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Index of The History of D-Art
stories on DallasArtsRevue

Through most of these stories, D-ART, D'Art, D-Art, The Dallas Visual Art Center (DVAC), Dallas Center for Contemporary Art, "D-Museum," "The Contemporary," The Contemp, Contempt, or whatever it's been renamed lately, is referred to as D-Art, the generic term for the organization that has, so far, officially changed its name six times, and counting.

Index of D-Art History on DallasArtsRevue:

new in 2010 - ACT to D-ART, a Timesline of the Herstory of D-ART, D'Art, DVAC (Dallas Visual Art Center) and The Contemp (Dallas Center for Contemporary Art), a painstakingly document-based history showing who did what and when.

new in 2010 - The Squeaky Wheel: Making A Noise that Won't Go Away about you know who saying you know what.

The Contep's Next Home announced in July 2007 but in the works since 2006.

J R's Interview with Joan Davidow in January 2005

An Experiment — story by actual D-Art Founder Mary Ward, describing her vision for an Art Center for Dallas artists reprinted from Texas Arts Revue (DARts Whole Number #7, Autumn 1981).

My Historic Involvement with both D-Art and The MAC serves as a brief tour through the parallel histories of both institutions. It also shows why I care so much.

Revisionist History That Just Won't Go Away with extensive quotes from a former ACT (Artists Coalition of Texas) board member.

ACT published Dallas Arts Revue (which it called "Darts") in 1981. Later, ACT changed its name to D-ART. This story begins to expose D-Art's revisionist history, which removed its founder Mary Ward from its official history.

As DVAC's official Archivist I was asked to find out what was important to save and what needed trashing. My payoff for doing it was access to information for An Archivist's History of D-Art, a detective story of notes that changed with each new discovery.

Joan Davidow and the D-Art board has completely ignored my findings. Facing such inforced ignorance, I quit as archivist.

Supporting D-Art Documentation — including the letter, dated June 1, 1980, from D-ART founder Mary Ward after she presented her concept for a new art center for Dallas artists at a meeting with ACT on May 12, 1980.

Of Numbers & Budgets — a table of important statistics in the history of D-Art.

Letter(s) of Recommendation from Curtis W. Meadows, Jr. to two officials of D-Art, 79 days apart. Tempest in a teapot or proof of a conspiracy to delete the true founder from the institution's official history?

D-Art vs. The Bath House Cultural Center, by JR Compton — including an interview with D-ART Founder Mary Ward just after her ouster, reprinted from Dallas Arts Revue on paper, Summer / Fall, 1982

And, of course, there's the History of DARE & The MAC, which, like the official history of D-Art, never once mentions Mary Wachowiak-Ward.

Which Contemporary? A short history of the use of that word in Dallas art history.

Lousy Job A story about a letter from DCCA talking about the lousy job it's done of explaining its changes.

See also my defense of Patricia Meadows and Joan Davidow stuck in the big middle of our story about the DCCD's first big show, Texas Mud.


Other DARts
D-Arts Links

Wish 2002, Last Chance, Wall Power

The First Arlington Museum of Art show after Davidow left.

Art History in the Making — Joan Davidow, D-Art, DVAC, The MAC and Beyond

Founding Directors

2003 Member Show

True Feelings February 2002

Mixed comments about Joan at Texas Mud.

The 2004 Member Show, in which the editor says nice things about Joan

Small confusion.

Joan and DARE.

originally written in 2001 and sporadically rewritten and added to since

The Contemp
or The Contempt?

Since Joan Davidow has been the director, D-Art has turned from a friendly, community-serving, alternative art space into a much-discussed, generally un-understood, and unusually incommunicative contemporary art museum.

It has publicly declared two people who were not, as The Founder, then celebrated its "20th Anniversary" on the eve of its 21st year — neatly sidestepping the year its actual founder ran the place.

Now, after sending out baffling invitations to its new show under its new name without bothering to notify its membership, the organization has finally begun to inform its membership and publicize the changes.

the current building in the shadow of downtown Dallas

In a letter cosigned by the junior league board's new president in spring of 2001, a former ad person experienced with putting a spin on "facts," the director assures DVAC members that "Our mission to encourage and promote the art and artists of Texas remains the same."

