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Community Art Project Hosted by Dallas Museum of Art

This fall, the Dallas Museum of Art’s Susan Diachisin, The Kelli and Allen Questrom Director of the Center for Creative Connections (C3), will spearhead the Center’s first community response art project in conjunction with a single artist’s work. Since the opening of the Center in May 2008, three earlier installations by area high school and university students have been on view. Now, a local textile artist and DMA staff join forces to oversee a community response work of art that will be presented in an exhibition in the C3’s cafe area beginning in January 2010.

Ms. Diachisin selected Lesli Robertson, a Dallas-based artist known for her fiber installation pieces that have a strong history and relation to numerous cultures, to design and help execute the creative side of the project. Together, Ms. Diachisin, Ms. Robertson and the DMA staff will work with over 20 community groups in North Texas and with visitors to the Museum to make small works of art. These will be incorporated into a larger textile-based art installation that will go on view in the Center at the start of the new year. Ms. Robertson will use the process of weaving to “connect” each participating individual and community’s work to the completed project.

“The Dallas Museum of Art and its Center for Creative Connections are delighted to bring the work of Lesli Robertson, an exciting and well-recognized textile artist, to the Museum and to our community,” said Ms. Diachisin, “With this new Community Partner Response project, we are giving participants the opportunity to see how they are a part of a larger community and how their contribution to it is vital.”

For the project, participants will make 1.5” x 1.5” personal collages out of everyday materials and preserve them in a concrete base. Each person is asked to use materials in their work that can reflect a part of themselves; electronic components, natural fibers and metal are a few of the choices. At the completion of their collages, they are asked to describe in writing how these materials represent them, along with a sketch of their collage; this documentation will be part of the final installation.

For the final installation, Ms. Robertson will weave strips of cloth into which the collages will be woven. Each element in the process of this project, from the community involvement, to the interaction of the collages within the cloth, to the amount of cloth that is woven will lead to the final outcome of the installation. A video will project the documentation gathered from the community collages onto the surface of a wall-sized loom. As the community weaves the cloth from various recycled materials on the loom, they will essentially be building the video screen.

Since the project’s launch over the summer, Ms. Diachisin and Ms. Robertson have worked with over 10 community organizations – ranging from ARC of Dallas, Tulisoma Learning Partnership Festival and an Ice House camp facilitated by the Museum — and created over 270 collages. Contributions by visitors to the DMA during its Thursday Night Live Make It Take It classes and monthly Late Nights are also included.

Over the next two months, 10 more groups are scheduled to participate at community events, including an afternoon at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the Dallas Arts District; faculty from the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts; and an activity at Avance, a Dallas-based organization that helps at-risk Hispanic families with parenting and education programs.

For details and dates on how members of the community can take part in this project, visit DallasMuseumofArt.org or call 214-922-1200.

About Susan Diachisin, The Kelli and Allen Questrom Director of the Center for Creative Connections

Susan Diachisin, The Kelli and Allen Questrom Director of the Center for Creative Connections (C3), moved from Massachusetts to join the Dallas Museum of Art in January 2008 to direct the C3 and develop its exhibitions and programs. For over twenty five years she has worked in all facets of nonprofit arts organizations in a multitude of positions and with people of all ages. The diversity of her past projects includes programming on the national, regional, and local levels. Since receiving her MEd. with a concentration in Arts in Education (Harvard Graduate School of Education), her programming achievements have focused on education in contemporary art organizations and museums.

Prior to joining the Dallas Museum of Art, she worked for seven years as Head of Gallery Learning at DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where the focus of her position was to direct exhibition interpretation, the museum guide program, and public educational programming. She also served as Education Director at the Fuller Museum of Art, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the New Art Center, where she initiated innovative programming that was nationally and locally recognized. In addition to her museum responsibilities, she has taught studio art, exhibited her own artwork, and been a loyal volunteer at many arts organizations.

About Lesli Robertson

Lesli Robertson is an active member of the Dallas arts community as a member of 500X (Texas’s oldest artist-run collaborative gallery), a curator and avid researcher, and a lecturer at the University of North Texas. She holds an MFA in Fibers from the University of North Texas and a BFA in Liberal Arts from Auburn University, and has completed additional artistic training at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Robertson’s current work stems from her ongoing research of African culture, which focuses on bark cloth from Uganda. Robertson is a recent recipient of The Arch and Anne Giles Kimbrough Fund from the Dallas Museum of Art, which supported her travel to Uganda for research. That research, culminated in a three-phase interdisciplinary project, Renewing Material and the Handmade: The Story of Ugandan Bark Cloth, exhibited at the University of North Texas Art Gallery in Denton, Texas. In addition to exhibiting artwork in a number of solo and group exhibitions, Robertson has published several articles in leading textile journals.

About the Dallas Museum of Art

Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs are its encyclopedic collections, which encompass more than 23,000 works and span 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Established in 1903, the Museum today welcomes more than 700,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings and dramatic and dance presentations.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

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