Dallas Wants Homes for Artists, not Riffraff -- Like There's a Difference

Categories: Schutze

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And here we go with the discussion of cheap housing for artists in that triumphal and glitzy array of Mussoliniano mausoleums that we insist on calling our "arts district," even though art has the same chance of surviving there as a cockroach in a microwave oven. Say this for the Dallas Arts District: No other place gives us a better dental X-ray of this city's true teeth.

So in today's Dallas Morning Official News we get an editorial worrying about architect Robert Meckfessel's plans for subsidized (cheap) housing to allow actual real genuine artists to reside in the district. In its editorial, the private organ of the Dallas art-owner community expresses some very tentative and conditional approval of Meckfessel's idea but then raises its real concern: "It also remains to be seen whether the developer, using taxpayer subsidies, can legally limit residency to artists and potentially exclude the thousands of other low-income residents waiting for housing around the city."

Aha. Dammit. How to tell the artists from the poor people! Indeed, there is the rub. I think many of us have had that problem at one time or another. For one thing, from a block or so away they often look just alike. You can tell if you can get close enough to pry open the mouth and get a good look at the choppers, but that's not always convenient.

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Penniless, only sold one painting, mentally ill ... yeah, don't let the doorknob hit you on the way out of Big D, pal.
So we see the dilemma plainly: How can the arts district bring in some colorfully decorative artists to dress up its otherwise fascistically funerary avenues without getting a bunch of plain old poor people stumbling around in there stinking up the place and dragging down values?

Badges? Who would give them out? A board? Who would be on such a board? Rich people? Of course. Many of their own children are artists. That way the arts district would be populated by artists with excellent teeth. But does the state really provide tax-subsidized housing exclusively for the artistic children of the wealthy? And would any of them agree to give up the South of France in order to live there even for a short tour of duty?

In looking around just a tiny little bit, I was able to come up with examples of how other cities have approached this same problem. I came across the example of the Schermerhorn, for example, a permanent residence for artists and performers in downtown Brooklyn in New York City. Developers there have worked this same puzzle by not trying to exclude regular poor people at all. The Schermerhorn, in fact, meets local requirements by deliberately setting aside a portion of its units for formerly homeless people, persons living with HIV/AIDS and persons with mental health problems.

Gosh. No one here even thought of that, did they? Instead of finding a way to banish poor or otherwise genuinely needy people from Mussoliniville, we could satisfy the state's requirements for tax-credits to subsidize housing for the poor by actually inviting in a token few. But we don't really see that happening, do we? No, I didn't think we did.

Back when the arts district was still a gleam in the eye of one of the nation's biggest real estate tycoons, the late Trammel Crow, a friend of mine who was head of some kind of artists outfit told me he called her. Her group was a fledgling and short-lived attempt at a guild or union of some kind.

You never know how apocryphal this kind of I-told-off-a-rich-guy story may be, and Mr. Crow, whom I found to be a very intelligent man, is no longer here to defend himself. So I suggest we take this with a grain of salt and enjoy it anyway for its amusement value.

She told me Crow told her he had a bunch of Canadian investors coming into town, and he wanted her to get some artists out on the street for the Canadians to see from the limo. Ironically, the idea of artists actually prowling those streets was far less incongruous back then, because the area still had the requisite down-at-the-heels seedy patina one might expect of a place where art is actually created.

Anyway, with a rich guy on the other end of the line and sensing an opportunity for pay, she said she asked what Crow wanted the artists to do exactly. She told me he said, "Do your art. You could be painting or sculpting or something." She said when she asked what the pay would be, he told her there would be no payment from him but they could try to sell their art to the Canadians.

I believed all of that part of her story. I had a little trouble with the punch-line. She swore she told him she couldn't help on the artist thing and thought he might do better anyway hiring a bunch of high-dollar hookers to appeal to the passing Canadians in their limo.

Maybe. It was a good line, anyway, and I have always thought it expressed a certain core truth about the arts district. It will never be a place where people actually make art. But it's a swell place for people who don't mind paying for it.

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40 comments
pixel.pete01
pixel.pete01

Oh, there was a missed opportunity: the high-dollar hookers could have lined the streets modeling the latest in cutting edge fashions from the up-and-coming haute couture designers who, along with their peers in set design, music, choreography, and event creation, could have given them a show that could even turn South Dallas into SoDa. Alas!

observist
observist topcommenter

The only difference between "artist" and "riffraff" is commercial success, which in the art world is 10% talent and 90% networking. Any member of former riffraff actually successful enough to be an artist doesn't need subsidized housing.

Art starts in the dingiest locales, and moves into progressively more expensive locales as it is sold (gallery), collected (wealthy homes), and displayed (museums). In most cases the dealers and collector/speculators make vastly more money from the art than do the artists. The more money an artist makes, the more likely he is to be a con man - Damien Hirst, Matthew Barney, Jeff Koons.   IMHO.