A giant change in direction is that the exhibition focus is now on Texas, not Dallas artists. I and other Dallas artists who joined DVAC because it was the last best place where we had more than one chance every year to show our art, now feel abandoned.

"Many of the important programs that have been vital to our efforts will continue," says the letter — "such as Mosaics, Business of Art Seminars, Art Resource Room, Opportunity Wall, studio art classes, Art Movie Night, affinity groups and the annual membership exhibition."

Never mind that Mosaics had become a racist joke and is now called Mix. That in her short tenure, Davidow turned the existing Art Resource Room into an ill-lighted magnetic bulletin board hung in a back hallway, repainted the walls all white and ripped up a colorful tape mosaic floor piece by a popular Dallas artist — just to appeal to collectors — the hell with artists.

Art Movie Night didn't meet for two months, and its founding director quit, and DCCA now charges participants for Affinity Group meetings that aren't even held in the leased Meadows Foundation Building.

Gone without notice are the popular Critic's Choice show and well-liked artist ombudswoman and official Volunteer Coordinator, Barbara West.

The letter to DVAC members continues, promising "new directions as well, such as the semi-annual Articles newsletter," which is so incredibly inept — though well designed, for a change — that it reported events that never happened and claimed DVAC was founded by... Well, you get the idea. The letter was just public-relations-happy rabbit pellets.

In the accompanying press release, they say the center "began 20 (sic) years ago as D'Art (sic) in a Swiss Avenue warehouse (sic) under the leadership of Patricia Meadows (an oft-repeated lie, which Mrs Meadows has acknowledged in public — but not in her publicity).

D-ART actually began 21 years ago (in 1980) in a room at 4122 Hall Street, and the concept was originated and the group founded by Mary Washowiak Ward, who was D-ART's first director (not D'Art — that came later, under the actual leadership of Ms Meadows.) Patricia. Meadows was D-Art's second director, and the one who made it popular.

Ms. Ward was shoved out of the group's history — and many official documents — before D–ART even made its first name change.

The letter continues its "new directions," including an outdoor sculpture program that has yet to materialize. The new director and new board president may not know it, but the once-rich, outdoor sculpture garden has had, at most, one artist represented since the new director took over.


The official press release announcing the new name, says "the group recently moved into the city's premier art space on Swiss Avenue in the Wilson Historic District..." I guess when you can fudge 21 years history into 20, two years is "still recent."

"There is a fresh approach to installations, including the Linda Ridgway: White Flowers exhibition." It was a lovely, spare show, but it continued a long tradition of annual Legends Award solo shows. It was not a new direction.

Never mind that the Wilson Historic District is pseudo-history, recreated by the real estate developing Meadows Foundation to enhance property values. Meadows owns the land all around, and the building D-Art is leasing for eight more years, before it has to raise megabucks for, build and then move to its own digs. Or that Doc Wilson never lived in the neighborhood, supposedly named after him.

The letter describes the Post-Modernist Swiss Avenue castle as a  hip place in the heart of the urban loft scene north of Deep Ellum."

Sure enough, it actually is north of Deep Elm. But there are no urban lofts in the vicinity, only remanufactured "historic," gingerbread gothic houses and nonprofit office buildings.

In a fit of me-too bravado disguised as innovation, the letter assures us that — too much like its primary competition for the last dozen years — DARE's McKinney Avenue Contemporary across town, "Dallas Center for Contemporary Art will also be known as The Contemporary."

Gosh, how original.

What it has actually become known as, is 'The Contempt.' And no, I did not originate that name. It's just easier to say than DCCA or the whole mouthful.


When former director Katherine Wagner retired from DVAC, it had an extensive Art Resource Room with many resources and tables and chairs, so artists could use them. One of new director Joan Davidow's first changes was to change the room into a bulletin board and move that into a back hallway.

It is now well organized and easy to use, but the resources developed over the years — grant information and books, for example — are gone.

As always, DARts welcomes your feedback - positive, negative, angry, disgusted, whatever. E-mail feedback, and let me know whether it's okay for DARts to "print" your words. If you like, you can use a pen name.

Many of the facts above were gleaned from my stint as D-Art's official Archivist.


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