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Creative Time Symposium Recap

The Freedom of the City: Models of Urban Engagement and Creativity in the 21st Century

Symposium Videos

The Freedom of the City symposium discussed new models of public art practice in the urban environment. Read the Creative Time report then view video of the presentations and discussions below.

Dean Jose Bowen: Introduction

Division of Art Chair Michael Corris: Introduction

Rick Lowe, Kenote: Art and Social Justice

Laurie Jo Reynolds: The Worst of the Worst

Mel Chin: Operation Paydirt Fundred Dollar Bill Project

Panel: Thompson, Simblist, Lowe, Reynolds, Chin

Cheryl Mayo: West Dallas and Arts

Tom Finkelpearl: Can Artists Make a Difference?

Panel: Thompson, Roberts, Stadler, Mayo, Finkelpearl

Dean Almy: Colonization

Zoka Zola: The Many Faces of Urban Architecture

Wanda Dye: Engaging the Everyday City

Panel: Thompson, Brown, Almy, Zola, Dye

Dean Jose Bowen: Closing Remarks

On April 9, 2011, SMU Meadows School of the Arts hosted a symposium on new models of public art practice in the urban environment. This event was a direct response to the research residency of New York-based public arts organization Creative Time, one of the 2009-10 Meadows Prize recipients. Through individual presentation and panel discussions, the conference explored the relationship between artists, activists and social justice struggles. The aim of this event was to publicize information on similar projects throughout the U.S.; to discuss the relevance of such approaches to the city of Dallas; and to generate public feedback on these and related issues that are crucial to the well-being of the community.

Symposium Speakers

Cheryl L. Mayo, M.S., currently serves as the Executive Director of West Dallas Community Centers Inc., where she manages 19 staff and a $2 million organizational budget. Mayo oversees the management and programs of four freestanding, comprehensive, community-based centers for at-risk youth. Prior to her current role, she made significant contributions to the pharmaceutical sales industry and served as President/CEO of Mayo Consulting Associates. Mayo’s company provided on-site administrative, clinical and human resources consultation for AIDS Serving Organizations (ASOs) in the southern quadrant of the U.S.

Mayo received her Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Fisk University and earned a Master of Science degree in public health and healthcare administration from Meharry Medical College.

Currently, she serves as co-chair of the Dallas County District 3 Public Health Advisory Council, as a member of the Health Advisory Council for U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and as a member of the Advisory Alumni Council for the Dallas Women’s Foundation – the largest women’s foundation in the nation. Mayo is a member of The Dallas Chapter of The Links Inc., and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., a public service sorority. She has served many volunteer hours mentoring youth and young adults throughout the community. In 2001, Mayo was appointed co-chair of the Ryan White Planning Council of Texas, and HIV/AIDS education remains a vital component of her personal outreach initiatives.

Dean Almy is Associate Professor of Architecture and Director of the Graduate Programs in Urban Design and Landscape Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. Since joining the UT faculty he has focused his teaching and research on urbanism and is editor of Center 14: On Landscape Urbanism, published by the Center for American Architecture and Design. He holds a professional degree in architecture from Cornell University.

After completing a post-professional degree in architecture and urban design, Almy in 1989 was appointed Walter B. Sanders Fellow at the University of Michigan, where he subsequently held the position of Assistant Professor of Architecture. He has also been a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and at the Summer Academy in Prague with the Czech Technical University, and Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In 1999, Almy was awarded the Thomas Jefferson Prize for creative and scholarly research from the University of Tennessee.

He is an architect and partner of Atelier Hines Almy architects, whose graphic, architectural and urban design work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and awards, including an American Institute of Architects, Austin, Citation of Honor Award in 2004; "House of the Month" from Architectural Record in 2005; a silver medal in graphic design from the American Advertising Council; and an AIA/RUDAT award for excellence in urban design.

Jason Roberts is President and founder of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority and co-founder of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff. Roberts formed the nonprofit Oak Cliff Transit Authority in 2006 to revive the Dallas streetcar system, and in 2010 spearheaded the city's effort in garnering a $23 million TIGER stimulus grant from the FTA to help reintroduce a modern streetcar system to Dallas. In 2008, Roberts co-founded Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, a bicycle advocacy organization whose model has been replicated throughout North Texas, and organized the 10-day Cyclesomatic festival, earning a City of Dallas proclamation.