Travis_Rex
Travis_Rex

As Frank says, the City and Arts District might actually want to embrace the local art scene before it starts to house them in an area that has been devoid of anything local from its inception.

Markus
Markus

I'm 30, an artist but also a professional. This is the typical situation of Dallas trying to fix a problem or create an identity by force, rather than by reason. Artists and creatives do come through Dallas, but many leave. Why? I do think it's housing and lack of a density of "cool" shit.

They might originally be from the Dallas area (like myself) after having lived elsewhere (NYC for me) or the many who work in our museums and galleries as well as students (art students or not) from SMU, UTD, UNT, etc.

The Arts District is indeed a monolithic mausoleum. Large structures of ego. I'd have rather seen a solid 2 blocks of brick 2-3 story buildings on each side of flora. With performance centers built into the facade, eateries, shops next door to each other and some residential on top.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Why not just buy the penthouse of Museum Tower and Solar Powered Laser for Jeff Koons and he can be our very own World Class Dallas Artist in Residence?

I would have suggested Damien Hirst but I don't think Dallas is ready for pickled animals or poo paintings.

Frank26
Frank26

Things are as they are. Artists who survive and create under current conditions are artists. It's by no means easy but just the way it is. As is, developers are happy to use artists and their following until the people come and rents go up and they have to move. Despite whatever boards are set up, I sincerely doubt the criteria set will have a clue of who's legit and who's playing them. In larger cities such 'rust belt' communities in Detroit or Cleveland, artists (aside from homeless and thugs) are about all they have left to retain cultural life. Personally I expect big things to eventually come out of these cities culturally due to their use of their artists. In Dallas however, I find this attempt of exploitation / use both lame and inexcusable. I've seen very little enticement from our city thus far to embrace it's own culture. It's always been 'let's be an international city and bring in an out of town designer or architect to wow the world', instead of let's hire from within and make our city our own. This may change in the future, but up to this point I suggest we start with a bit more appreciation of what talent we do have here, offer them some big projects, and work our way down.

Frank Campagna

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

At the risk of sounding like a terrible Philistine, may I ask why it is necessary or desirable to subsidize housing for artists? 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

"Dallas Wants Homes for Artists, not Riffraff"

Or, how can we violate the Fair HOusing Act and not be the target of those pesky PSAs.

Easy.

Take only artists 55 or older.  You can discriminate based on age if you call it seniors housing.  Gets rid of the rugrats too.  Might bring in the Mann Act however.

Or just hire the homeless, accessorize them, then let 'em loose in an early morning cattle call to decorate the district.

Works in Santa Fe.

There, 3,000 trustafarian wannabes, look the part, finance a small cadre of the real item so they can afford astronomical gallery rents on Canyon Road.  This way they can hang out in angst with the real McCoys so long as they pay the freight.

35% of Santa Feans do not live there full time.  They are the true idle rich, never held a job in their lives, and are addicted to flitting about the globe, caring deeply.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and that's the bunch we want to talk to for the Arts District.

Or Deep Ellum is a bike ride away.  It's cheap.

joesmith7789
joesmith7789

Most of these types of artists developments work for a few years and then become havens for people who know people who can get them in on lower rents when they are not qualified to do so. How many people still pay $260/month rent for west side Hudson river views in NYC  because they were "actors" and performed in one tv commercial in 1987 and have not done any acting since then? The way this should work is to have artists qualify through a nationwide application process that is administered by art associations. Based on the application scores those artists are then offered different cities to reside in while they are fully involved with art even if they work 5 jobs on the side not related to art.  The art associations have lower rent units available to them through a nationwide listing. The nationwide listing is administered by a non profit organization. If at any time real estate offices and banks are involved with this process of leasing these units they should be penalized for interfering.

reincome.b55
reincome.b55

Part 4

As a property manager/agent, I greatly enjoy reading SEC reports of prosecutions and any cases involving these real estate mavens facing substantial enforcement especially federal, including IRS. Their former real estate gurus are also beginning to face reality and finding that it is not as easy to commit scams and harm innocent people as it once was. These people despise law and so despise President Obama. As somneone who supports reforms and who believes in this country, I intend to keep supporting reforms so we never again see American working families made homeless by souless game players and their good buddies in Congress.

reincome.b55
reincome.b55

Part 3

These kinds of investors came from, I think, the former era of "greed is good" and "laws are in the way of making money" which for me, was most often seen in the market from 2000-2008. That was when we saw the majority of these self-styled real estate experts begin to fail @ 2003 with their own McMansions and trendy overpriced condos. Divorces follow that loss of formerly easy money and these empty suits then become victims of circumstance which they had nothing to do with, at all. These kinds of idiots are common and still falling into problems due to their own behavior and all those inconvenient laws for the rest of us. (continue)

reincome.b55
reincome.b55

Part 2

Owners and investors who do this accomplish two things: they acquire the contempt of the property manager/agent who regards this as pure insanity. Even if the property manager/agent was understanding of this owner defect, the agent would lose his license by cooperating in the demands of the investor. The agent will walk away from a paying owner and lose income but he will not be stupid enough to cooperate.

