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Parallel History:
The Editor's Historic Involvement
in Both D-Art and The MAC

version 1.4

© 2001 by JR Compton

D-Art History Subindex
The Illustrated History of The MAC

I am fascinated with the parallel histories of DVAC and The MAC. Like any good dichotomy, the two are remarkably alike yet so very different. The MAC has buried its history; DVAC keeps rewriting theirs. Both are in deep denial of their origins.

The story of one is nothing without the story of the other, and I wouldn't be surprised if the two eventually merged. Although they now enjoy free rent, both groups are financial disasters with essentially similar issues, audiences and potential funding sources. Both claim not to be in competition with the other.

This story is from the unique viewpoint of someone who shares important bits of history with both institutions. In it, DVAC will be called D-Art, because it sounds so much less like a MASH unit bugging out. And that's what most of us call it most of the time, anyway.

I was friends with ACT (The Artists Coalition of Texas) and got involved with them during this magazine's early history. ACT published Dallas Arts Revue briefly, beginning in spring 1980. Only they insisted on calling it Texas Arts Revue, because they thought they were a statewide organization. Before that change, ACT-ers called this magazine "DARts" around their donated Turtle Creek high rise offices.

The contract that bound us assured they would not interfere in editorial policies. When they did, we split, and I changed the name back to Dallas Arts Revue, which it's been ever since.

WHEN Mary Wachowiak-Ward presented her visions of an Art Center for Dallas to ACT in mid-1980, we were entranced with her bright new ideas. ACT had begun in 1978 but had accomplished nowhere near what it had hoped. So it was no great surprise when ACT voted a name change and became D'ART, under Ward's direction. Somehow, that name seemed familiar...

Ward moved the offices to a space at 500 Exposition, already Dallas' best known alternative space, and began to attract workers and board members.

Petty politics and administrative ineptitude got Ward booted from D-Art early in the game. But she'd already established her vision. The plan was in motion, although even she knew she wasn't an administrator. The direction she set continued without its founder, and she was quickly written out of their history.

Patricia Meadows recognized a great plan, and she had money connections and a gregarious manner that drew many artists in. It is no coincidence that her name coincides with the Meadows Foundation that owns The Meadows Building, in which D-Art now resides (although she no longer serves on that board). She was not the visionary leader, but she attracted the finances and volunteers needed to implement Ward's visions.

If, however, D-Art had done its job and fulfilled its destiny by the late 80s, Dare would never have been born. It would not have been needed.


logo design by JR Compton

WHEN Greg Metz and Tracy Hicks gathered an expanding coterie of interested artists to their studios for marathon, What Dallas Artists Need discussions in the late 80s, I was invited, probably because I was publishing this rag. Until Hicks hit upon the more prosaic DARE (Dallas Artists Research & Exhibition) name, we called ourselves YUNAG (Yet Another Unnamed Art Group). From the beginning, we dreamed of an alternate art space for Dallas artists.

D-Art began as D'ART, then softened to D'Art, changed it to D-Art when DARts editorialized about that frufru term, and finally (?) settled on DVAC, which is close to Mary Ward's concept for a "Visual Arts Center for Dallas." DARE kept its name until the 501(c)(3) IRS tax-exempt status was handed over to The MAC (McKinney Avenue Contemporary), whose building is owned by businessman Claude Albritton.

D-Art had become mired in PC (Political Correctness). The everything- to- everyone D-Art was clearly not serving the under-exhibited, serious and experimental artists of Dallas.

More mature artists were avoiding the disintegrating warehouse on Swiss Avenue, and Meadows passed the directorship to Black artist and organizer Vicki Meek. Two years later, D-Art went into hibernation.

I helped organize DARE, became its founding board secretary, the first PR guy, logo and publications designer, and I often led board meetings, because president Greg Metz — like so many art visionaries — was neither organized nor administrative.

Ours was a workocracy, not a money board, although many there thought that's what we needed more than anything. Fellow board-member Joan Davidow discovered DARE's first building on the edge of Deep Elm, and we moved in..

The old Westinghouse warehouse was a huge structure with immense possibilities and even more expansive utility bills. The struggling artist group couldn't handle it, and we had to give up that space, which is now an empty lot where the neighboring row of condos along South Good Latimer will probably extend.

November 1993 at the DMA
Design by JR Compton


During its brief stint upon the stage, DARE was remarkably successful at creating intelligent events — including an amazing lecture series — for Dallas artists. But for an organization whose last name was Exhibitions, we only ever had two. One, at least, was spectacular.

For a detailed journey down the financial and organizational rabbit hole of disintegration, read The Short, Sad History of DARE.

DARE's last public membership meeting was held in The MAC early in that aging warehouse's transformation ( March 1994 ). We had long planned an intelligent art book shop, coffee bar, accessible computers, gallery and theatric spaces, and those dreams attained reality in the big blue building on McKinney Avenue. We'd also dreamed of bleeding-edge exhibitions for the serious and experimental — but largely underexhibited — artists of Dallas, and we dreaded the BTAGfooT (Big Time Art Guy from Out of Town) Syndrome, which engulfed the organization formerly known as DARE.

Reversed image of The MAC's front door —
the last vestige of the DARE name.
Photo © 2001 JR Compton


Meanwhile, on the far side of downtown, D-Art — now under the directorship of young businesswoman Katherine Wagner, was back in business, cleaving a sharper line toward its original goals. Serious Dallas artists were drawn back to the refurbished space's more tasteful presentations.

Ironically, D-Art eventually out-dared DARE, and it regularly exhibits struggling as well as mature Dallas artists. The MAC has eschewed Dallas artists to show a long series of famous former Dallas artists, national, and regional traveling exhibitions, all mixed with its often taste- less membership shows. At The MAC the name DARE was all but dropped, for corporate clarity. It's on the front door, but it rarely shows anywhere else.

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