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Arts & Entertainment

Catching A Glimpse Of Art In Dallas, Circa 2018

Leaders, waymakers, and artists share their visions for next year, and now.
By Lyndsay Knecht |
image courtesy Peter Blum Gallery, New York
Here at the cliff of 2017, there’s too much in the vistas ahead to turn back on cause of retrospect.

I reached out to some of North Texas’ key artists and organizers who’ve lent inspiration, recommendations, guidance and tips that continue to shape our coverage — whether or not they’ve known it — to find out what they’re working on now, where they hope those efforts will lead, and/or what they’re looking forward to most in general as the calendar comes down. What they’re up to, even tonight, tells the truest story of where we’re headed.

Giovanni Valderas knows a lot about the city’s arts infrastructure, and his use of art to voice human rights concerns is becoming more and more known. The artist was recently reappointed to the city’s Cultural Affairs Commission by Omar Narvaez. He’s the councilmember elected in District 6 over incumbent Monica Alonzo in a runoff this year amid the West Dallas eviction crisis. As the assistant gallery director at Kirk Hopper Fine Art, Valderas champions talent grown in Dallas and Texas.

It was a year of growth for Valderas’ own practice, too. The Nasher awarded him a microgrant in May, and Tradecraft, his sculptural collage work exploring idioms of the Spanish language and gentrification’s fraying of things treasured, was shown in conjunction with the Texas Biennial.

Over the holidays he’s been setting papier mâché houses with perplexed cartoon eyes and downturned mouths out on curbs in neighborhoods where single family homes were cleared for new development, mostly near the Bishop Arts district, as part of his ongoing Casitas Tristes project. The houses’ overdrawn expressions communicate a side-eye-emoji’d exhaustion. Playing vulnerable public service announcers of housing inequality, the glaringly obvious yet actionably overlooked source of systemic poverty in Dallas, would be the culprit. Valderas dropped off some piñatas just yesterday, he says. They usually disappear after a few days.

In 2018, I’m looking forward to seeing more people in our communities being engaged by our local artists and collectives. We have a big year ahead of us in regard to local issues that people will have to decide on and artists can be the conduit toward positive change. Real affordable housing and voting for candidates reflective of the people who live in our communities are just some examples. Personally, I’m looking forward to highlighting more local artists through exhibits, because as we all know, Dallas’ institutions are more concerned with importing culture rather than cultivating the city’s own. – G.V.

Trang Nguyen is half of the DJ duo Who Cares with Nikki Stephens, and works by day and night as the marketing manager for The Bomb Factory. She’s been a tastemaker, though, since her days as station manager at UTD Radio which itself continues to be a force. Who Cares posts up at the rare spot where plastic nostalgia meets music fandom as a timeless way of life, a celebratory document of various late-90s and early-aughts and sometimes just-flashy-pop black holes. The project’s tagline — IDC (I LUV IT) — encompasses the way rapturous youth preserves itself. A tossed-off SMS abbreviation spells the dichotomy of presenting as carefree yet staging with care the environment in which one can then banish all cares, the whole of it a call to Icona Pop’s so-titled 2012 song.

Lest analysis obscure the party, tonight offers a great example with the third installment of 100% Pure Love, a dance-floor summons at the Nines named for Crystal Waters’ 1994 hit single. Its allure is best captured in this simulated conversation on AOL Instant Messenger created by Nguyen.

Since Who Cares started popping up in various incarnations at Off The Record a couple years ago more women who DJ with talent and style have either returned to or taken their place behind the tables, most recently via the Female Treble series at Shoals Sound & Service. Regular vinyl and playlisted gatherings in Dallas, a kind of public art, are gradually becoming more representative of music lovers in the city — so, then, higher quality, and more fun. What A Girl Wants, etc.

In 2018, I look forward to seeing more events that combine art and music together to benefit Dallas’ marginalized communities. During these turbulent times, our goal as members of this community should be to start dialogues and amplify marginalized voices. – T.N.

Michael Briggs has often been the first to hear new music made by local artists, for more than a decade, as the engineer recording it in his house via Civil Audio. The last release of 2017 to bear his credit is Asukubus‘ Painful Is Silence, which layers some of the most committed experimental artists of the area in a dirge to the patriarchy. (The collective’s leader Wyatt Rosser just moved to New Orleans, but a tour is promised this spring.) Besides Lorelei K‘s debut Be The Doll as chronicled here, he worked on at least 46 recordings that came out this year, including standouts like Two KnightsEffing, Felt and Fur‘s Aftertouch, and the Elk River Sessions supergroup project.

Last week Briggs showed me the reopened basement at J&Js Pizza. In a surprise victory for DIY in North Texas, that all-ages venue is again hosting shows. With wide eyes Briggs noted the changes: a brand new air conditioning unit; the absence of tables, at least for now.

When news came that the basement would close last summer, he was already downstairs playing pool with other local musicians when I arrived to interview Eric Michener (Fishboy) in the space for this story about the basement’s significance. Briggs is never first to arrive — or to know — as a gesture of ownership or any kind of ego-quest. He lives in the music being made by his neighbors, he’s in the front row at most of their shows, and it doesn’t matter who notices.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the DIY community in North Texas comes up with in 2018. The last couple of years have been rough with venue losses but I’m thankful for places like Midway Craft House, Killers Tacos and J&J’s for supporting local music and offering bands places to play. I hope that more house/DIY/safe space venues pop up in Denton, Dallas and elsewhere in the coming year and I look forward to the return of 1919 Hemphill. – M.B.

Vicki Meek‘s decades-long presence in the Dallas theater and visual arts worlds is materializing into a new shape, even at the time of this writing. Meek just learned that Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs awarded her a grant; she has a number of items on her to-do-list for 2018, founding a Black women’s creative collective as one.