If the investor is allowed to continue with this obvious behavior, will ruin any investment by keeping it empty and losing income. The investor will then blame the tenants, the former property manager/agent and anyone else within walking distance from his failed building.

(continue)

reincome.b55
reincome.b55

Part 1

I am a property manager/agent in Cincinnati Ohio. Having been in the business for over a decade, I think I have heard and seen everything related to real estate anything. There is actually humor in this.

You will find this line of irrational and greed based "reasoning" in student housing and anywhere else. It's called "getting around that inconvenient federal Fair Housing law". It goes straight into an owner or investor not liking certain people and preferring others. "Certain people" will always be single mothers, people of African American descent, immigrants (usually Hispanic), anyone who is not already wealthy by inheritance, women who refuse the advances of the owner or manager, those persons who work jobs which are not fashionable at the time, you name it. Owners will say these things to you and out loud. (continued)

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

Lots of cities have templates for determining good local artists. The problem is getting them out after a suitable period for next group of artists. It is supposed to be a nest, meaning artists fly away after a time, not a place in which to grow old.

Donna
Donna

Any real estate project where, subjective opinions are also involved, for the selection process, needs to be administered by a newly formed non-profit organization that is represented by city-wide interests.

A residency in the Arts District needs to bridge the business of art, hospitality and the education industries, with opportunities for joint collaboration. It would give us countless marketing opportunities, with many groups.

One idea would be to offer a prescribed number of units to each of the Universities, Colleges and Art schools in the Dallas area, such as Paul Quinn, UTD, UTA, SMU, UNTdallas, or DCCCD. We could also offer partnerships to universities around the State or Country. By getting Universities and Alumni to "buy in", we don't have to compete for subsidized housing dollars.

Off the top of my head, there are numerous models that make more sense, that would help us avoid the political conundrums that historically have alienated artists, the arts community and non-profit arts organizations from the Arts District.

The Arts District Stakeholders need to make a commitment to hiring thoughtful leadership to act as a unifier and who has an understanding of how real estate and art should function cohesively, to stimulate authentic growth. 

Metroplexual
Metroplexual



The city and developers think they can build and manage

an arts district down to a level that is absurd.  I can

remember seeing drawings of the proposed arts district with 

tiny buildings labeled "jazz club", and stuff like "ethnic restaurant"

like some kind of Disney Hollywood Studios kind of neighborhood or Las Vegas 

casino.


Build the big monolihic opera houses and museums with their underground

parking and visual virtual boundaries and see the kind of "street life"

that will grow around it.  (Actually the Klyde Warren Park may turn out

to be a big help the area.)  It just is not going to happen because the 

demand for it is not in Dallas.


People drive in from their homes or suburban restaurant, park in the convenient

garages and then drive back home again.  There's nothing of interest nearby to 

keep them there to visit, eat or shop. The big church down there is the only thing open.

Try to get a decent restaurant experience around there after 10 pm.  Even Deep Elum

is practically vacant by the time a show is over.  


This isn't just a problem for Dallas but for most cities.  You need a lot of partying

people to sustain an entertainment / arts environment of any size.  Tourists,

conventioneers and business visitors can provide this.  You need a lot of them

because most people that live in the city are home in bed by 10:30 or so.

You can't justify the expense and work required for a successful place with just

Saturday night business.  


Where Dallas has some organic type of entertainment district the establishments themselves

sometimes end up destroying any coolness or authenticity like they have ruined lower Greenville.

The Bishop Arts area seems to be doing fine.  It wasn't planned by the city or a developer

but by small entrepeneurs and merchants and has kept its scale and focus.  It's still 

relatively safe for visitors which is another big factor in its success. 

It looks like the Henderson corrider is doing a better job at this than anywhere north of 

downtown but they depend on the nearby residents and Highland Park kids and there's not enough

of them to go around.  The Katy Trail has worked out well despite occasional muggings. Aside 

from the trail the city doesn't really mess with it.  The Ice House's success will hopefully

encourage more.  The West Village really tries hard but to me is sterile. 


What Dallas really needs is more family friendly entertainment.  People with kids are constantly

looking for places to take them for an experience like the Aquarium and new Perot Museum.

Family entertainment places may not be as glamorous or cool as a Vieux Carre but they will bring

out the people and they will spend some money, establish traditions and last longer than 

most night spots. Dallas needs to cater to the habits and needs of the locals more so than 

trying for some fantasy Montmarte or Greenwich Village.

jpgreenan
jpgreenan

I've visited the Schermerhorn. It's a beautiful development. Out its backdoor you look over at one of the most expensive condo developments in Brooklyn. The units are only 240 sq. ft., but they are beautifully designed and very livable.

