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The Short, Sad History of How DARE Became The MAC and Abdicated Its Mandate to Support and Exhibit Lesser Known Dallas Artists

Photographs + Story by JR Compton

NOTE: This is Part One. The story & photographs continue in Part Two.
As always, DARts welcomes your feedback.


Photos of The MAC + Story © 2000 by J R Compton - All Rights Reserved.

Part One

DON'T GET ME WRONG. The MAC is a cool place with fine, art exhibitions, talk series, literary events, a great little book store, a solid history of outstanding performance — and intriguing architectural details.

But The McKinney Avenue Contemporary owes its success and survival to the nonprofit legal status it bought out from DARE Dallas Artists Research & Exhibitions ), which was founded "to support and exhibit innovative Dallas visual artists not already served by the gallery and museum system."

Unfortunately, the exhibitions in the dark blue building on McKinney Avenue have little to do with the real needs of those Dallas visual artists. Despite the popularity of its excellent exhibitions by big-time art guys from out of town, local boys made good and membership shows, The MAC is not the alternative space DARE dreamed and The MAC initially promised.

To understand how the disparate pieces of this intricate historic puzzle fit together to produce this surprising result, let's look into the sad, short history of DARE and how it transmogrified into The MAC.

Much of this story was gathered from minutes of meetings and other official publications along the way. I was on DARE's original Steering Committee, which became the founding board, of which I was secretary and served as PR guy, logo designer, photo documenter, sometimes meeting leader and newsletter designer. Luckily, I never throw anything away.

Read how The MAC tried to drop all vestiges of its former DARE name.

DALLAS ARTISTS RESEARCH & EXHIBITION (DARE) began as an idea in the collective consciousness of two Dallas artist who were friends —Greg Metz and Tracy Hicks. In the late spring of 1989 the two began to promulgate a new idea for an organization, which spread like wildfire among the Dallas art community.

The concept of a serious Dallas visual arts organization which would promote and exhibit Dallas visual artists continued in an extended series of long, often daily conversations, which progressed as very informal, free-for-all meetings in studios and homes around Dallas over the long, hot summer of 1989. As more artists, organizers and other interested people with vision became involved, more formalized meetings with some semblance of order took over..

See A Short History of DARE for more, early hisoric perspective.

After a couple months, we started calling ourselves YUNAG — Yet Unamed Art Group. We knew we could find a better name, but it was a struggle.

Eventually, co-founder Tracy Hicks came up with Dallas Artists Research & Exhibitioon, which was, from the very beginning, confused with the national anti-drug group of the same name. But it felt right, had an air of the bleeding edge, and we hung onto it.

As DARE's energy and ideas spread out into the Dallas arts community, we struggled towards becoming a legitimate nonprofit organization. And, although we still resisted the idea of acquiring a space of our own, we began organizing a debut event that would crystalize DARE's purpose and plans.

Our formallized intent was simple and direct, "To nurture, support, and attract a community of mature and emerging visual and interdisciplinary artists who create innovative, contemporary works in the Dallas area." But we wanted and needed the input of Dallas visual artists.

Does the existing Dallas art structure meet your needs?

We spread the word by asking a series of leading questions, which we would address at an organizational workshop November 4, 1989 at the Dallas Museum of Art. Cosponsored by the DMA with the generous help from then director Richard Brettel, the event was titled The Dilemma of Art in the 90s. All the local papers ran stories, and several columnists helped spread the word.

More than four hundred artists attended and actively and vocally participated. It was a heady, high-energy event, full of promise and hope for the community.

Banding together for art's sake

Quoting from Staff Writer Melissa Morrison's story bannering The Arts section of the November 7, 1989 edition of The Dallas Morning News, "The only thing Dallas artists are starving for is support."

"During seven hours of large- and small-group meetings, the local artists said they would like to develop:

unsigned cartoon from back then
perhaps by board member Tom Moody

DARE distributed a questionnaire at the DMA event, and the surveyed responses were reported to the board. DARE's popular mandate to support and exhibit lesser known Dallas artists was clear from the beginning.

See the Survey Results reported to the DARE Board after the public workshop.

Over the next year, DARE stayed very busy with interactive discussions, workshops, campaigns, advocacy positions, newsletters, a variety of performance art, art performances, one excellent, bleeding edge exhibition and myriad, endless meetings and variously interlinked committees.

See DARE's First Year for the schedule.

Among DARE's advocacy positions were initiatives to widen the critical coverage in The Dallas Morning News. That push, headed by painter, former lawyer and then DARts critic and humorist Tom Moody, netted him a paid, part-time and ultimately temporary position as art critic there. Another thrust -- to show more local artists at the Dallas Museum of Art was lead by co-founder Tracy Hicks, who rewarded with a one-person show at the museum. There were, however, no long-term effects of either advocacy.

One other exhibition was originally planned for early January of 1990. A donated, Deep Elm area space was quickly found, okayed, and the word was going out when the idea was nixed by DARE board worry warts who feared the community- oriented funfest was too informal and might yield a low-quality early reputation for DARE.

See the proposed flyer for The New Years Resolution T-Shirt Show for more info on this failed, seminal exhibition attempt.

Sponsoring an alternative art space was never far from the board's ongoing considerations. Before the big workshop at the DMA, we were able to sublimate the notion. But after that, the need was impossible to deny. Without a space, DARE wasn't going anywhere.

It took months of searching and a lot of people looking, but eventually, founding board member Joan Davidow (later director of The Arlington Museum of Art, then of D-Art) discovered an immense, 15,000 square foot, near-Deep Elm warehouse space that seemed almost ideal.

Continued in Part Two, "Seduced By Performance"


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