DFW has seen a steady growth of art related activity that has caught the attention of national art press with the Dallas Art Fair, Art Week, important museum shows, and the rise of more commercial and nonprofit gallery spaces. The Metroplex might not be heating up as hot and fast as Miami, but steady growth has made the area a rival art scene to Houston. Eclipsing Houston in some aspects, but still having some work to do in other ways.
Getting noticed by local officials is one way to know you have arrived. All this year one hand of the City of Dallas didn’t know what the other hand was doing. So, the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs would approve and help fund a show, while the fire marshal would shut it down. Things like this have happened to Houston and many other cities that have an art market beginning to gain prominence. The growing pains can be hard for galleries, alternative spaces, studio tours, and art events. Unfortunately these problems can be expected for a while. The community has to rally together and help each other jump through the bureaucratic hoops before a launch of a project or gallery space. Keeping the conversation open and helping artists and gallery owners navigate the pitfalls of not having all the paperwork will help to weather this particular storm. Just remember this is a sign of growth and innovation, so resistance is to be expected.
The Metroplex has a great deal of MFA programs feeding the cultural production. UNT, SMU, UTA, UDallas, TCU, UTD, and Texas A&M at Commerce have students getting their first group shows and solo shows in DFW venues. Even the community colleges have a robust exhibition tradition that has gotten the attention of the press now and then. However, what the area needs is an alternative art school option for students to explore art production without the hefty price tag. Something like the Black Mountain School would be nice. Residency programs also attract talent to Texas. UTD and the Fairmont Hotel provide an artist-in-residency program which brings in artists to the DFW area. Just southeast of Dallas is the residency, 100W, in Corsicana where artists can easily access the city to participate in cultural events. Our museums have similar residency programs for artists, but nothing as of yet rivals the prestige of the MFAH Core Program in Houston.
The Dallas Museum of Art has consistently curated or hosted impactful shows that bring national and international attention to the city. The Nasher, Meadows, Fort Worth Modern, Amon Carter, and the Kimbell bring different flavors to the visual arts patrons from the local scene, but have also created some visual art tourists that are attracted to the cities for the arts. The Dallas Contemporary brought in some of the best and worst shows which have shaken up the town. Controversy in an age of reality TV and celebrity obsession has worked for them and people keep coming back for more.
Commercial spaces have grown in number as well as moved and clustered around the Design District in Dallas. Fort Worth spaces are emerging too, providing a new aesthetic. Like the Fort Works Gallery, which had Dan Lam’s trippy drippy sculptures in August. The galleries also work together on shows and projects through the CADD, DADA, and FWADA. These organizations of galleries help each other in local promotion of their artists and bring a sense of community to what would otherwise be just a business.
So the DFW has a lot going for it in the arts, but clearly things have not risen to the level of LA or New York. Being an art capital might be an insurmountable a goal, but is still worth the effort. DFW, however, is moving towards a regional power in the arts as long as we don’t get in our own way.