of terrific collectors, patrons, artists, institutions and partnerships, but also gives us a fresh perspective on what Dallas needs to do to fulfill its promise. Mostly, we hope this report, and the symposium to follow, will serve as the beginning of a conversation for how we can make the Dallas arts community the best in the world.”
Bowen also noted that the Meadows School has already begun to act on the ideas in the report. “We’ve begun to create more opportunities for students to work in the community along the models that Creative Time has developed in other cities,” Bowen said. “We’ve also had overwhelming student interest in our new minor in arts entrepreneurship, the first program of its kind in the world.”