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Six Dallas Artistic Enterprises Receive Support for Projects Focused on Community Development

SMU Meadows’ Ignite/Arts Dallas, in collaboration with YBCA/CultureBank and TACA, will fund and assist with each project’s development for six months

Photo: Back row, l to r: Tisha Crear, Recipe Oak Cliff; Ofelia Faz-Garza, Semillitas Literary Initiative; Penelope Douglas, CultureBank; Fred Villanueva, Ash Studios; VET, Artcycle TX; Greg Oertel, TACA; and Wolford McCue, TACA Front row, l to r: Jin-Ya Huang, Break Bread, Break Borders; Clyde Valentín, Ignite/Arts Dallas; Sara Cardona, Teatro Dallas; and Maura Sheffler, TACA

SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ Ignite/Arts Dallas initiative, in partnership with San Francisco-based YBCA (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts) and its CultureBank initiative, and Dallas’ TACA – The Arts Community Alliance, announced that six artistic enterprises with the potential to create lasting change in the Dallas community have been selected to participate in a “co-learning” process and to receive $5,000 each for project development over the next six months.

The artistic enterprises include “Artcycle TX,” led by VET, an artist who creates art out of found objects and discarded, recycled materials; “Break Bread, Break Borders,” led by Jin-Ya Huang, a catering business of refugee and immigrant women who share both food and stories of their culture with diners; Teatro Dallas’ new “Co-Lab/Theater for Healing in West Dallas,” led by Sara Cardona; Ash Studios’ “Outdoor Painting Program,” led by Fred Villanueva, near Fair Park; the “Semillitas Literary Initiative,” led by Ofelia Faz-Garza, which brings pop-up reading nooks and free books to community events; and “Recipe Oak Cliff,” under the leadership of Tisha Crear, which will produce a new series of community dinners introducing healthy food and discourse on what makes a healthy community.

“The goal of Ignite/Arts Dallas is to integrate artistic practices with community engagement and to work with students and residents of Dallas to envision more just and vibrant communities,” said Clyde Valentín, director of Ignite/Arts Dallas. “All six grant recipients do that through visual art, social practice, food, performance and entrepreneurship.”

One of YBCA and CultureBank’s goals is to foster the idea that artists are social entrepreneurs and early investors in their own communities, people who can bring meaningful change to their neighborhoods. “To ensure the success of this project, we are committed to supporting the artists throughout the process,” said CultureBank co-founder Penelope Douglas. “This isn’t a situation where they receive money, go away, then come back six months later with a report. This is an ongoing relationship where our efforts will focus on setting the artists up to be successful in achieving impact.”

The investment is not just monetary, according to Valentín. “We will be working closely with the recipients over the next six months,” he said. “The Ignite/Arts Dallas, CultureBank and TACA team will hold regular group meetings with the artists. Participants will share skills with each other and hear from guest experts on such topics as accounting and development of long-term plans.”

Valentín said the initial grants are “demonstration investments,” the first part of a larger initiative. “Our hope is to move into the second phase of this pilot program in 2020 by choosing several projects – which could be from this group, or others – for more substantial, longer-term funding and development.”

The funds for the initial six enterprises are provided by Ignite/Arts Dallas as part of its 2018 Meadows Prize, which it awarded last May to CultureBank to establish a unique investment model in Dallas to support artistic projects that benefit the community. Working with Valentín and local collaborators such as TACA, CultureBank founding partners Penelope Douglas and Deborah Cullinan have been meeting with area foundations, venture capitalists and philanthropists to establish the new investment model while also looking at potential artists’ enterprises to support.

The goal is to establish an arts-focused social impact fund in Dallas that is self-sustaining and will grow over time. In addition to grants, the fund will eventually provide a variety of loans and investments, such as low-interest or no-interest loans; taking an equity position in an arts organization’s business or assets; providing free business planning assistance; and more.

