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Human Rights Initiative Launches Building Foundations Art Contest
by Tina Aguilar 1 Jul 2010

Cannon Flowers and Patricia Melton of Human Rights Initiative of North Texas discuss the contest and how you can enter.


Guest Blogger Tina Aguilar teaches Humanities and Cultural Studies at Brookhaven College School of the Arts.

Human rights advocacy, education and art ideas abound in our community. I recently visited with two creative leaders in the field of human rights, Human Rights Initiative (HRI) of North Texas Chief Executive Officer Cannon Flowers and Director of Marketing and Revenue Development Patricia Melton. Both talked about their art influences and a recent Building Foundations Art Contest, which they hope local emerging and professional artists will submit ideas to.

HRI promotes international human rights through local service to refugees and immigrants who have suffered human rights abuses. This Dallas based non-profit operates with a dedicated group of Pro Bono volunteers who provide free legal representation. Last year, more than 200 legal volunteers assisted on HRI cases. Their client services provide comprehensive case management with referral, advocacy and access to medical, dental, psychological, housing, food and clothing services. HRI offers legal services to North Texas asylum seekers and immigrant children free of charge.

Patricia Melton and Cannon Flowers

P.M.: We wanted to do something that would stay with our organization and honor the 50-plus foundations that have supported us and our work in the community.

T.A.: This project is an example that art finds a home in many places. Why would this type of art be an important part of this work setting?

P.M.: We’re looking forward to seeing the unique and inventive ideas that artists will create to celebrate our funding partners and the wonderful opportunities they’ve given HRI over the last 10 years.  I see this piece as an inspirational work for HRI staff, volunteers and donors.

T.A.: Who will you consider for this contest?

P.M.: We are looking for innovative designs from local emerging and established artists. The art will be placed on a wall location about 12’ x 12’ here in our staff office. The placement and specifications of the final piece needs to be a design that could be relocated in the future.

T.A: When is the deadline?

P.M.: The deadline is Sept. 3, and the selected artist will have the option of participating in its construction and will be our guest of honor at our unveiling event later this fall.

T.A.: The connections to art can originate from an individual’s early exposure to art or current experiences. Do you remember your first art experiences?

C.F.: That’s very interesting that you ask about that, because I have been thinking about this lately. In the 7th grade, my art teacher was Ms. Slater, and she was one of the most interesting individuals I ever met. Specific projects don’t come to mind as much as I remember conversations about art and what fine art and contemporary art was. She was an energetic, red-haired and interesting – just a colorful person.  My partner of 14 years, Rafiq Salleh, has been a real balance to me as well. One painting of significance is called Friends, and it hangs above our piano. He made it in honor of the relationship I have with my three closest, friends because he said he had never had friends like this in his life. It is a reminder for me, for us. People of an arts mind can take you to a new place … a higher place.

P.M.: For me, it was kindergarten and first grade with finger painting. I can remember really getting into it, and that was my first art experience. Beyond that, I had the basic Dallas Independent School District path … not until I had my college humanities classes and took painting in college at The University of Texas at Dallas did I experience a deeper connection with art. I also have an animation art collection, where I own the first pencil sketches of Goofy and Donald Duck.

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas invites all artists over age 18 to enter the Building Foundations Art Contest. The submission deadline is Sept. 3, 2010. If you have questions, please contact Patricia Melton at [email protected].