The Henderson Art Project Attempts to Beautify (and Market) the Bustling District

Art is so cool these days. Everyone’s got to have it.  Even whole streets, block after block, apparently need a requisite amount of it in order to fit in, or so it would seem on the newly revived east Henderson Avenue. An urban beautification effort called the Henderson Art Project has plopped a number of public sculptures on the avenue as selected by a jury. Like a mid-life crisis Corvette, the art in the Henderson Art Project is a surrogate for real sophistication:  it had better be shiny, accessibly emotive, and apparently red.

Scott Trent "Falling iBeams"

The transformation of Henderson Ave. from a not-so-safe, tire-popping pothole haven into a sort-of-edgy, see-and-be-seen, tire-popping pothole haven was a good thing. Urban revival like the Andres Brothers have godfathered there has given Dallas a totem of hope for the city’s gradual maturity into a more varied and imaginative place. The Pearl Cup makes, by my accounts, the best latte around; its workers are kind; and wow! the hand dryer in the bathroom is the latest offering from NASA, I think. Form and Sputnik Modern are wonderfully curated spots for MCM-philes. We Are 1976 just rocks. And Park is one of the wonkiest, devil ne’er care, good looking restaurants around, even if the food is meh. The gentrification (let’s just come out and say it) of the street has provided a stomping ground for a wide variety of people — the well-heeled, the Ked-heeled, the khaki-ed, the skinny-jeaned; and it has begun to suture parts of the city together: suddenly Knox and Greenville are real neighbors, even if foils of each other.

So why did the Powers That Be have to go and tamper with what was going so well on Henderson Avenue and forcibly clonk down some pretty mediocre sculpture in parking lots and vacant lots with lots and lots of fanfare?

The seven sculptures anchored down the road will sit there for two years and are all for sale, the hope of the organizers being to help “artists pursue their passions.” The work is meant to give the artists exposure to the culturati that stride down the now hip old road: each work has a plaque at its base with the name and website of the artist to connect viewers with the artists.  A weather-proof business card.

Chris Lattanzio "Yellow Rose"

It seems logical enough that in order to draw the largest amount of eyes, the work (and its signage) should have been placed near the most foot traffic, in the already developed patches of Henderson Avenue. Some of the pieces are, like a short stack of red I-beams welded together at a tilt (Falling i-beams, Scott Trent) that sits in front of a parking lot next to a new strip of restaurants and retail. But most of the selected work is situated outside the hub of new development and revitalization in a no-mans-land of vacant lots and buildings. Take Chris Lattanzio’s piece, for example, called Yellow Rose.  It’s made from bright yellow metal twisted to form a rectangle frame of a rose and it sits on the edge of a sidewalk that abuts an empty lot next to a building with a For Lease sign. Looking through the piece from the lot side across the street, Lattanzio’s yellow rose frames the lovely seediness of Fuji Sauna which offers “Theraputic Massage.” It’s a lot of work for a sculpture to try and beautify that little pocket of urban wasteland, and Yellow Rose isn’t quite up for the task.

George Tobolowsky "Outside the Circle"

Two sculptures sit in front of new apartment buildings. Michelle O’Michael ‘s Prairie Fire, a red and yellow painted metal sculpture that curves up like flames, hangs out with lease signs and rent offers in front of a modern-ish complex, doing its sinuous darndest to get new tenants. George Tobolowsky’s bronze piece, “Outside the Circle” is perhaps the best among the seven HAP winners. It’s a carved ring with tubes of metal growing out from it, and it’s nestled among native grasses and red yucca in front of a hacienda (or is it Tuscan?) style block of housing. Tobolowski’s piece has much less work to do by way of tenant recruitment than its counterpart across the street; it fits right in to the landscaping and actually looks like its placement was well-considered. And clearly this complex draws a well-coifed list of tenants already, judging by the sunglassed blondie that gave me a stern look for ogling the sculpture as she pulled out of the underground garage in her luxury vehicle. (Note: don’t look the natives in the eye.)

The placement of nearly all the work in the Henderson Art Project made me suspect a savvy business scheme in which the art acts as bait for new tenants, both in residential and commercial spaces. I could just hear the realtor walking a twenty-something through an apartment: “You’ll notice you’ll have a view of one of the HAP sculptures just outside your window…” (cha-ching, cha-ching). There is nothing so marketable as the idea of good taste.

Main image:  Juanluis Gonzalez’s Opus 1

Michelle O'Michael "Prarie Fire"

Comments

  • M Streeter

    Your headline suggests a certain saintliness on Henderson. All I can think of is Cafe San Miguel. The Old Monk is a stretch.

  • Christine

    Nothing is more ruinous than mediocrity. How disappointing.

  • Jason Heid

    @M Streeter: Funny. Headline adjusted. Thanks.

  • Blake

    Does anyone know the artwork outside Jones Walker? Is it a Scott Carroll?

  • ivan glasnost

    i just dont see what’s so wrong w/ the sculptures. i like several of them. sure, a-holes were probably behind their installation. but given the unsightly aspects you mentioned condos, potholes, for lease signs, white 20-somethings why is public art such a bad thing for the area?

    most people will keep on going about their day and never really notice some of the pieces, but a few will take notice and get something out of it. isnt that what it’s all about?