In 2010, Roberts organized the "Better Block" projects, taking blighted blocks with vacant properties in South Dallas and converting them into temporary walkable districts with pop-up businesses, bike lanes, cafe seating and landscaping. The project is now being duplicated throughout the country and has been hailed by the city of Dallas as a new way to implement rapid change in formerly neglected urban areas.

 Roberts is co-founder of Art Conspiracy, past president of the Historic Texas Theatre Renovation, and a member of the Congress for New Urbanism. He is passionate about community building, placemaking, and taking time out to bicycle with his family around North Oak Cliff.

Laurie Jo Reynolds develops and coordinates projects that fuse artistic and cultural strategies with political activism. Her recent work with Tamms Year Ten, the Tamms Poetry Committee, Chicago County Fair and the S.O. Work Group focuses on prisoners, ex-offenders and the costs of human warehousing. As organizer of the Tamms Year Ten campaign, Reynolds advocates for policy change at Tamms Correctional Center, the notorious supermax prison in Illinois where many prisoners have been held in long-term isolation and sensory deprivation for more than a decade. 

TY10 was formed at the 10-year anniversary of the opening of the supermax to bring attention to the conditions at the prison and to push for reform legislation. The TY10 public education campaign has included more than 50 educational events, including a statewide interfaith prayer vigil, a Chicago Tribune editorial board picket, a mud-stenciling campaign, the sabotage of a House Appropriations hearing and several ongoing artistic and cultural projects.

A year-and-a-half after the campaign began, Governor Pat Quinn appointed a new Director of Corrections, and significant reforms were announced. Reynolds spoke about this “legislative art” at the 2009 and 2010 Creative Time Summit: Revolutions in Public Practice. As a current Soros Justice Fellow, Reynolds is coordinating a series of educational and cultural programs to address the unintended consequences of sex offender statutes in Illinois, with the goal of developing support for policies that lower recidivism and reduce harm. 

Her previous work includes the human installation project ASK ME!, a "Tour of Depressing Places in Chicago," experimental stand-up comedy and a play about Helen Keller, Coca-Cola and Southern honor. Reynolds has also designed cultural and media projects with and for foster children, recent immigrants and at-risk youth. She is a co-founder of the prisoner advocacy coalition Alliance 1-11, and serves on the American Friends Services Committee National STOPMAX Campaign Steering Committee, and the Legislative Committee of the Illinois Coalition Against Torture. 

Reynolds is an adjunct professor in the Film & Video Department at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches video, performance and conceptual art. She holds a B.A. in public policy from Brown University, an M.A. in communications studies from the University of Iowa and an M.F.A. in film, video & new media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her video is distributed by the Video Data Bank.

Mel Chin was born in Houston, Texas, in 1951. Chin’s art, which is both analytical and poetic, evades easy classification. He is known for the broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that conjoin cross-cultural aesthetics with complex ideas. 

Chin also insinuates art into unlikely places, including destroyed homes, toxic landfills and even popular television, investigating how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility. He developed Revival Field (1989-ongoing), a project that has been a pioneer in the field of "green remediation," the use of plants to remove toxic, heavy metals from the soil.  

From 1995-1998, he formed a collective, the GALA Committee, that produced In the Name of the Place, a conceptual public art project conducted on American prime-time television.  In KNOWMAD, Chin worked with software engineers to create a video game based on rug patterns of nomadic people facing cultural disappearance. His film, 9-11/9-11, a hand-drawn, 24-minute, joint Chilean/USA production, won the prestigious Pedro Sienna Award for Best Animation given by the National Council for the Arts and Cultures, Chile, in 2007.  Chin also promotes “works of art” that have the ultimate effect of benefiting science, as in Revival Field, and also in the recent Fundred Dollar Bill/Operation Paydirt Project, an attempt to make New Orleans a lead-safe city (see  These projects are consistent with a conceptual philosophy that emphasizes the practice of art to include sculpting and bridging natural and social ecologies.

