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The Next New York City?
or Right Here Right Now

Ben James - fish

Ben James - fish sculpture

On April 21 2007 I attended 2 remarkably different — nearly opposite in some ways — art-related events, the eminently self-important How Important Are We: Dallas Fort Worth: The Next New York City? panel discussions sponsored by the Dallas Art Dealers Association at the Latino Culture Center on Saturday, and The Oak Cliff Artisans Studio Tour and Sale, artists and artisans south of the river organized to meet people and sell work Sunday afternoon.

I attended the panel discussions out of a sense of duty, because I'd wrangled a press freebie, though I did pay $10 for the rather simple box lunch. I decided it would be rude not to show up, even though I'd worked all night, forgetting the event started in the ayem. The panel was timed so we could rush out and patronize our commercial galleries that do such a bang up job supporting Dallas artists.


Well, at least a dozen do and dozens more don't even consider it. Galleries do a better job of supporting Dallas artists than the museums do. At the panels one questioner reminded the museum panel that the Dallas Museum of Art was founded by Dallas artists. A good point, but one entirely ignored by the museum and the panel.

Most in the panel audience paid $20 each or $30 for both panels, students $10. The crowd, which was not young, varied by only one or two persons morning and afternoon. Panelists were paid a bottle each of donated wine. Their price was right. My cost was fair. Everybody else was overcharged.

Carl Spoto - stoneware

Carl Spoto - dragonfly stoneware

Profits from the panels go to some kid at The Arts Maggot who's been "making art since he was three" and wants to go to Cooper Union. So Dallas art dealers invited Dallas artists and others to pay for a panel asking whether Dallas is the new New York City, so they could send a budding young Dallas artist to the old New York City for a proper art education, even though both panels cited Dallas' educational institutions as high points in this city's march to become the new NYC.

"We have extraordinary studio art programs in Texas," said Museum panelist William Rudolph of the DMA. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to the Dallas Art Dealers Association to donate tuition to North Central Texas-area schools or forget the silly comparisons with New York entirely. Money where their mouths are.

When I arrived at the Latino Center minutes ahead of time, 19 people were in the large, mostly empty sometimes gallery. In chairs facing the lectern and two open tables. 12 women. No Blacks. Three publications were in each chair. The latest D Magazine proclaiming The Best of something or nother, one orange DADA brochure and one green one. I sat on mine; when I got up later, someone had moved them to the floor. The crowd built to 29 persons and remained at that level, plus or minus one or two, throughout both panels

Larry Pile & Sharon Penner - bird houses

Collaborative Bird Houses constructed by
Larry Pile, painted by Sharon Penner

The first panel Saturday morning, advertised as viewing the topic from the standpoint of galleries and museums comprised only local museum officials and Benito Huerta of Arlington's Center for Research and Contemporary Art and Co-founder Emeritus of this area's only art crit journal, Artlies, who wondered why he was there. Benito was as west as either panel got. "Fort Worth museums were invited but it didn't happen," we were told.

Included on the museum panel were Amanda Dotseth, Assistant Curator, Meadows Museum; Jed Morse, Acting Chief Curator, Nasher Sculpture Center; William Rudolph, Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art, Dallas Museum of Art; advertised Crow Collection Director Amy Hofland did not attend. Instead the Crow was represented by Sh'yuan Yuan; Benito Huerta, Director, The Gallery at UTA — and the only artist on either panel (artists were intentionally left out, we were told) Catherine Cuellar, reporter for KERA 90.1 FM, moderated.

Most of those were young, some very young. They were articulate and more than happy to promote their institutions with nary a nod toward the topic.

Rosemary Meza et al

Rosemary Meza drawing, David Hickman fan, and
other art by friends packed Charley Mitcherson's
Bishop Avenue home and studio

The second panel were all critics who write for The Dallas Morning News. No other local medium was represented, although panel organizer Lisa Taylor announced during the museum panel that I was present and that I published DallasArtsRevue online and briefly described what this is adding an apology for not including me on the panel. I'm more of a grouser later than a public speaker, and that critic panel seemed so happy with each other it was not a problem, but it was nice of Lisa to mention us.

The critics panel included Janet Kutner, former Arts Editor for The Dallas Morning News; Charissa Terranova, former Dallas Observer art critic, and Dee Mitchell, who more importantly is a contributing writer for Art in America. Architect Thomas Krähenbühl, whose wife works at the DMA, moderated.

The panels pissed me off. After them, I had no desire to attend anything sponsored by DADA for awhile, especially their spring art walk that afternoon. Because I was there as a journalist I took copious notes. Otherwise, I would not have attended this absurd event. I still stand by my comment posted on our calendar listing of the event. Us the next NYC — LOL.

Janet Kutner, Dee Mitchel and Charissa Terranova

the critics: Janet Kutner, Dee Mitchell
and Charissa Terranova

I dutifully shot four photographs, one each of the critics and emcee Lisa Taylor. They are awful photographs. I also shot one image of the panel that might be good enough for this page. I did not photograph the earlier, museum panel. I'd thought about bringing a tape recorder, but transcribing is onerous. Being there was oppressive enough.

The Oak Cliff tour was fun. Driving around Oak Cliff, talking with craftspersons and seeing their work on Sunday afternoon was relaxing and free, unless you bought something, and there was plenty nice to buy. What illustrates this page are sometimes apt, sometimes pretty.

We did not hit all ten stops on the tour, carefully sidestepping rosaries and handcrafted soaps, but we were delighted by the spaces as much as the art at the homes and studios we did visit. Several homes, especially those on Windomere, were Arts & Crafts renovations with large beautiful rooms and fun decor details. We even met some pleasant pooches.

Both panels began with long, over amplified recitations of vitae, with the moderator asking leading questions. Then the self-promotions began for the museum boys (only one woman on that panel). It was 45 minuets before anyone even mentioned New York City. The critics were more interesting. Except for themselves, they didn't have as much to promote.


Tiger outdoor table decor at Sarah Cate's Studio

Janet Kutner spoke extensively about how wonderful it was to get to travel out of town, also noting that the most important aspect of Dallas becoming the next New York was the "artists living and working here, because they find the environment interesting and stimulating." She announced that "I give a Dallas artist the same as any other artist. It's all one standard. I don't think it's a make or break situation" where an artist is from. Teranova kept talking about our cheap real estate as a major draw for artists.

Without laboring the points that resonated from my 20 quarter pages of pencil scribbled notes, what I learned was that The Dallas museums are already doing enough for Dallas artists, and anything more we want, we should do ourselves. This was theme was often repeated by members of both panels.

I don't remember which panelist quoted "the eight million stories in New York City" but, of course, they have many more since that long-ago TV drama, and that's the crux of the issue about any other city becoming — or even wanting to — the next some other city. Besides, NYC now has 40 million people. Dallas has a little more than one million. The likelihood of us becoming another them is at least 40 to 1.

It'll happen ...

Charley Mitcherson - When Pigs Fly

Charley Mitcherson - When Pigs Fly
large photograph of a custom hood
ornament at Oak Cliff car show