  • Charles Reis

    @Ivan I agree. I live close to, and spend a lot of time on, Henderson. While I don’t appreciate these specific pieces of art tremendously, I appreciate the fact that someone is putting them out there. It’s a happy surprise to find art in a random location, even if it’s not my brand. I think we should be applauding the efforts of injecting art into peoples’ life. Not criticizing it.

  • Lucia Simek

    @Ivan and Charles: You make valid points which I didn’t address in detail in my piece. I should have been more specific, but my overall impression of the project was that the art was not of good quality. By and large, I found many of the pieces derivative. Somewhere along the way we subscribed to the notion that public art must be made with certain materials (i-beams, bent steel) and should be primary colored. Also, there is this idea, which most of these pieces also subscribe to, that public art should make your day better, should make you happy, give you uppers.

    None of the pieces in the Henderson Art Project engage the viewer in what it means to be in the particular place they are located. None of them engage or provoke the environment they were a part of visually or intellectiually. It’s sculpture you could place anywhere, and because of that the work in HAP feels more like decoration than thoughtful art. Some other entries I saw on the website did make an effort to better engage the space, i.e. Henderson Avenue and all that’s growing and changing there. Check out these entries:

    http://creativityconsortium.com/HAP_154a.html
    http://creativityconsortium.com/HAP_173.html
    http://creativityconsortium.com/HAP_165a.html

    These pieces consider architecture, pedestrianism, urban development, nature in an urban environment and the idea of monument . They steer clear of the usual public art derivations and are much more compelling formally. Because of that, they would have perhaps made more people stop and notice them.

  • Hi Lucia, As the Director of the Henderson Art Project, I must say I have a couple gut reactions to your critique of the project. First, I’m really impressed at your complete coverage and understanding of the project without talking to anyone about the details of the contest. You did your research. But, please understand the placement of the art is only one dimension of the overall project and I’d love to tell you about the many other aspects designed to promote artists, the art community and the surrounding area around Henderson Avenu. Two, thank you very much for your coverage and review. Even though it’s not the most positive analysis, it is a thoughtful and deep look at what we’re attempting to accomplish and it is the dialogue I hope will happen. To have the most beneficial exploration and discussion, all sides must be presented and I’m happy that someone has offered an intelligent, critical eye and articulated their ideas so well. Nice job. Even though, I don’t agree or particularily like the article, I think it is thorough and well written. I’d love to continue the conversation if you’d give me the chance. I truly believe I could sway you a bit to see the value of this project and I would love to get more of the community involved in this discussion about art, what’s good art, is red a good color for public art and what best enhances a community, a street, a society. DMagazine would be an awesome forum… and great sponosor of the project. :O) Incidentally, from a purely defensive posture, all the artists, from the entry that were not selected, to the eight works placed on the street, they are area artists, accomplished, established and hugely talented and I am extremely grateful to have each and everyone participate at some level in this project. This is the first year and I promise we will get better and maybe even win over our critics like yourself. Thank you Lucia. I’d love to talk to anyone interested in discussing public art and the Henderson Art Project at [email protected] Lets keep the dialogue going. Because, as Lucia alluded, I do believe when artists are able to pursue their passions, we all benefit. Scott Trent

  • Daniel

    Between office-tower-plaza art and no art, I’ll take office-tower-plaza art. If I were an art critic, however, I’d certainly feel free to call’em like I see’em.

  • Johnston Jones

    I can’t believe you would be so deriding and judgmental of an open, local art competition. Its not like these businesses went to a garage sale a bought some junk kitch. These are local artists trying to get a little recognition. You should applaud these businesses for giving any local artist an opportunity whether or not the art is your style.

  • I’m enjoying this dialogue, and wanted to jump in to address a point that has been now raised a few times: why did we review the Henderson Art Project? The short answer is that this site’s purpose is to offer criticism of our area arts scene. The long answer can be found here. Since the Henderson project is a fairly prominent recent installation of public art – with more visibility than any gallery will ever receive – it seemed worthwhile to ask the question: but is it any good? I’m glad people are challenging Lucia’s assessment, but I don’t think challenging the validity of asking these questions makes much sense. However well-meaning, does the project improve the street or make us look more provincial? That question doesn’t go away if we simply choose to ignore it or neglect to ask it. But as they say: De gustibus non est disputandum.

  • Johnston Jones

    Seems more like a cheap shot at the direction of Henderson Avenue development than a critical review of the art work or project to me. Again I laud any attempt at cultivating and presenting locally produced art. If you don’t like the chosen art thats one thing but I get the feeling you’d love it if was in the old Sock Monkey or your friend’s basement. As a long time East Dallas resident I’d love to see more businesses taking this same attitude towards promoting public art. You should be encouraging it not tearing it down.

  • While the pieces on Henderson may not lead to a MacArthur Grant, the whole project resembles a step (even if a small one) in the right direction for Dallas. The art chosen for Henderson may subscribe to an arguably out of date understanding of what public art can and should be although as “Daniel” & “Johnston Jones” already suggested, wouldn’t you rather have art than no art?

