As birthdays go, 35 is a pretty significant year. Not quite middle-aged but out of the bloom of irresponsible youth, it’s the perfect time to take stock of where you’ve been, what you’ve learned and what an optimistic future could hold.
“For 35 years, Dallas Contemporary has been engaging artists to take risks and impact the city,” says executive director Peter Doroshenko. “We are celebrating in a Texas way [with] 35 hours of programming, which will tie together who we are and where we came from.”
“We are celebrating in a Texas way [with] 35 hours of programming, which will tie together who we are and where we came from,” says executive director Peter Doroshenko.
This includes everything from an interactive wrestling performance from James Gilbert to improv comedy. Although some events may seem arbitrary — like the late-night screenings of classics such as Animal House and Superman, both of which happened to be released in 1978, the year the museum was founded — all of “Alive for 35” fulfills two goals: to give young talent a venue for experimentation while supporting the community.
The former will get attention through the Lilia Kudelia-curated exhibition “Acceleration” of 35 local artists; the latter through activities such as art workshops, a street art bike tour and children’s story hour.
“We wanted to tap the young local artists that are active right now and making an impact on the scene,” says associate director of exhibitions Erin Cluley. “We were also thinking about how, as museum, we can reach out to the community in an unconventional way, like with our blood drive and yoga at sunrise.”
Doing things slightly differently has always been a driving force for the Contemporary. With the original moniker of D’Art, the nonprofit, non-collecting institution evolved from the Artists Coalition of Texas, which was founded by Judy Hearst, Mary Ward and Patricia Meadows in 1978.
Originally housed in an old pill factory on Swiss Avenue, D’Art gave space and funding to burgeoning talent long before the Dallas arts scene was on the national map. As the organization circled through various decades and names (from D’Art to the Dallas Visual Art Center to the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art), programming broadened to include artists across the state.
Upon its relocation from Swiss Avenue to the current 37,000-square-foot space in the Dallas Design District, the Contemporary expanded to a national and international focus, one made only stronger by the leadership of executive director Peter Doroshenko, who came to the museum in 2010 from the Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev, where he served as the president and artistic director.
Doroshenko’s brand of educational acumen and envelope-pushing curation has made the Contemporary’s future very bright indeed. Global street artist JR will bring his wheat-pasted portraits and Inside Out Project to the space in January, and rumor has it hyper-realist painter Richard Phillips will be sharing the museum with another boldface artist in the spring.
“There has been much discussion about our history, and people have asked us, ‘Where do you see this institution going in the next 35 years?’” Cluley says. “The one thing that remains constant is giving the artists the opportunity to experiment and show work that pushes boundaries.
“It’s what they were doing early on when D’Art was in its old warehouse, and it’s where we’ve remained.”
For a full schedule of free “Alive for 35” events, visit the Dallas Contemporary website.