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Slant 45's Secret Service Project

by Jerome Weeks 16 Sep 2010 7:13 AM

Slant 45 is the socially conscious part of our prepping for the Super Bowl party. It helps students develop community service projects all around North Texas, cleaning up, planting trees, raising money. But then there’s the arts end — which is where the Secret Service comes in.


Jill Foley, The Living Room, Dallas Museum of Art, mixed-media installation

The North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee is in charge of generating excitement for next February’s football face-off in Cowboys Stadium. There have been big-deal, public concerts by Sting, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. But KERA’s Jerome Weeks looks at some smaller, more personal events.

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SLANT 45 is the codename for a football play. It also stands for Service Learning Adventures in North Texas. It’s a community initiative established by the Super Bowl Host Committee and Big Thought. Big Thought is a North Texas nonprofit dedicated to improving public education through creative thinking.

SLANT 45 has involved school groups and neighborhood volunteers in dozens of collective improvement efforts around North Texas. By February, some 20,000 area students will have developed and completed projects to help their communities, such as painting over gang graffiti or planting small trees. It may be the largest community-service project of its kind.

And then – there’s the Secret Service Project. It’s aimed a little more at involving adults and creating original art works.

[sounds of echoey rustling and people murmuring continues]

We’re at a recent late night at the Dallas Museum of Art – in the museum’s Center for Creative Connections. A dozen people are in a workshop busy making postcards – actually, postcard-sized collages. Lisa Glasgow is the chair of the Slant 45 Art Exhibition.

Glasgow: “Tonight is an opportunity for people to come in and create reflective art pieces – considering the quiet acts of service that we do all the time. You know, you look and see that an elderly neighbor has a hard time getting to the curb to reach their newspaper. And so this child – with parental supervision, of course – runs out in the morning and gets the paper to their door. It’s those acts of kindness that we’re celebrating.”

The workshop is guided by Jill Foley (on the right, with workshop members). Foley is a collage master, a bricoleuse (a “re-purposer” of materials). She uses hundreds of large, cut-up cardboard pieces to fashion structured, room-sized installations. It may be officially titled The Living Room, but Foley has transformed the entire Center for Creative Connections (its temporary location on the DMA’s fourth floor) into a light-brown, paper-y, Grimm’s fairy-tale grotto — with trees and stalactites and hand-knitted puppet-dolls. It’s like something out of somebody’s cardboard-Caligari unconscious.

Foley [speaking to workshop]: “So I thought it would be an interesting project tonight to maybe think about a specific act of kindness or service that you’ve done. And to think about all the different aspects of that entire experience. And I thought it would be interesting to physically layer those things with translucent papers.”

As the participants rummage through the papers, markers, strings, buttons and magazines piled on the tables, they must be considering: What color was my kindness?

The Secret Service postcards are anonymous artworks, they’re not signed. But the not-so-secret part is that all the collages from Slant 45’s thousands of student and adult participants will eventually be gathered together. They will be assembled into three public installations that will go up beginning in November: one in NorthPark Mall, one in the DFW Airport, the last in the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

Claudia Lopez is a student at Richland College. Her good deed was guiding freshmen students around campus during their first confusing days. She says we’re mostly unaware of such acts that happen all around us because they aren’t marked or noticed. So the public installations will relate the stories of these deeds. They will recognize and encourage. In fact, getting students to create art works about their community-service efforts is actually a pedagogical method for reinforcing their selfless efforts.

Lopez: “I hope people see them and get a sense of the community, that people are actively involved in helping and volunteering.”

For their part, Virginia Funk and her sister Aubrey brought their mother to the museum this evening for her birthday. All three joined the workshop. Virginia says that her postcard design was prompted by the fact that she cuts the hair of her sisters, brother and mother – because she loves them.

Virginia: “It had a couple different colors on there and it had ‘Love.’ And it said, ‘Doing hair out of love.’

Weeks: “So . . .  did it have hair on it?”

Virginia: [laughs] “No, no, I did draw a blow dryer on there. That was about the extent of that.”