artists' community we are all connected

LEAVING DALLAS

Since deciding to stay in Dallas in the mid-nineties - in lieu of moving to a more artist-friendly city such as Houston, Miami, LA, Chicago or NYC, I saw an opportunity to make a positive change not only for myself, but for Dallas' artist community. I saw many seemingly unoccupied warehouses and old buildings near the epicenter of downtown that could become creative hubs filled with artists, dancers, poets, writers and performers.

I'd fortuitously fallen upon Richard Florida's book, Rise of the Creative Class, after researching how successful artist's co-ops, studios and consortia from around the world began and operated. Examples such as the Torpedo Factory and Blue Star Art Space -spoke to me in how organic they began and flourished - though with some resistance from the powers that be.

Mr. Florida spoke a language for whom all artists should become fluent. And that is you either needed to move to where the action is, or you needed to take action where you are!

I chose the latter and approached certain members of the Dallas City Council with the goal of finding out what their language was before I started presenting ideas to developers and advocating for their adoption. It just so happens that Florida's data are hybridizations of artist-speak, architectural lingo and city-planning nomenclature. Though a sometimes more cryptic dialect in City Hall is spoken there, Florida's statistical and cultural prowess gave color to numbers for someone like me who likes to talk to people and share ideas.

Really, it's not that Dallas ignores their artists as some artists lament, it's that the city rarely hears numbers-backed ideas from artists and vís-a-vís, artists rarely hear anything tangibly relevant to artists and the creative community.

Ideas can manifest in a flash and before you know it, thoughts become things. Just like in life.

Not every artist has the patience, know how or the care in the world to give a flip about conversing with city officials, but I've seen first-hand what organized ideas put into real-world terms (hint: it's not always numbers) can do to spread the enthusiasm to those who not only didn't know such things can exist, but to those who can help make it happen, combined with social networking.

I am involved in several local arts organizations - from the very street-level to the upper echelons of culture-makers. I became acquainted with photographer, Erica Fellicella, who shared my enthusiasm and was trying to stir up excitement levels amongst artists that no, you didn't have to leave Dallas to find a vibrant art scene, it was already here - it just needed some corralling.

LA REUNION

Through Erica, I met Sara Jane Semrad who was starting an artist-in-residency called la reunion tx - named after one of Dallas' earliest group of French colonists who happened to be artisans, musicians and gardeners who sought communal living. they brought with them Dallas' first piano, artists, poets, distillers, green thumbs (debatable) and with that, a new energy of creativity. they settled in west Dallas, about 5 miles from present-day downtown Dallas.

After a swath of 35+ acres were donated to La Reunion for their residency, I happened to be at the informal consecration of the property where upon a tree expert declared that with all the overgrowth of non-native trees, some of them needed to be "banded" in order to help the property recover. "banding " is where the bark is peeled away, assuring a slow decay, creating a natural habitat for birds and small animals while allowing other native trees and plants to flourish.

It hit me at that very moment that banding creates a visual element to the trees, so I asked the expert if they could be banded in various lines and shapes. Yes said he "didn't see why not!" and in that moment, the idea for a tree-carving installation and performance hit me. In 2012, LaReunionTX will mark its sixth year we've created a tree-carving - or a "tree-appropriation" - event centered around making art out of the the natural elements found on the property.