“A key aspect of TACA’s most recent strategic plan is to invest in work that sits at the intersection of art and social impact,” said TACA’s Carlson President & Executive Director Wolford McCue. “We are extraordinarily proud to partner with Ignite/Arts Dallas and CultureBank on this innovative new initiative that invests in artistic work that can spur lasting change in our community.”

The selection process for the demonstration investments began in January. Recipients of previous grants from TACA and from the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Vitality Program were invited to a series of meetings in different sections of the city – the Oak Cliff Cultural Center, South Dallas Cultural Center, Cedars Union and One Arts Plaza. Some 75 individual artists and arts organizations attended, and all were invited to apply for the six-month pilot demonstration. Twenty-four applications were received and evaluated by the team from Ignite/Arts Dallas, TACA and CultureBank, and six were chosen.

“This is a dynamic, diverse group of artists who invest in their communities, and we’re excited about the ideas they have,” said Valentín of the six inaugural recipients. “We want to help them not only with funding, but with non-monetary resources as well – expanded networks, technical assistance, project documentation, etc. Our hope is that by the end of the six months, they will all have a clear idea of what they want to achieve in the longer term, and potential paths to get there. For our part, we’ll be able to apply what we’ve learned to the second phase of the pilot in 2020.”

ABOUT THE ARTIST PROJECTS:

Fred Villanueva, Ash Studios: Ash Studios, located a few blocks from Fair Park, was founded by artists Fred Villanueva and Darryl Ratcliff in 2012 and functions as a do-it-yourself arts center, welcoming artists to the site to collaborate, create, or rent space. Villanueva will create an Outdoor Painting Program to activate a 10,000-square-foot “Art Lot” as a gathering place for artists of color and artists whose work focuses on the urban landscape as a vital and valid place of expression. Specifically, the program will consist of (1) building a wood wall to serve as a provocative visual device surrounding Ash Studios; (2) rallying local artists to volunteer and use the wall to exercise freedom of expression; (3) creating a curated program of rotating artists to cycle variations of visual arts and messages to the community; and (4) inspiring further desire to spread creative mentorship through all available avenues of community.

Jin-Ya Huang, Break Bread, Break Borders: As a catering company with a cause, Break Bread, Break Borders (BBBB) currently provides training, certification and professional mentorship to women who are refugees from such countries as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Congo. Jin-Ya Huang will explore BBBB’s ability to enhance infrastructure so that it can cater to more people and reach a wider audience for storytelling. BBBB plans to optimize and streamline its website, define job descriptions, and create standard operating procedures to enhance capacity and support scalability.

Tisha Crear, Recipe Oak Cliff: Opened in South Oak Cliff in 2017, Recipe Oak Cliff sells plant-based healthy food in a low-income neighborhood considered a food desert, and also offers shared commercial kitchen space, cooking classes and catering services. Tisha Crear with Recipe Oak Cliff will host “Conversations,” dinners with friends and neighbors to discuss collective ways to activate neighborhood vacant space. The dinner menus and topics will be geared toward looking at short-term activities/projects/outcomes that can be easily mounted with maximum impact. The dinners are the vehicle for much-needed conversations and opportunities to work together as a neighborhood. The first dinner will focus on beautification and urban agriculture as a neighborhood resource. The second dinner will ask “What if” and look into ways to activate and utilize unused space across from Recipe Oak Cliff.

Ofelia Faz-Garza, Semillitas Literary Initiative: Oak Cliff-based writer and cultural worker Ofelia Faz-Garza focuses on planting the seeds of lifelong reading. Semillitas Literary Initiative (SLI) will develop a toolkit that contains printed materials (including a guide for implementing a neighborhood children’s book club using the SLI model, coloring pages, short stories, etc.) and audio content (via a new podcast). The toolkit will be disseminated in the community at community reading nooks, neighborhood book exchanges, and other SLI events and online through social media channels.

