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ArtPrize Dallas Isn’t Going To Happen

by Jerome Weeks 30 Oct 2015 9:23 AM

Ariel Saldivar. Photo: Eric Morales

People come and go so strangely here, as Alice would say.

Last November, the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based ArtPrize, which draws thousands of contemporary artists to that city for two huge cash prizes, announced to the ‘New York Times’ that it would be expanding the franchise — first to Dallas. That’s not happening anymore.

ArtPrize Dallas was set for April 2016 — with office buildings, restaurants and more conventional art venues taking part, hoping to draw the half-million visitors the Michigan original does.

The contest is actually two-fold — one prize awarded by judges, the other by popular vote. And those votes can now be tallied electronically — via mobile apps. Ariel Saldivar quit her job as assistant director of the Goss Michael Foundation to head up the event as executive director. And there was even some debate in the local media about whether importing such an arts franchise (instead of Dallas developing its own ‘arts brand’) was a good idea.

Yesterday, Saldivar announced that fund-raising has not gone as planned and there wasn’t enough time to pull ArtPrize Dallas together. So she’s pulling the plug. (“There have been many lessons learned along the way, not the least of which is that no effort is in vain.”)

The following letter was set to ArtPrize Dallas supporters yesterday:

Dear ArtPrize Dallas Stakeholder,

Dallas has worked hard to build an urban infrastructure that can support a variety of cultural destinations that appeal to all walks of life. And, the visual arts have played an especially important role in defining and stimulating the city center. Therefore, we were very excited to propose a local event that would celebrate Dallas as a diverse and visionary city – an incredible occasion to unite our citizens with varying people and ideas of the world.

ArtPrize Dallas was a tangible realization to what had previously been a dialogue. The effort, intentionally populist, was designed to open up a world that was too often limited by exclusivity, and make that world accessible to every citizen that entered our downtown area. Hopes of a student, a day laborer, a merchant – all directly engaging in the cultural landscape that called out to them in their own unique way.

During the process of planning and working with stakeholders it became clear that many were thrilled and excited to see new avenues of growth and opportunity for all. Despite the visionary understanding of our supporters, there were a few who saw the concept as threatening to the status quo. The resistance was especially disappointing since ArtPrize Dallas would have had a tremendous, positive economic impact. Regardless, ArtPrize Dallas aimed to create opportunity and advancement that supported and celebrated artists, and engaged the nation in our local context.

Never the less [sic], we made tremendous progress in this effort, and we truly believe that one day our city will be ready for such an inclusive and unique undertaking, but unfortunately, today is not that day. Many of us have worked tirelessly to make this happen, however, we do not currently have the resources necessary to launch this event in the timeline provided. It has been a joy to deepen connections with colleagues and engage in a dialogue that focused on finding opportunities to extend our collective efforts.

There have been many lessons learned along the way, not the least of which is that no effort is in vain. When the results are not what we strived for, being disappointed is okay but being discouraged is not. Our charge is to continue pursuing and celebrating the spirit of creativity and innovation. What we have attempted is nothing short of extraordinary. We will continue to champion the arts and support the culture and people that make our city great in hopes of working together with you for the betterment of this city we all love so much.

My deepest thanks for your support and advocacy,

Ariel Saldivar

Executive Director