    What many people fail to realize is that there are many different art worlds and not all of them necessarily subscribe to the same belief or overall goal for art… especially when it comes to public art. By no means is it one cohesive community that chooses to engage with one another on the same level.

    While I agree with many of the points you made, I think it’s short sited and unfair to completely write the project off solely for the execution seeing as the spirit and mission are genuinely positive. Keep in mind this is the first time for this project and perhaps the future will hold more dynamic installations that seem less like “public art”.

    The pieces may not be the most challenging or dialogue provoking, but for better or for worse, here we all are, talking about them.

  • *short-sighted

  • willard spiegelman

    I haven’t seen the controversial sculptures yet, but it occurs to me that mediocre art in public places
    is better than nothing. I feel a little like the late Senator Roman Hruska from Nebraska who said, when the Senate
    turned down one of Richard Nixon’s appointees to the Supreme Court on
    the ground that he was mediocre, “there are lots of mediocre people in
    this country and they too deserve representation on the court, too.”

  • To add a bit more to the discussion:
    First to build on Tammy’s positive comments, even with her back-handed compliment, “The art chosen for Henderson may subscribe to an arguably out of date understanding of what public art can and should be…” I would ask who is the expert on public art? And who are we quoting what is “worthy” art? Tammy, who is should we contact to lead us for the 2011 contest? In respect to the subject of art, I prefer to operate from a place of respecting multiple perspectives and not feeling any one critic has THE answer. Secondly, it might be interesting for article posters to view the list of judges who participated in selecting the art for Henderson. Go to http://hendersonartproject.com/judging%20committee.html to view the more than 70 art community leaders who cast a vote. We were honored to have such Dallas art leaders as Jed Morse, Edith Baker, Joan Davidow and Phillip Collins. All with a strong opinion what passes as art.
    Finally, my hope for the Henderson Art Project is to bring people interested in Dallas art together and find more ways and unique partnerships that promote the artists and the community. Such a community leader as DMagazine might be the perfect partner to underwrite such an endeavor. Lets keep the dialogue going, generate ideas and make good things happen.

  • just a ‘nother critic

    What many of the defenders of this project fail to realize is that the function of a critic is to give insight and opinion for the artists and in this case the organizers as to what more they can do in the future and how they can make it better.

    No one is suggesting that this project was a complete disaster and that it should be removed immediately and all the artist shot. It is merely being suggested that we raise the bar on ourselves a little bit. Great, we got some public art, how can we do it better the next time?

    As I understand it, this was the first try at a very ambitious attempt by organizer Scott Trent. No one who has done this sort of thing would deny that this was a huge undertaking and that the learning curve was massive.
    If I was to have one critique on this aspect I would suggest that 70 judges is about 64 too many. It looks that he was trying to buy credibility with the inclusion of so many the movers and shakers the Dallas art scene instead of just letting the project stand on its own merit.

  • London Calling

    Excuse ME? D magazine? This article is way to easy for you to be an art snob and criticize something without knowing what you are really talking about in detail.
    And who are you to be an art critic?
    This was a democracy, and the art was voted on.
    I hope you and the art snobs stay in your own neighborhood with your own potholes and don’t fall in one while you are criticizing some piece of art that people are doing some good with in a community that was so blighted that no one would drive through. Who are you to say what is mediocre? So you are entitled to your opinion although you have no idea how much this brought so many artists and different people in the community together. I donated as over 200 other artists did to the Heart Auction to go to charities. This was a very well organized first year of a contest that if you took the time to find out about could be replicated all over Dallas.
    But instead you narrow mindedness did not bother and shot it down, so there you go! Just like Dallas pot holes bitch about them but don’t bother to find out how people that are trying to make a difference are making a difference! What ever. D magazine needs writer that will report by getting the facts instead of just sticking their nose in the air.
    Go back to your clique and stay in a rut of bitching about Dallas and feeling good about how much better you are that you are than anyone else that is actually doing something.

  • Downtowner

    Hey, at least you guys finally got some comments…

  • Awww poor Lucia is jelous she is not an artist. You can see it “writen” all over her face. Why write such as scathing review… So people would read her mediocre writing of course. If she had written something nice no one would have read it, as I am sure has happened with most all of her other articles. But lets get to the real point. Lucia is no art snob for sure– she had absolutely no idea how the intricate yellow rose was made, instead calling a twisted mass. Hey Lucia, you might want to educate yourself half a fraction if you are going to posture on art. Bad art may be one thing, but an ignorant review– well, it just makes you look dumb.

    To the creators trying to inject some freshness into street, good for you! It is hard to feed caviar to monkeys!

    Sonia

  • The spell checked version– for the grammer hounds

    Awww poor Lucia is jealous she is not an artist. You can see it “written” all over her face. Why write such as scathing review… So people would read her mediocre writing of course. If she had written something nice no one would have read it, as I am sure has happened with most all of her other articles. But lets get to the real point. Lucia is no art snob for sure– she had absolutely no idea how the intricate yellow rose was made, instead calling a twisted mass. Hey Lucia, you might want to educate yourself half of a fraction if you are going to posture on art. Bad art may be one thing, but an ignorant review– well, it just makes you look dumb.