Sara Cardona, Teatro Dallas’ Co-Lab/Theater for Healing in West Dallas: Founded in 1985, Teatro Dallas focuses on using the power of theater to foster increased understanding of both cultural similarities and differences to build a sense of community that celebrates diverse traditions. Led by Sara Cardona, Teatro Dallas’ new Co-Lab/Theater for Healing will explore new collaborative performance methodologies together with members of the West Dallas and Oak Cliff community to uncover unheard voices and narratives of these rapidly gentrified spaces. Throughout the project, Teatro Dallas will (1) create trust and community through monthly meetings with participants; (2) explore a hidden reality through a 20-hour workshop with a guest resident artist who specializes in leading individuals through archetypes and ritual that are grounded in healing/shamanic traditions; and (3) present the collective voice of participants through a public presentation at a space in Oak Cliff or West Dallas.

VET, Artcycle TX: Artcycle TX is a project run by VET, a Dallas-based artist who makes art out of discarded objects. Artcycle’s mission is to promote creative art expression while encouraging environmental responsibility through recycling. VET plans, over the next six months, to develop a centralized platform for Artcycle TX, which will allow participants to engage in recycling of art-related found objects and discarded items through barter, exchange or purchases on-line, as well as one community “FREE 4 ALL” (give-away) event.

ABOUT YBCA and CULTURE BANK

CultureBank was launched in 2016 as an initiative of San Francisco’s premier center for art and civic engagement, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, to develop a new investment model for the arts. CultureBank invests in social impact artists who are developing undervalued community assets that contribute to community health and well-being. Those assets include diverse languages, green spaces, cultural traditions, creative problem-solving, historical knowledge and more, all of which contribute to food security, social cohesion and community safety. Drawing on the best attributes of community banks, social financiers, community development finance institutions, and placemaking organizations, CultureBank provides artists with capital from new and unexpected sources, changes the definition of Return on Investment, and enables artists to create lasting social and economic change within communities. With a diverse group of stakeholders from the arts, civic impact and financial sectors, CultureBank is designing a radical investment model that is sustainable, adaptable and replicable.

ABOUT TACA

TACA – The Arts Community Alliance – supports excellence and impact in the arts through grant-making, capacity building, and thought leadership. TACA envisions an innovative, inclusive, sustainable cultural sector recognized for its essential contribution to a vibrant, prosperous community. Since its founding in 1967, TACA has worked to establish North Texas’ cultural community as one of the strongest in the nation. TACA’s growing investment in the arts translates to new premieres and productions, impactful residencies and community initiatives, and more opportunities for artists and audiences to connect – all striving to make Dallas a dynamic city and a great place to live and work. For more information about TACA, call 214-520-3930 or visittaca-arts.org. Connect with TACA on Facebook atfacebook.com/tacadallas, Twitter at@TACADallasor on Instagram at@TACADallas.

ABOUT IGNITE/ARTS DALLAS

Ignite/Arts Dallas launched at SMU Meadows School of the Arts in 2015 to integrate artistic practice and community engagement in ways that involve Meadows students, the wider SMU campus, the city of Dallas and the arts field at large. Ignite/Arts partners with artists and organizations throughout Dallas and across the country to support and develop meaningful cultural programs that benefit the local community, connect Dallas’s cultural energy to other creative communities, and introduce students to the arts’ critical role in social engagement. Its mission is to challenge the imaginations of students and citizens to create more just and vibrant communities through art. For more information, visit.

ABOUT THE MEADOWS PRIZE

The Meadows Prize is presented every one to two years to innovative artists and projects in a discipline represented by one of the academic units within the Meadows School: advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, corporate communication and public affairs, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre. The Prize includes support for a residency or program in Dallas, in addition to a $35,000 award. In return, recipients are expected to interact in a substantive way with Meadows students and collaborating arts organizations, and to leave a lasting cultural legacy in Dallas. The Meadows Prize is sponsored by SMU Meadows School of the Arts and The Meadows Foundation and is administered by Ignite/Arts Dallas.

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