Liberated from city administration after retiring from her directorship at South Dallas Cultural Center last year, she’s traveled around the country and the world sharing ideas on how to train arts communities in cultural equity and nourishing young artist leaders. She taught her first online class this year for the University of Massachusetts: “Arts Extension on Cultural Equity in the Arts,” making formal her relentless use of the internet to conversationally educate and engage others. (She is one of the most essential Facebook follows in this city; her regular column for TheaterJones often steers other journalists, including myself, to stories of import.)

Meek’s work as an artist and writer is about to amp up again with an investigation of gentrification and displacement as they relate to the arts on a national level, through a large-scale, site-specific Dallas project. Here, she introduces it.


Last year, (writer/performer) Edyka Chilomé and I were commissioned by Atlanta based arts service organization Alternate Roots to write articles on the latest hot topic in the arts, Creative Placemaking. These were for a series of online publications AR plans to launch in 2018. I chose to explore how this latest initiative might be called Creative Placetaking since in many cases the introduction of arts projects into low-income communities has signaled the first step towards gentrification and displacement.

On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, Edyka and I will host Disrupting Displacement: Art vs Gentrification, a conversation geared towards creatives interested in understanding how to play a productive rather than disruptive role in this housing dilemma and the community that is most negatively affected by it. The location hasn’t been confirmed yet but I’m hoping to secure a site run by one of the organizations in the forefront of the initiative to secure affordable housing for low and moderate income families. A special presentation will be given by artist/activist Betty Yu, co-founder of the Chinatown Art Brigade in New York City. Check out the work she and her cohorts have been doing in Manhattan to save Chinatown from total annihilation. We are also inviting Sandy Rollins, Executive Director of Texas Tenants Association, to help us strategize on how we can be of assistance to those who’ve been in this battle for decades. – V.M.
Chris “Guch” Sakaguchi is Wartime Consigliere (or Marketing Sorcerer/Booking Squire, among other multipurpose titles) at Margin Walker Presents, a live music booking and promotion force whose Dallas chapter just lived its first full year to better organize the live music scene and, sometimes, push the limits of its venues. Margin Walker entered some high stakes this year with festivals like Sound on Sound which lost financial backing only five weeks prior to showtime in Austin. Still the company kept a near-monopoly on the more interesting pop shows in Dallas this year, bringing acts like Yelle from France through the city on their trail to or from other festivals MW touched.

Sakaguchi’s logistical day-to-day has built on a quietly vast knowledge of, and connections to, resources for mid-plus career artists; his ear toward local up-and-comers could turn Margin Walker’s manic hustle into deepening influence as a pipeline between Dallas talent and the rest of the country this year. As a case in point, here’s what Sakaguchi’s looking forward to most in 2018:

Whatever Jon Bap and (Dallas-based) Dolfin Records put out/put on.
Seeing Max Cronen and (Dallas-based) Biker Gang Booking continue to grow.
Darryl Ratcliff applied his penchant for the new-Fitzgeraldean soiree to Fort Worth this year, hosting a cultural equity speed dating session to begin a relationship between Creating Our Future and the city. Part of his art practice is collecting people, and matching them as collaborators with a careful alchemy to encourage health.

As the area’s theater community relived years’ worth of broken trust when Lee Trull’s ongoing sexual abuse at and around Dallas Theater Center was told via most important story written in DFW media this year, courtesy TheaterJones, the kind of work Ratcliff does — knowing people, listening to them, holding them accountable — takes on a new significance in the eyes of those looking around for preventive medicine. His first challenge for 2018, though, comes in a court case versus the city Jan. 3 as he contests a $700 fine against Ash Studios. The citation was given on account of the venue not having a certificate of occupancy, which Ash’s organizers say would limit its programming and undermine its purpose as a “social sculpture.” It’s the first known use of that term to defend a DIY venue.

 Here Ratcliff, both a vigilant watcher of and a contributor to this publication, shares who he’s paying attention to as the year turns over.

In 2017 the rest of the country started to realize something that has long been true – black women lead. As black women continue to break barriers across the country, I am looking forward to seeing black female artists play an even larger role in shaping the dialogue around visual art in Dallas, TX. Whether it comes from seasoned artists like Vicki Meek, Annette Lawrence, Leticia Huckaby, Lauren Cross, and lauren woods; artists ready for their break-through shows like Chesley Williams, Montoya Williams, Jessica L Bell, Morgana Wilburn, Fatima Hirsi, or newcomers like Kendriana Washington – these are the women we should all be listening to as we look to push our cultural scene forward. – D.R.

  • Denton-based art and poetry collective Spiderweb Salon is coming back, with programming encouraged by its new funding system care of Patreon. Since it’s a membership-based model, founder and poet Courtney Marie says, there’s an extra impetus to make offerings consistent. For $10 a month members will have access to all showcases, publications, and contest entries. Besides the events for which Spiderweb is known,  CM also hopes to sustain production of The Literary Podcast and regular writing workshops. (Another group that’s using Patreon is Sunset Art Studios, whose founders hope to create an artist residency in Oak Cliff.)


  • The first museum exhibition of note in Dallas for 2018 is not constrained to a museum. Enoc Perez’s Liberty and Restrainta city-wide exhibition put on by the Dallas Contemporary, will explore eight buildings and features designed by the late architect Philip Johnson in Dallas and Fort Worth. The work is created about and for these sites, which include the chapel at Thanks-Giving Square and the Comerica building. It opens January 14 along with two other anticipated shows that center on architectural thinking and design as public art: New York artist Valerie Keane’s first ever museum exhibition and a ten-year span of work by London fashion maestra Mary Katrantzou. Read about these three.


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