    To the creators trying to inject some freshness into street, good for you! It is hard to feed caviar to monkeys!

    Sonia

  • Has the reviewer in the above article ever seen art before. Seems very low on the art education pole…

  • just a ‘nother critic

    I take it that the folks following my comment have no interest of doing their best work and settling for mediocrity.

  • Oh — ha ha! I just read the little blurb about Lucia– she is an artist! Now I get it– the art is bad– unless its hers!

  • just a ‘nother critic

    that’s just sad and petty.

  • Really? And the review is not?

  • just a ‘nother critic

    certainly, the review doesn’t second guess the motivations (or in your example, the faults) of the artist, because, well, that would be petty.

    Look, I am sorry that you or your friends got a bad review. I am even more sorry that the artist that have been “hurt” by this review are, as represented in your reaction, so insecure as to not be able to take criticism.

    I challenge you this, do agree or disagree that the desire for art by this critic to be more than just street decoration is such a bad thing?

  • Hmm– maybe we didn’t read the same review– if you would call it that…

    I have no dog in this hunt. I find the article highly critical of a first time venture meant to bring about good. Mentioning that the works will get more exposure than being in a gallery tips me off to suspect motives for the critique. Further “I” do not represent any artists, I speak for myself.

    This also brings about the philosophical question of art in general. What is good… Who is to judge… The emotions felt by viewing artworks are a refection of the person not the art.

  • Remind me when and why public art is a bad thing.

    Considering the current state of art in Dallas, (Fort Worth seems to understand, not sure about Dallas) I believe we can not have too much art in public.

  • so you won’t take up my challenge.

    I know people on all ends of this whole thing; editorial staff at “D”, artists in the project and members of the jury, which is why I am a bit of an apologist on this review. The review I read dared to ask “is it good enough?” your desire to demonize Lucia does not change the validity of that question. Is it good enough?

    Your “philosophical” questions are more or less a bullshit response. Art will be judged. I know from personal experience that negative critiques are far more valuable than adulation. They can make an artist confront their work outside of a space where they have made them perhaps a little to snug, or they cause them to sharpen their resolve and continue on their path, critics be damned.

    In answering the question of could there be to much public art, of course my immediate answer would be “no.” However, if it is a question of mere decoration versus art that moves me, and really moves me, then I would much rather have a small bit of real caviar and not buckets cheese in a can.

  • I actually do not take anyone seriously that hides behind a veil of anonymity. As for demonizing- I would more likely call it a review of the article. 😉

  • Dallas. mega-skyline – land of the 30,0000 dollar millionares who think a 50 dollar bottle of wine, membership at the local fundamentalist house of worship, and a degree from SMU make them ‘uber-critics’. Did anyone even notice the elementary kids exhibit, or those kids from the local elementary school that benefited by participating, and exhibiting, at the events? Not to mention the abused animals that found homes…Say what you will, but artists are not just silk suited snobs, stiff academics and well-healed junkies with trained monkies throwing paint around and calling it a masterpiece. All you over-educated, pseudo liberal posers want it both ways; You want us to worship your high ‘vision’, but you think you’re too clever for the ‘masses’. If you want to kill hope, crush opportunity and pass judgement on the young, emerging artists of our city, then I say you Aesthetic Fascists Must Die. Your children belong in a bankrupt public school system eating whatever the gangs and under paid, under trained teachers feed them. The public and I will be waiting to see your glorious submissions in 2012.

  • You don’t have to agree with me, I really don’t care, but you haven’t really attempted to counter the question that I and Lucia posed. You have merely wailed and gnashed your teeth. Is it good enough, or more accurately, could it have been better?

    As far as my anonymity goes, as I stated I am in an awkward place that what I say here could cause some tension between some of the people I am in relationship with.

  • dirty freak artist

    I was refering to the D Magazine bottom feeders….I don’t know why I even care what D Magazine thinks…

    Good enough? for who? the princess of Monaco? Your response is just as vapid as your initial empty observations. Form or Function. Technocrats like you always get stuck on technical details without looking any further than their zipper for any purpose in life.

    first of all I don’t care if you’re hiding in the closet. Your Socratic method is dated and seems defensive and shrewd to the point of shrinking, and has little to do with the vapid conclusions you’re after, which, if I read your sardonicly somnabilistic feats of sribble correctly, you are an elitist, and your banter sadly diminishes the spirit of the project. You probably went to prep school and drink red bull and watched every episode of the forensic files. Ever been to Taos? They put trashy art right out on the street, and it looks great. Perhaps a little street art is what this corporate fascist town needs. Some of the pieces do look corporate, but so what? Go build a better public art project, cuz Henderson is obviously not ‘good enough’ for you.

