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by Todd Camplin

DFW has seen a steady growth of art related activity that has caught the attention of national art
press with the Dallas Art Fair, Art Week, important museum shows, and the rise of more commercial
and nonprofit gallery spaces. The Metroplex might not be heating up as hot and fast as Miami,
but steady growth has made the area a rival art scene to Houston. Eclipsing Houston in some
aspects, but still having some work to do in other ways.

Getting noticed by local officials is one way to know you have arrived. All this year one hand
of the City of Dallas didn’t know what the other hand was doing. So, the City of Dallas Office
of Cultural Affairs would approve and help fund a show, while the fire marshal would shut it
down.  Things like this have happened to Houston and many other cities that have an art
market beginning to gain prominence. The growing pains can be hard for galleries, alternative
spaces, studio tours, and art events. Unfortunately these problems can be expected for a
while. The community has to rally together and help each other jump through the bureaucratic
hoops before a launch of a project or gallery space. Keeping the conversation open and
helping artists and gallery owners navigate the pitfalls of not having all the paperwork will
help to weather this particular storm. Just remember this is a sign of growth and innovation,
so resistance is to be expected.
The Metroplex has a great deal of MFA programs feeding the cultural production. UNT, SMU, UTA,
UDallas, TCU, UTD, and Texas A&M at Commerce have students getting their first group shows
and solo shows in DFW venues. Even the community colleges have a robust exhibition tradition
that has gotten the attention of the press now and then. However, what the area needs is an
alternative art school option for students to explore art production without the hefty price tag.
Something like the Black Mountain School would be nice. Residency programs also attract
talent to Texas. UTD and the Fairmont Hotel provide an artist-in-residency program which
brings in artists to the DFW area. Just southeast of Dallas is the residency, 100W, in Corsicana
where artists can easily access the city to participate in cultural events. Our museums have
similar residency programs for artists, but nothing as of yet rivals the prestige of the MFAH Core
Program in Houston.

The Dallas Museum of Art has consistently curated or hosted impactful shows that bring national
and international attention to the city. The Nasher, Meadows, Fort Worth Modern, Amon Carter,
and the Kimbell bring different flavors to the visual arts patrons from the local scene, but have
also created some visual art tourists that are attracted to the cities for the arts. The Dallas
Contemporary brought in some of the best and worst shows which have shaken up the
town. Controversy in an age of reality TV and celebrity obsession has worked for them and
people keep coming back for more.  

Commercial spaces have grown in number as well as moved and clustered around the Design
District in Dallas. Fort Worth spaces are emerging too, providing a new aesthetic. Like the Fort
Works Gallery, which had Dan Lam’s trippy drippy sculptures in August. The galleries also work
together on shows and projects through the CADD, DADA, and FWADA. These organizations of
galleries help each other in local promotion of their artists and bring a sense of community to
what would otherwise be just a business.

So the DFW has a lot going for it in the arts, but clearly things have not risen to the level of LA
or New York. Being an art capital might be an insurmountable a goal, but is still worth the
effort. DFW, however, is moving towards a regional power in the arts as long as we don’t
get in our own way.
James Drake - Flocking Shoaling Swarming II, 2016,
envelopes mounted on archival paper, 114" diameter
courtesy of Holly Johnson Gallery