The DMA's Leigh Arnold, the Indiana Jones of Dallas Art
Things are getting pretty crazy in Dallas' art scene. Museums are handing keys over to inspired and innovative artists; houses are converting into galleries; one-off group and solo exhibitions are popping up in vacant Deep Ellum properties; and artists are adopting multiple roles as curators, musicians and publishers. We want to find out more about the minds behind these wonderful movements, so we're interviewing artists, curators, gallery owners and anyone else who's expanding the reach of -- and conversation around -- regional emerging art.
Today we chat with Leigh Arnold, research project coordinator at the Dallas Museum of Art and the researcher behind DallasSITES, the most recent exhibit at the DMA, which celebrated the history of North Texas' modern art scene since 1963. Arnold worked for more than three years on the project, researching, interviewing and diving into our city's artistic past. The result was a single place -- in the real world and online -- that brought art lovers up on 50 years of art history and happenings without having to spend a single night doing homework. Thank God, Arnold had Luz, her pugtastic pug to keep her sane.
I feel research can be an art, but what draws you to this practice? Is it because words are so damn sexy?
Words have the potential to be damn sexy, but it really depends on the writer. I'd say what really turns me on to deep-level research is the rush experienced when solving a problem or finding the answer to a question. I have this innate compulsion to know all of the answers once my curiosity is piqued. Probably because knowledge is power and power is sexy, amiright?
I also just love knowing arcane details about our city's history and being that smug asshole at the cocktail party who "enlightens" party-goers with my encyclopedic knowledge of Dallas. Who doesn't love that? (Does sarcasm translate in print?)
Was delving into history something you have always been interested in? Did you tell your teachers growing up you wanted to spend three years researching a city's art scene?
Popular films like The Goonies and Raiders of the Last Ark left a pretty big impression on me as kid growing up in Nebraska. I was constantly digging around the yard or looking for secret passageways in our old home. It's no wonder I thought I would grow up to be a female Indiana Jones. But I had no idea I'd be digging so deep into a city's history (and I certainly hadn't a clue that I'd end up in Dallas). In a way, the research conducted for DallasSITES is similar to urban archaeology or anthropology, so I suppose I'm not too far off from my youthful dreams of sporting khaki shorts and a safari hat on the daily.
There had to be moments where you thought you were going to lose it. How did you cope?
Yes, definitely. Lots of crying and wringing of my hands...but seriously: coffee, tequila, and snuggles from Luz (more about her later).