  • Lucia-
    Thank you for using my name and art work in your article.That said-I feel your article is as skewed as the picture you use of my artwork- a sideways shot of my super flat sculpture-thanks. The point of this beginning project is to help promote local artists and art works in public space-for instance- on the name plate; it has my website and the website of Dahlia Woods Gallery who represents my work here in Dallas- http://www.chrislattanzio.com and http://www.dahliawoodsgallery.com- it would have been nice to see that credit given in your article.
    The Yellow Rose is not a piece of twisted yellow metal- it’s a laser carved plate of 3/8 inch steel, rolled through a dovi machine and powder coated yellow… on purpose I could have named it the rusted brown rose of texas but that just did not have the same zing for me
    Even a recovering prop designer should have taken the time to read the plate and mention the art work and the the sites-
    These art works are all choosen by a jury- I dont see any metion of names in your article-and I am not aware of who they are- would have been interesting to know where to lay the blame?
    As to the sites I do not know how those were choosen- but I must agree with you that the sites are not the best. In my work, the yellow rose- they only display half the work- it is missing its backdrop and lights- still the exposure for me has been terrific ( and the “big check for 2nd place in the people’s voting is quite nice too)
    My show is closing at Dahlia Woods this week (6-5) I would challenge you to come and see my work before you go throwing the term mediocre around.
    Here is a pretty well written article by June Mattingly that does critique justice:
    http://regularmain.com/2010/04/23/chris-lattanzio/
    We need more projects like this, and a heads on perspective to better judge the historical perspective of this wonderful public art project.

  • Manny Torpedo

    Hey Everybody…

    I think I discovered the problem. Looks like Joan Davidow was on the judging committee. PU!

  • Dirty freak artist

    I’ll add that I did not submit or compete in the project. I’m not a sculptor. I will also add that D Magazine has almost never written a positive thing about art in this city, and likely never will. You should move to Detroit or Denver. Being as objective as I can, I’ll do my hacienda/Tuscan darndest to be honest witch ya; Derivitive is what makes D Magazine a mediocre waste of pulp, with articles like ‘the 10 most beautiful women in Dallas’; Ha! Derivitive? A side by side comparison of THAT competition with the Henderson should make you blush. What will you guys think of next? Attacking homeless people for not dressing well?

    I think, Lucia, that, based on your review, and being as objective as I can be while cringing at your epicurean inclinations and MCM foppery, you and yours are more concerned with ugliness than you are with beauty.

  • While I believe in stating opinions and keeping conversations honest and fluid- especially in regards to art- I cannot help but think that the writer of this piece was looking for attention and a reaction. Unfortunately, she is using negativity.

    I have seen the installations along Henderson, and as much as We Are 1976 and Pearl Cup are welcome additions to the neighborhood, so is this art. No- I do not love each and every piece, but why should I? And why should you? Art is for statement and reaction, and most often to be enjoyed. Those street corners and parking lot medians would sit empty if it were not for the special efforts and hard work of the artists involved.

    I think any effort to get art out in public spaces is to be applauded and appreciated–especially in a time where art is scarce in school curriculum. The more accessible art is, the more inspiring it can be.

    Lucia Simek, would you rather all art be locked up in galleries and museums?

  • Just a comment about your statement, “the Henderson Art Project is a surrogate for real sophistication.”
    Please consider the personality of Henderson Avenue, not that of other locales where slick sophistication may be de rigueur.
    The spirit of Henderson Avenue is eclectic, genuine, lively, comfortable and as inviting as your neighbor’s Texas historic prairie home’s gracious front porch.
    Viewed in that context, are you still convinced that the art is inappropriate for the neighborhood?

  • Pot Calling the Kettle

    We are not competing in a juried show to be in the Nasher Sculpture Center.

    We are contributing to the creative spirit as a demonstration of what some people in Dallas are striving to make Dallas more of and that is a more interactive place for art, artists and the community.

    What exactly are you contributing by writing something like this review? There is crappy art in the top museums all over the world. That is not totally totally this was about. The art is good and remember if you had bothered to find this out or mention it, the artists donated it to be shown, hauled it up there themselves etc…this was at their expense.

    These were labors of community spirit, love and yes receiving some recognition in a city that has such a horrible sheep mentality that they need a magazine to tell them what the Top 10 are of anything!

    If it is a review is not positive and only negative as in this case not exactly accurate, slanderous, condescending in nature, not constructive then it serves no purpose but to be cruel, mean spirited, hateful and hurtful.

    My question for you is what is your ‘motive’ and what purpose does/has it served to attack people that have volunteered hours and hours on end to work on this project and you actually give no credit to anyone or anything?

    I feel that you personally and D magazine owe an apology and a rewrite of an article that is researched to Scott Trent, Andres Properties and the artists that you bashed about what actually went on to make this event happen. That would be effective and everyone could learn from that happening.

    But please let Willard Spiegelman write the article instead.

    A quote: If you are not part of a solution then you are part of the problem or you are too busy creating more of them!

  • I read this review when it was first posted and needed a few days to get my thoughts together as to how and why to respond. At first I was going to sin by omission and just let it go but I kept going back to it and now can’t just leave it be. So, first and foremost, let me say that The Henderson Art Project was a win-win initiative for everyone involved.

