Dallas County Is Turning Its "White Only" Water Fountain Into a Multimedia Art Installation

WhitesOnlySign.jpg
Dallas County
Dallas County had long since forgotten what the metal plate above the water fountain in the Records Building was meant to conceal when, in 2003, it fell off. Even then, you had to be looking for it to notice the faded remnants of the "White Only" sign on the marble wall, or you did until commissioners marked the spot with a commemorative plaque over the objections of some black leaders.

The sign is still visible today, a way "to remind us of this unpleasant portion of our history," as it's phrased on the plaque. And now, since there can never be too much reminding, the county plans to turn the water fountain itself into a multimedia art installation documenting the fight for equality.

The plan isn't actually new. Artist Lauren Woods first pitched it to commissioners way back in 2005, envisioning a functioning water fountain that, when a thirsty passerby stopped for a drink, would project a 45-second montage of scenes from the civil rights struggle onto the wall above.

"People being sprayed and, you know, pushed to the ground with these water hoses," as she described at the time to NBC 5. "It's recontextualized and digitized and kind of played with, and I kind of retell the story of that era."

Her original concept for the fountain would have it playing the entire clip before dispensing water. Commissioners nixed the idea, though John Wiley Price declared that 45 seconds isn't that long to wait for a sip of water. "Some of us waited 45 years."

Thumbnail image for WaterFountainDiagram.jpg
Click to embiggen.
Things have been simmering for the past eight years as Woods says she has been in "administrative mode," fundraising and working out logistics. She's now prepared to move forward.

County commissioners will be updated on the project on Tuesday. The original plan was for Woods to bear all costs but, given that she's raised only two-thirds of the $46,720 budget, Price has suggested that the county chip in $15,000 "[s]o the project can be completed in time for the November acknowledgment of President Kennedy." It's currently scheduled to be unveiled on November 22, the day Kennedy was killed.

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18 comments
bbetzen
bbetzen

This project may evolve into one of the most positive and powerful ways to honor Kennedy on this painful anniversary. 

We should also place historical markers in front of all the Dallas buildings, especially schools, named after KKK members and sympathizers.  We should not cover up these painful oarts of Dallas history but admit it, denounce it as not representing our future, and constantly work to improve the changes that are needed to eliminate the prejudice.  Until we eliminate one race schools and major events in Dallas, we are not there yet!   This water fountain is the tip of the iceberg, a very important marker that must be paid attention to.

mutatron
mutatron

You got it wrong TWICE! It's "Whites Only", it says right there in the photo, you can read it.

jakkwagon
jakkwagon

and this deserves to be printed why ? people are dying out here in the effing streets and this is an article of interest ? this is what boggles my mind people - serious issues become page 9  bylines and this crap is news ? a plaque gets news ?? wtf is going on here ??jeez......

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart

The biggest problem with the Records Building is the extreme difficulty people with physical disabilities have in accessing things like...the floor where all the records are kept, the Probate Courts where people with disabilities have their rights removed, and the license plate area where people with permanent or temporary disabilities have to get their special tags. And god forbid they have to access a bathroom while they are in the building. Forget it. But, hey, if somebody thinks art is the answer, then at least put it in the budget to make the water fountain wheelchair acessible. It will be the only thing in the building that is.

Americano
Americano

There are parts of the city where white people cannot go.  At least and remain healthy.  Do they get a plaque?

dc005
dc005

Judge out in East Texas says the Courthouse signs were taken down,  but locals know which of the two water fountains they're supposed to use.

 "Does the water in the 'white' fountain taste different?"



primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Looks like a job for kick starter.

naivelibtardsquish
naivelibtardsquish

The only hope for a progressive future is for whiteness to be eradicated and for white privilege to be forcibly dismantled!

James Day
James Day

Thought I heard there going to build another that`s way too fancy...

Randy Harris
Randy Harris

Can't we find smarter ways to spend tax dollars. Reminds me of a bridge tax payers are probably still paying for.

Steve Scott
Steve Scott

$46,720 to make a water fountain play a video clip? I don't see why you couldn't pull this off in the $5000 range.

Kristy Gaconnier
Kristy Gaconnier

I think moving forward means leaving that in the past. It's like framing a scab.

yoka
yoka

I don't particularly want to go to the Records Building, and I don't want to wait 45 seconds for  a drink of water, but it may be the destination of choice on November 22nd, as most of unwashed masses of Dallas won't have access to Dealey Plaza.'  

bbetzen
bbetzen

@Americano Where?  The only ones I can think of are unhealthy places where pollution is an issue.  I've lived in Dallas over 40 years, driving to all corners of Dallas County.

epicmale
epicmale

@dc005 BS.  Nothing more than a politically posturing, poverty pimping, bunch of BS.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

Vodka tonic.

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