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Artists Discover Neighborhoods

In 1975 Roy Fridge made his Norma Cat Mask in honor of Norma McManaway, wife of Artist David McManaway. This was also the year the McManaways bought a house on Tremont Street where artist James Surls had first bought a home two years earlier in what was identified as the worst neighborhood in Dallas. Very quickly Tremont Street and Munger Place became an enclave of artists. A score of artists bought homes in Munger Place or lived on Tremont or visited frequently, including Frances Bagley, Randy Brodnax, Mike McNamara, Manuel Mauricio, Barbara Bell, Giva Taylor, T.A. Taylor, Pat Forest, David Bates, Dan Rizzie, John Alexander, Jim Love, Sam Gummelt, and a host of others that later included Adrian Hall, Director Dallas Theater Center, and Eugene Lee, set designer of Saturday Night Live. The recent show at the Kirk Hopper Gallery included work by Roy Fridge and reminded me that this hermetic and reclusive artist known for living in temporary beach houses also discovered Tremont Street and lived in a1910 unrestored 200sf space over my open one-car garage. Roy Fridge created dignity and grace in this incredibly simple space.
Artists have a way of discovering neighborhoods that have potential and spaces that can be made into something. I heard artist Giovanni Valderas speak about his City Council race in Kessler Park’s District 1. District 1 is 80% Hispanic but it has been governed by the white political cartel based in the extensive Kessler Park single family home neighborhood. His most interesting comment at the Dallas Breakfast Group Forum was that he was in favor of homeownership for the Hispanic community in his district with City resources going towards streets, curbs, sidewalks, parkway trees to encourage Hispanic families to buy and fix up a home to create a better neighborhood and wealth for themselves. His City Council opponent, a Kessler Park resident, had a very different platform. He emphasized spending City resources on government subsidized apartments for Hispanics. I think artists often have a better vision of neighborhoods.
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