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Meadows Prize Winner Creative Time’s Report Inspires Course Focused on Uniting SMU and West Dallas

“Artspace: Mapping Sites of Social Change” brings together 17 students from various arts disciplines

Each fall, Meadows School of the Arts awards the esteemed Meadows Prize to pioneering artists and scholars with an emerging international profile. The 2009-2010 winner, New York-based public arts incubator Creative Time, spent a year studying the Dallas art community and produced a report with 60 recommendations on how to foster arts in the city.

Out of that report came strong recommendations for:

  • Civic championing of arts through urban planning
  • Presenting art in diverse sites throughout Dallas
  • Connecting Master of Fine Arts programs with off-campus events
  • Linking fragmented populations

Inspired by these recommendations, Associate Professor and Chair of Art History Janis Bergman-Carton created a class that provided students the opportunities to turn these recommendations into action. The 17 students from various arts disciplines who signed up for “Artspace: Mapping Sites of Social Change” soon began working with members of the West Dallas community, filming oral histories of community elders commissioned by DMAHL (Dallas Mexican American Historical League) and working with art education programs for elementary and secondary school children in the West Dallas Community Center.

As dual-major student (Communication Studies and Journalism, ‘16) Natalie Yezbick talks about the project, she speaks in terms of “we,” revealing that she has immersed herself in the project and has become part of it.

“We met people passionate about their past,” she says. “The project is important because you learn from your roots, where you come from, the struggles your family went through. This project, and its richness of the history and heritage, shows the kids living in West Dallas that they have opportunities here that their families struggled to give them.”

Dual-major student (Dance and Pre-Med, ‘16) Abby Marchesseault says the students were careful not to impose their “outsider” way of perceiving things.

“We wanted to be able to tell their story without the filter of our own perspectives,” she says. “We learned as many facts as we could about the area and the people, by listening to the residents and learning from them.”

Professor Bergman-Carton says the project took on a life of its own and expanded as they moved forward. “The class was an invitation for students to become stakeholders and participants in Meadows’ initiative for urban engagement and creativity.

“We have learned a lot in this effort. I believe this is just the beginning of a larger campus/community collaboration to come.”

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