The Nasher Will Spend Several Million Dollars on a Dallas-Wide Public Art Installation

The Nasher Sculpture Center announced its grand 10-year celebration plan this afternoon, and it comes at an interesting time for the Dallas art community. They've already raised $1 million of the required funds for a program called Nasher Xchange, which will commission 10 site-specific works of public art by 10 contemporary artists for 10 locations throughout the city.

They've worked for more than a year choosing the spots, asking community higher-ups for their opinions and doing site visits and evaluations before making their final picks. They've promised that all parts of the Dallas compass will be included, from North to South and everything in between.

The exhibition will run from October 19, 2013 to February 16, 2014, making the Nasher the first museum to organize a public art program of this geographical scale in the United States. Two of the 10 chosen are even from around these parts: Good/Bad Art Collective out of Denton -- which has been bringing artful whimsy and mischief to the Metroplex since '94 -- has been reeled in for the task. Vicki Meek, a sculptor and installation artist who's garnered tremendous local respect for her tireless efforts as Manager of the South Dallas Cultural Center, completes the pairing.

While I accidentally eavesdropped on Good/Bad collective meeting on Sunday night, I can only say -- look out, it's going to be a little bit awesome. And Meek tells me she's planting her work in a highly underutilized portion of South Oak Cliff.

The eight other commissioned artists run the gambit of fame's barometer, but all share a common passion of interplay, by either using their work as a direct response to, or continuation of, a specific space.

I've thought about public art a lot lately, really since the State of the Arts lecture held last month at the DMA. It was a good talk, one that seemed to energize the crowd of emerging, working artists who filed into the Horchow's available seating. What repeatedly came up was a suggestion that we need more people to advocate for art, to carry the conversation about art out to the public. That we need more voices speaking for these artists who are making work, here, today.

I agree with this, to an extent. I think we need to broaden the conversation by first expanding the audience. I think we need to encourage growth here, in our city, among those curious about art but who don't know how to enter the conversation. Until we do that, we're really just opening more channels with the same beginning and end points: We're reaching a static number of people. That isn't making the pond bigger, just the fish that live inside it.

When batting all of this around, I kept coming back to public art. It serves as a purpose medium for precisely that. By naturally evoking casual conversation, you've bridged the toughest barrier. If someone walks up to a massive, foreign structure that they've never encountered before, they notice it. They Instagram it, Tweet it, Facebook it. Soon, it's a destination, a target of conversation. When we feel comfortable discussing it, we want to learn more. We seek out information, we look for those voices telling us what's happening here, in the arts.

That's how you increase the size of the pond. And the Nasher's doing it.

Now, meet the 10 artists whose work will be shown at the city-wide public art installation project, Nasher Xchange. Bios and video courtesy of the Nasher.

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