    Scott Trent walked the walk and is to be commended for pulling this enterprise off fairly and graciously. He secured funding, got a diverse group of emerging and established artists to participate, got the public involved through the website he designed, events he created and a fair judging process. He selected judges who crossed many disciplines from art to business to academia, the voting was transparent, top winners got prize money, a nice chunk of money was raised for an animal shelter in Richardson & for E.A.S.L. (the Emergency Artists Support League) at the after party with donations from almost 100 artists probono as well as for the space and food and wine from vendors, etc. His resourcefulness resulted in a successful competition and with art in public spaces for two years in a busy and diverse neighborhood.

    There will always be differences of opinions on art or any medium by the beholder and that is OK. We all have different tastes, opinions, likes, etc when it comes to just about everything and whether those opinions come from a purely visceral and emotional inner place or a studied, intellectual and critical perspective does not really matter. We like what we like. And in defense of the critic, it is their job to critique and give their opinion.

    But at a time when museums and galleries are closing in many cities and funding for public art projects and centers are being cut all around the country and in this city (just wait for the next round of budget cuts to hit the OCA), I think everyone involved with the Henderson Art Project did a remarkable job and are to be commended for their efforts and not shot by a mean spirited arrow and have their work deemed “mediocre” or inferring this project was done for commercial reasons.

    It’s a tough job being a critic and I respect that you must be honest and true in what you think and write and that you will sting those who are hit by the arrow as much as much as delight those who are caressed with a rose. And name calling by anyone is childish and petulant.

    But Lucia, I do believe your aim was off the mark in your “review” and that you focused too much on the “end” and pretty much eliminated all of the “means” and wrote this article from a vacuum and without enough background research to objectively critique this project and by not doing your due diligence fully did all those involved a great disservice.

    Just for the record, I was one of the judges. It was not easy judging this project. I thought it would be. I personally knew many of the artists who submitted work for this project and had to take my friend hat off and put my judge one on. I considered as best I could from jpegs of the pieces where the art was going (generally speaking), how and why a particular piece resonated to me, whether I felt it would be well received by the general public for two years and bring them joy and surprise walking down the street, what the artists statement was and ultimately had to select my choices to submit. I labored at making my selections. It was tough as there was a lot of great work. Some of my selections ended up being winners and some did not. But I was delighted for everyone who won and it was a democratic and fair judging process.

    Was this project perfect? Of course not. But this was a fantastic first ride out of the gate and you don’t see too many people doing something like this often enough. Scott and every artist who submitted an entry and those who won all deserve praise. They worked very hard at pulling this off.

    In the end, we – the public – are the beneficiaries of this Project for the next two years whether we like some, all or none of the art. This project represented more than just the art itself.

    For many, it may be the only art they see. They may like it, not like it, not get it, etc. And that, my friend, is a good thing.

  • This is a lively debate and I appreciate Lucia taking the time to post this blog….

    Art is in the eyes of the “beholder” and you are allowed your perspective…

    I was involved with the project and want to thank everyone that made this happen, lets move away
    from the negativity …

    Thanks for the additional exposure …. we certainly
    need to spread the word about our local artists!

    Maybe an article on the 3 winners would be next on the agenda.. Laura Abrams, Chris Lattanzio, Michelle O’Michael and since you liked George’s sculpture, add him into the blog as well..

  • As an artist and person who drives down Henderson Ave. almost daily, I am all for us creating a more aesthetically pleasing space through the installation of public sculpture. I feel the HAP was a wonderfully orchestrated, grass-roots step in that direction.

    What I feel Henderson Art Project did successfully is this:
    1.) helped increase an attitude of respect and credibility for the Dallas art scene
    and
    2.) elevated pride (or tolerance) in a local culture that sponsors artworks to be enjoyed by the public.

    I feel the author would have been wiser to focus her article on the positive aspects of this project instead of searching for negatives, although I do appreciate her taking time to write on the subject and bring it to the attention of a larger audience.

  • Douglas Martin

    Lucia, I’m so pissed off at the way you approached this subject that I’m not even going to waste any time Googling your credibility as the language and content of your review is purely vapid and unnecessarily hateful.

    It is obvious even before participants commented that you did no research or interviewed anyone involved, which in and of itself makes the article devoid of any journalism (what real journalist ever uses the word “apparently”?). Words such as “plopped” and “forcibly clonk down” are insulting both to the artist and to the project and the benefiting sites.

    Some of these artists sell individual pieces for more than your annual salary. For D Magazine to publish your “Mommmy Mommy, a pothole made me see something shiny and red so I’m going to write about it on Myspace”-style review is an even bigger disappointment. I learned nothing in your article other than the fact you believe experience and education do not make qualifications for expertise.

    Bravo to Scott Trent, the HAP, and all the participants and supporters for making this happen. I’d love to see this become an annual tradition.

  • NutPhd

    Wow it pays to not read this site for a while-what a bounty of humorous idiocy. For what it’s worth (and since this discussion is a relativistic stinkhole) I find the art on Henderson to be vapid and ugly, plain and simple. And given the vapidity and ugliness of its supporters I tend to think I’m right (even if the vast majority of you choose to live in an imaginary world that lacks qualitative distinction). You discredit yourselves let alone Dallas and its artists.

  • T Rex

    This would have never been an issue if Mr. Trent had simply done it “D Art Slam” style..just invite family members of D Mag staffers and call it “the best local art”..

