Thursday, June 05, 2014

UTD ART BARN repost of my article

Ideas are still being batted around about the future of the UT Dallas Art Barn. University officials might have shifted their initial desires to close the building completely, to possibly allowing further exhibitions and classes to take place in the space after this spring semester. It would seem that for now, this minimal structure might have a little more life left. However, it will take alumni, students, faculty and those that desire great art exhibition to convince the University that a seamless transition must occur.

Whether the transition is remodeling, adding an additional structure, or sadly even replacing the Art Barn; it is important that a strong functional gallery space remains on campus. Without the Art Barn there would not be a place on campus to launch Creative thesis shows for BFA, MFA, or PhD students. This is like telling a scientist that they can do all the research they want, but they can’t publish the paper after they have formulated conclusions. Sculpture and printmaking facilities must also remain intact to have a fully functional Fine Arts department that will attract the most talented students. UT Dallas can not afford to wait a few years to build another building that will house these essential spaces. Not having an art gallery on campus is like the United States not having a vehicle to send astronauts into space. Both are relinquishing control of message and prestige to others. UT Dallas needs to continue to have a voice in the visual culture without any lost time.

Back when I was getting my Masters in Humanities there, Richard Brettell curated an incredibly imaginative competition with architecture students that envisioned a campus that celebrated the arts. As I recall there was some reworking of the Art Barn space. UTA students recently tackled the idea of maintaining as Greg Metz put it, this “ iconic minimalist structure.” So, the conversations have been on going about this important space. I just hope the University officials can start to see the space through the lens of those that love it.

For many, the Art Barn has sentimental value. I asked artist and UT Dallas alumni Christi Nielsen what the space meant to her, and her thoughts on the fate of the Art Barn. “The Art Barn was much more than a building for classes. It was a space for making a mess, a space for showing pristine works. It was a learning space, it was a resting space. You saw students pulling their hair out in frustration, you saw students sleeping on couches. It truly was a space in which to exist. It was like its own little foreign country on the UTD campus. I’m a bit sentimental. I remember it fondly, of course, because that’s where I came alive. When I learned of the Art Barn’s eventual demise, I immediately went to visit. I walked through every room I could and photographed. It smelled exactly the same. It reeked of… action? creativity? mess? Process. It reeked of process. Of people figuring things out. It might smell like something different for someone else, but that’s what it was for me. I figured things out there. I’m unbelievably sad to see it go.” I could not say it more eloquently.

So many great exhibitions and art happenings have occurred and made an important impact on the North Texas culture. I can not even begin to list them all. So many artists have come out of there and have impacted the culture worldwide. The value of what the Art Barn has done for people would be hard to quantify. I hope everyone at UT Dallas will see the value of this creative space as I do, and save the essential functions the space provides us all.

thanks to Greg Metz and Christi Nielsen.

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