If the idea of disguising poor people as artists work to get some more affordable residences downtown, then I'm all for it. I've been beat so badly about the head trying to develop housing for undisguised poor people that it'll take me longer to pass the concussion test than it did Chris Kaman.

I wonder what else besides artists I could disguise poor people as that would get approved by the City of Dallas? Do you think a residence designed especially for domestic servants would fly?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

We used to have artists in my part of town, but they all had to move out when the rents went up to pay for the new sidewalks.

Daniel
Daniel

Cockroaches can survive in a microwave oven. Not surprisingly, this is a source of pride for them.


Otherwise a spot-on piece. Interested listeners are referred to Joni Mitchell's "The Boho Dance."

mcdallas
mcdallas

All the REAL artists live in the Bishop Arts District already.  And I don't think they'll move north of the Trinity, no matter the offer...

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

When will people learn that when you ask for money from someone, they might tell you what to do? 

When we were kids, when our parents wouldn't let us do something with there money, we went and got a job.  If you have a business you can do what you want. However if you have investors, you have to do what they want or they want their money back.  Through tax subsidies, the City becomes an investor in your development.  You either have to do it their way or go make your own money. 

However since these rich parents always gave their kid everything and never said no, they probably never had this conversation with their kid and therefore the point is lost.

russell.allison1
russell.allison1

Homeless riff-raff as....performance artists!  That's the ticket!  The homeless guy/girl catching a few Z's on the artsy bench in the Artsy district need only call themselves by a sinlge name and proclaim that he/she is staging a al-fresco tableau to raise awareness and engender outrage at the disenfranchisement of those who people the extreme lower socio-economic levels.  The police could only watch as they perfuse the beautiful open spaces with the pathos of their performance-vagrancy as art. 

420.
420.

@oakclifftownie Ever been to the cedars or continental gin. get out of oak cliff townie and see the world. 

Donna
Donna

@Frank26 It also needs to be geographically inclusive opportunities. There is a tendancy to favor certain neighorhoods and groups, at a given time, because of the lack of knowledge and understanding of just how many, many, many artists we have all over the city, and who are connected to each other.   

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@Metroplexual Isn't there a Catholic Church downtown?

From what I understand, they'll keep the kids, um, entertained.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Metroplexual 

I love the "Jazz Club" thing. So Jazzy! Did it actually say, "Nice Jazz Club?"

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@jpgreenan 

One thought might be to disguise them as aging journalists. 

Daniel
Daniel

P.S. Also, Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word.

Travis_Rex
Travis_Rex

@mcdallaslol wut? You mean the people who can afford to live there..some of us don't care where we live in the city..where you live doesn't make you an artist, any more than living in an increasingly gentrified area of town makes you a douchebag, unless, of course, you make comments like "All the REAL artists live in the Bishop Arts District already."...

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@russell.allison1 

... but, the minute those damned artists start straying outside the district, you pop their asses into a patrol car and haul them off to the Bridge.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@420. @oakclifftownie

Pardon the sarcasm.  I  remember when large parts of Deep Elm were artists workshops and  lofts as well as what is now known as " The Ceders" . 

The guy who did the SRV Hampton Dart Station Mosaic did the work in the back of one of our companies warehouse spaces . There are a lot of artist at work in various little cubbyholes cramped space hot and cold depending on the season around Dallas .Not exactly the open space studios one might see in the movies , But each to his own.

Funny I read Jim's Story a few times I don't see any real reference to the Artist community asking for housing...

lolotehe
lolotehe

@JimSX @Metroplexual Ugh! Then you have all those poor musicians stuck in the work-a-night fare of commercial jazzdom. What a drag!

jpgreenan
jpgreenan

Sorry, but journalists in Dallas, even aging ones, rank as just a bit more undesireable than the homeless, to the extent anyone can tell the difference.

Gentri-terrified
Gentri-terrified

@Travis_Rex @mcdallas There are artsist NEAR Bishop Arts. I'd say there are plenty of us in the 2-3 mile radius around BAD. You can spot us by the terrified look in our eyes knowing we're about to have to move because rent is going up as the area gets "cool".

mcdallas
mcdallas

@Travis_Rex @mcdallas "where you live doesn't make you an artist..."  

Yet you are hypersensitive about DB's who life in B.A.D.   Conflicted much?

rubbercow
rubbercow

@Travis_Rex @mcdallas are you both idiots? Zero "artists" live in bishop arts.

If you wanted to buy a house right next to bishop arts - be prepared to spend a staggering 30-40k for a decent house.

Get out more!

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@jpgreenan 

We tell our neighbors we're drug dealers.

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