  • Dirty Freak Artist

    to: NutPhd
    Once long ago, an educated person was expected to be at least cordial. I see nothing redeeming about these attacks, and I still feel like HAP is being oppressed by aesthetic fascists who just want to crush interest in this project because they weren’t aware of its exitence until ex post facto , ergo, not eligible for an award. That’s what you academics thrive upon, and lacking such, you stoop to attacking the weak. You are another of the fascists, an intellectual coward, and an enemy of liberty and charity. If there are any statues built in your honor, please tell me where thay are installed, so that I can spray paint ‘Varro’ all over it. Didn’t they teach you anything about temperence in graduate school? Or were you too busy reading ubermensch? I’m laughing at your advanced degree of qualitative thinking applied to a non-academic effort. You’re of course entitled to your opinion, but still you dare not comment on the purpose, or ‘function’, only the individual works, which, as is evident, is just a bunch of sniping of the most mean spirited kind. This is why I’m disgusted with academics in this country; you’re all in a little club together, circling the wagons. Go back to that stinkhole in your ivory tower and review your lessons in virtue.

    Frankly, I didn’t know they offered a Phd in ugliness?

  • Wow… D Magazine. Friends, don’t take too much of what D magazine reports on art… After all… they were responsible for the Dallas 9. HAHAHAHAHA! I did that cheesy show with D Mag and can’t even remember the name of the show. D mag, D bag… it’s all the same at the end of the day. I am glad I left the plastic baby L.A. city called Dallas. I miss my friends and the art scene there… but not the b.s. that comes with it… Dallas, you are cool, but not that cool. Don’t let some plastic 944 magazine wanna be periodical guide you through your life in Dallas. Find it for yourself. If not… your just like the rest of the country eating this lunch meat…

  • Amy Dobson

    Whether we like or don’t like the art or the article, I want to thank Henderson Art Project and Lucia Semek for getting people to talk and even rage about art. It’s fantastic to hear the conviction on both sides. For me, THIS is what art is all about.

  • Marty Ray

    Completely agree Amy! Art is on a lot of minds right now, and that is great.

    Everyone involved with the HAP project had positive and good motives….the highest aims. The D article questioned the motives of sponsors and business leaders who supported HAP with funds and a new idea…how sad.

    But one uninformed writer cannot take away the well deserved CONGRATULATIONS to all involved in HAP, including artists, judges, sponsors, volunteers and Scott for such leadership and hard work.

    Marla, your response is right on and very thouhtful. I too was among the first jury and thought it would be easy. However I had to review the images many times over to make my decisions. I tried carefully to imagine the works in place along a busy street with residential, business and empty lot environments. Once I submitted my decisions, I felt a sense of pride to have been a small part of this project and looked forward to seeing the final art selections installed.

    I am thrilled about every aspect of the HAP project. As an art educator and artist, I see only positive results. I am very proud to know and admire the artist who won lst place for her large white steel Magnolia, Laura Abrams. When I see this big sculptural flower on the corner near the New Flower Market, it makes me smile! The D article luckily will not impact the future continuing participation and success of this project which surely will continue and grow into something even better in coming years.

    Too bad the D writer did not interview anyone involved; it would’nt have been hard to do as it seems 100s of citizens were connected in some way to this Dallas public art project…..and that (related to Art and especially ART in Dallas) is a fabulous thing!

  • Jan Ayers

    I’m getting to this barbeque a little late, since I’ve been out of town, but I’d like to address a couple of things anyway.
    Scott Trent pulled off a marvelous and risky venture, with the result being positive. Rescued animals got donations, art got sold, art got publicly displayed, and we all had super catering.
    As another judge for the HAP project, I generally agree with Lucia. There was some exciting, inventive, cutting-edge art submitted to the contest that did not make it, and I believe it is to the loss of the community. Many pieces that did make it are exceptionally ho-hum.
    Many of the HAP judges in this first year were not arts people, with the result that the selections were a bit homogenized and mundane. That being said- there will be a next year, and years after that, and as we all learn, grow and improve, so to shall the impact of the public art.

  • T Rex

    Maybe next year the HAP can get sponsored by all the face lift and boob docs in D Mag. That way everyone will be assured a sparkling review.

  • A call to media:
    Please take a look at the swell of comments around the D Magazine article. (currently 52 comments)
    My concern is D Magazine is going to misinterpret the responses. I believe they will read the comments as a passion for public art. Matter a fact, I believe there is the chance that they will start a series around that specific topic, completely missing the message that is contained in these posts.
    I would argue that the strong responses are coming from the area art community who are stakeholders in the Henderson Art Project, which happens to be focused on public art, but I sense a hunger for more opportunities to connect and collaborate. The comments reflect a wide group of individuals who are opinionated and passionate about art in the metroplex. There are many, many areas of exploration in regards to Dallas art. I hope D Magazine and other media outlets will tap into this meme and give the movement a voice. Give Dallas art a voice! This would start by talking to individuals within this community and don’t stop at the top. Talk to the artists, the promoters, the gallery owners and the organizations supporting these endeavors. Somewhere within that group are valuable insights and the answer how we can continue to support and improve art in the metroplex.