Chin’s work was documented in the popular PBS program Art of the 21st Century. He has received numerous awards and grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council for the Arts, Art Matters, Creative Capital and the Penny McCall, Pollock/Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Rockefeller and Louis Comfort Tiffany foundations, among others.

Rick Lowe lives in Houston, Texas. His exhibitions include the Phoenix Art Museum; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles; Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York; Kwangji Bienale, Kwangji, Korea; Museum of Fine Arts Houston Glassell School;  Indianapolis Museum of Art; Kumamoto State Museum, Kumamoto, Japan; and the Venice Architecture Bienale.

Community building projects include Project Row Houses, Houston; the Watts House Project, Los Angeles, Calif.; the Arts Plan for the Rem Koolhaus-designed Seattle Public Library with Jessica Cusick; the Borough Project for the Spoleto Festival with Suzanne Lacy, Charleston, S.C.; the Delray Beach Cultural Loop, Delray Beach, Fla.; and a project for the Seattle Art Museum in their new Olympic Sculpture Park with David Adjaye.

Among Lowe’s honors are the Rudy Bruner Award in Urban Excellence; AIA Keystone Award; Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Governors Award; Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University; Skandalaris Award for Excellence in Art and Architecture; and the USA Artist Award.

Since 2002, Tom Finkelpearl has been Executive Director of the Queens Museum of Art, where he is working on an expansion that will double the size of the museum. The Queens Museum of Art is situated in America's most ethnically diverse county, and seeks to serve as a cultural bridge in the community.

Finkelpearl spent 12 years at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, where he organized 15 exhibitions in the 1980s, returning in 1999 as Deputy Director to work on the organization's merger with the Museum of Modern Art. Between his P.S.1 stints, he worked from 1990-96 as Director of New York City's Percent for Art Program, where he organized more than 130 public art projects, and served three years as Executive Director of Programs at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, a residency program in Maine for advanced visual artists (1996-1999). Based on his public art experience and further research, Finkelpearl published a book, Dialogues in Public Art (MIT Press, 2000). He is completing a book on art and social cooperation, forthcoming from Duke University Press.

Wanda Dye joined the University of Texas Arlington School of Architecture in 2007. She has taught full-time for the past 11 years and presently teaches design studios and an AIA award-winning seminar titled "The Everyday City." Her teaching and research explore problems of sameness, non-place and lack of community, driven by capital or lack thereof, within the everyday landscape -- in particular, those associated with generic and/or pastiche prototypical design and public space. She believes these built landscapes should be examined critically and their design should be approached in a more pluralistic manner, from different contemporary social, cultural, political and environmental perspectives.

Before entering academia full-time, Dye received architectural degrees and design awards for her work from Auburn University and Columbia University and worked in the award-winning offices of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects in New York. She previously taught at Georgia Institute of Technology and Mississippi State University and served as an invited juror at various universities across the country. Her teaching and research have been published, exhibited and presented both nationally and internationally.

Zoka Zola was born in Rijeka, Croatia, and is a licensed architect in the U.S., the U.K. and Croatia. In 1990, Zola received the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Award, presented annually to six students around the world. After graduating from the Architectural Association, she worked for a number of well-known studios in Vienna, Rome and London. Later, Zola established her own studio in London, designing small public projects and restaurants while she taught as a senior lecturer at the Oxford Brookes University at Oxford and as a Unit Master at the Architectural Association in London. In 1995, she received the Young Architect of the Year Award, presented to one architect each year in the U.K.

In 1997, Zola moved to Chicago, where she first taught as an adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and designed the Pfanner House. The house won the Home of the Year Award as best house in North America from Architecture magazine and was recently included in American Masterworks: Houses of the 20th and 21st Centuries, by Kenneth Frampton. The Zola studio’s other work includes three zero-energy houses (one in Chicago and two in Kuala Lumpur), a solar tower in Chicago, a Web 2.0 open source web site (, an urban plan for the entire city of Chicago, a number of prototypes for residential and educational buildings, a training center with hostel in Hong Kong, an infrastructure tower in California’s desert and most recently, a successful competitive proposal for affordable housing in Croatia.

Zola’s work is published and exhibited in numerous venues and publications on five continents. She  occasionally delivers lectures on her work and ideas, conducts seminars and speaks at national and international conferences.

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