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Contemplating 25 Years of the Dallas Visual Art Scene

by Lisa Taylor 16 Sep 2010 11:55 AM

Guest blogger Lisa Taylor reflects on her experiences gathering the history of the city’s art dealers.


DADA's 12 original members in 1985

Guest blogger Lisa Taylor owns Taylor-Made Press.

Since realizing the Dallas Art Dealers Association would be 25 this year, my mind has been full of what defines historical moments and good art dealing.

It all started because I knew that the story of Edith Baker, one of Dallas’ finest art dealers, needed to be told.  Award-winning filmmaker Mark Birnbaum agreed to interview her for me and advised me to include others who were around for the founding of DADA and who knew Edith well.  Kevin Vogel of Valley House and Ben Breard of Afterimage agreed. We all met in Edith’s home, nervous and unsure of why we were there. Then Edith started talking and Kevin started talking and Ben started talking.  It all became clear. Art isn’t just vital; it makes people vital.

Each of our interviewees brightened when they spoke about working in art, and why they had chosen that career. It became obvious why artists need folks like them cheering them on. It is not about the money or the glory.  Running a gallery is like running any retail space with overhead, employees and accounting. But the good news is that what they have to sell really turns them on … and boy can they sell it, if you are in the market.

Since that first interview, it became clear that there was more story here.  Due to the serendipity of life, DADA’s research assistant Emily Sieker is a partner to film editor and director Colby Allen, who agreed to take on making a film that would be shown as part of DADA’s anniversary celebrations and would help archive the Dallas visual art scene.  For a year, Emily, Colby and I have been interviewing gallery owners, curators, artists and collectors to flesh out the story.  An excerpt will be shown at DADA’s 25th anniversary on Sept. 25 as well as at VideoFest on Sept. 26.

The hardest part of producing this has been not being able to cover it all … now I know that history is really about choices made while reporting.

Most importantly, I know this film has been made in honor of Edith Baker, who now has a scholarship in her honor because of her dedication to ethical standards and kindness to artists and customers alike. The Edith Baker Art Scholarship and Artist Career Development Fund provides cash, mentorships, internships, career fairs and professional exhibitions, all so that Dallas artists may continue to benefit from Edith’s wise and hospitable support of the Dallas art scene.

  • Lisa – Brilliant. I can’t wait to see the fruit of your love and labor, honoring Edith Baker, who is all that you have said above and more.

  • Ellen Key

    Congratulations, Lisa. I can’t wait to see the film. This is a story that needs to be told. I’m so glad you’ve done it.

  • Good grief, we look like a bunch of youngsters in the picture. At least now we have some venerable older folks. Lisa, thanks for your hard work and the blog entry!

  • Sounds like you’ve captured lighting in a bottle – looking forward to the viewing, Lisa!

  • I’m looking forward to seeing what you all have created. Sounds fascinating.

  • Lollie Tompkins

    25 years and so much wonderufl influence for the arts as well as the arts education community. Thank you for giving us a treat to look forward to, and for writing such an engaging blog!

  • Rini Andres

    What a fantastic job you’ve done this past year. Thank you for your dedication and passion. We are so looking forward to celebrating DADA’s 25th anniversary weekend, the film and,of course,honoring mom 🙂

  • Lazette Jackson

    Well written blog, Ms. Lisa! Good to know that folks like me, who have only been in Dallas for abt. 15 years, can see and hear about the history of the Dallas art scene! I’m looking forward to seeing the film. Thanks from a member of that ubiquitous entity….the public!

  • Denise M. A. Brown

    Wonderful photo, wonderful organization! Of course, love that Edith!

  • Betty Burks

    Congratulations to all! Especially to the new researcher, Emily Sieker, and the Director of the film, Colby Allen. Rising new stars and artists on the Dallas Arts landscape!

  • Way to go Lisa!!!

  • WOW, Lisa!! You should be so proud of yourself. I can’t wait to see it.

  • Mary Hestand

    Why am I not surprised that you are making a film, Lisa? With you and Mark Birnbaum working on it, I am already excited to see the results.

  • Rose

    Can’t wait to hear/see more—love your observation that history is a process of selecting. Dallas is lucky to have such a thoughtful historian.

  • Lynne R

    Well done, Lisa – can’t wait to see the finished product!

  • Lisa, It is a wonderful story that so deserves to be told. Your commitment and ability to move things forward is remarkable and inspiring. That alone will bring people out. Great feather in your cap, Mom’s, and the organization as a whole! I’m looking forward to next week’s festivities.

  • What a wonderful labor of love you have created with everyone involved. Many faces are easily recognizable although some are not so you’ll need to tell who everyone is. Can’t wait for next weekend’s festivities! Happy silver to all!

  • Ceale Kirkham

    Thanks for passionate people like you, Lisa! Superb Effort!

  • Leslie Connally

    There is also a generation here in Dallas that precedes this one! – of the folks who brought, created, nourished and championed contemporary art when there was none. Before art dealers, there had to be a climate of respect and love and appreciation of contemporary art. I can’t properly even outline the story of the art community here in Dallas after WWII and the 50’s. But his is the generation of, for example Paul Rogers Harris (who I hear is trying to put it to paper), and others and a Dallas with a fledgling contemporary art institution.
    A whole ‘nuther film to make!

  • Leslie Connally

    And Lisa, Thank You for all you do.

  • rick

    Ben, you (and Kevin) are quite ageless. WTG. 25 fast years.
    Last night, Ginger and I were in Abilene for the 30th anniversary of their outdoor sculpture program, which in year one included Surls. Mighty impressive and they feted the artists like major VIPS. All very nice.

  • by the way, the film’s premiere is Oct. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Dallas Museum of Art. Free WITH DMA admission.

  • Leslie Connally

    I remember going to Afterimage out of college. Ben helped Dallas understand Photography was truly an art form.

  • John Viramontes – Council for Artists’ Righs

    At long last the true history, warts and all, of Dallas’ renaissance in the visual arts will soon be available to all via a blog called Dallas Art History ( written by Samuel S. Blain Jr.

    In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s Dallas artists gained their early training, entered their work into galleries, juried and other exhibitions and thus entered into the important national and international art world as a result of a level of professionalism no longer available. Those decades gave artists every opportunity for public recognition and was equally accessible to all.

    At that time major Dallas collectors were assembling first rate works by the best 19th and 20th century artists with the advice, education and aid of local artists and galleries.

    The late Robert “Mac” Doty, curator of New York’s Whitney Museum, stated that Dallas was in the midst of a minor renaissance and felt the city was the 4th major art center in America–sadly, something that is no longer true.

    You can “look over the shoulder” of Texas art historian Samuel S. Blain Jr. as he examines the factual history of this lost opportunity–how it happened, why it declined and more. This will ultimately be the definitive history of art in Dallas. It will be the who, what, why, when, where and how of events.

    If Dallas is to regain the impetus of those glory years we must bravely study the past. The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    Stay tuned.