  • I appreciate this discussion.
    Let’s look at the original intent of this event.

    From the Fact sheet of the HAP site (http://hendersonartproject.com/Details.html), “This event is a unique collaboration between the business community and artists where all the stake-holders prosper. H.A.P. is an experiment to democratize art; it is a creative collision between social media and classic art. The Henderson Art Project endeavors to engage the public by giving a face to the artists and participating in the process of rewarding those creative people who are enhancing the public spaces. The underwriters and sponsors of this event are true visionaries that recognize the value of supporting the artists. This level of participation in creative expression, and public artistic dialogue, builds strong vibrant communities. Henderson Avenue, the city of Dallas, and the art community all benefit from this project: When the artists thrive, the community benefits.”

    Artists conceptualized and submitted their ideas. Their names, faces and websites were posted upon the artist’s page giving them exposure. The juried finalists installed their work, were voted upon by the public. The involvement of artists with the public has given a face to each and showcased the value of creativity and art for art’s sake in everyday life. Art is not just a commodity, it is also a vocation that is life enhancing for all. It raises and reflects life. Artists, regardless of discipline, are the creative thinkers and problem solvers of our culture. They see possibilities beyond habit and existing structures. That “muscle” is well developed within them. This is why Art is essential in school and in community. Art inspires, sparks thought, invokes emotion, invites reflection, acknowledges and illuminates aspects of this amazing life that we share. HAP intended to bring forth the awareness of talented artists within the community of Dallas. It is my opinion that this initial venture was a success.

  • Katherine Wagner

    If we were to start from the position that no art could be placed unless it was museum-quality and had perfect siting, there would be no Henderson Art Project to discuss.

    This was an ambitious grass-roots project and it exceeded its goals. Scott Trent, with support from Andres Properties (a family-owned business) galvanized many, many others who have supported H.A.P. in their own ways.

    Among other positive outcomes, it is a meaningful example of the business and arts sectors working together to create community.

  • dee

    as an artist who had no involvement with this project, i just feel burned for those artists who do have pieces on display. i don’t care if i necessarily like the way a piece of art looks or if it resonates with me at all, but i do feel that the artist is always to be respected. the investment of time, vision and heart that went into these pieces deserves respect. working with metal and sculpture isn’t just an afternoon project. there is so much more invested that the viewer never sees. bravo to those artists that are trying and made an effort to put their pieces out there to be criticized. thanks for supporting and encouraging the artists HAP! it is needed. you make me happy.

  • Marcus Arthur Denizen

    Thank you Lucia for your insightful article. I drove down Henderson Avenue today and I see what you mean. I don’t know you, but I know and love many of your D Magazine critic peers. I think it is fabulous that your article has generated this many comments. wow! Your peers’ articles haven’t generated this many responses. Are you right or wrong? I just love that you gave some honest ‘critical’ review from your point of view, and perhaps the point of view of the 30 mph public like me who drove done the ave this hot June day. Of course, I agree with Marty and Katherine, too, and I know and love them both. The fact that there is a critical review of this public art show and a ton of comments highlights the need for both public sculpture and critical review of all art media and venues in Dallas. I hope that the Henderson Art Project returns for its second exhibition having grown from this experience. Viva to all involved…including you dear Lucia. Thank you

  • The biggest problem with art in Dallas is that the lack of critical response in this city has made ANY critical response unwelcome.

    This feeling that “any art is better than no art at all” is a very dangerous mentality, and doing things this way in dallas has resulted in the lukewarm art scene we currently have where everyone is scared of hurting anyone else’s feelings or having any particularly strong opinions at all.

    This was, albeit poorly publicized, an amazing opportunity for local artists. But it being an amazing opportunity doesn’t make the work better- and furthermore- being critical of the quality of the final work isn’t criticizing the intent.

    Stop being so damn sensitive people. It was a good idea that produced mediocre work. Period.

  • T Rex

    After the “Dallas 9”, I’m not sure D Mag has much credibility when it comes to art..

  • Arual

    Lucia is an artist and a wondrous one at that- her opinion is that- an opinion and from what I know of her, her eye for worthy art is excellent. That is the difference most you who reacted angrily to Lucia fail to see & and probably cannot see because you are not at the same level. The age old question of what is art and who is the best judge of art will never end, but one thing is for sure, she judges based on what art was supposed to be- because she didn’t focus on the meaning behind it and all the charities it helped is besides the point, it isn’t her job to give a pleasing depiction of the story behind it- she takes the idea of public art and challenges it. Instead of crying about it because your art is not thought provoking or amazing, you should take it upon yourself to make better art. She has an eye most people just don’t have- it’s not mediocre or poor or uneducated- it’s extraordinary. If you think picking ugly art and putting it around the city will make it better then you are surely wrong. If you 8 year old had problems reading and all he wanted or could read was porn, would you say, well at least he’s reading. I don’t think so, I think you would take that extra step to help your son read but read better books. Don’t ya think. Lucia, keep critiquing, people cry – art is meant to be judged and praise Lucia for being honest and challenging.

  • if someone could show me art that isn’t derivative, it would be a welcome respite from reality. It doesn’t seem to exist, but there is still hope.