Activating Vacancy is an art and public interest design initiative in the Tenth Street Historic District of Dallas. Residents alongside artists and designers will investigate, strengthen, and share this community’s unique history; engage in the development of a physical and social framework for cultural activities; and plan for the renewal and growth of the neighborhood. Collaborations including installations, performances, or other artistic actions will explore the cultural, social, political and economic life of this historic neighborhood. The Initiative begins Fall 2013 and is produced and curated by the bcWORKSHOP, a Dallas community design center, in partnership with the Dallas CityDesign Studio.

Bulletin Board

February 8th's Activating Vacancy Neighborhood Kick-off at the Eloise Lundy Recreation Center provided opportunities for artist teams to share the details of their projects and for community members of the Tenth Street Historic District to discover ways to participate in the initiative in an engaging, social atmosphere. While some folks shared stories from the neighborhood for Story Corners and Ghost Bridges, others registered for small business incubation with the Show Hill Biz Market, while still others began to conceive the panels they would contribute to The Ark on Noah Street.

From mid-October through November, the band of Activating Vacancy collaborators joined with community members in Tenth Street to learn more about the place and prepare for the intiative. Three activities: a BBQ, a community-led walking tour, and a conversation over local recipes, were jumping off points for exploring the intiative's role and potential impacts in the neighborhood. Proposals are now being honed so that work in earnest can begin first-thing 2014!

We are thrilled to announce the artists and designers invited to collaborate on the Activating Vacancy initiative. This diverse group of creative minds was selected from a pool of approximately forty applicants through an evaluation process that engaged both a Curatorial Committee and a Community Committee. Keep your eye on the Bulletin Board for project updates. Coming soon, learn more about the selected artists under the Collaborators tab.

Invited Artists

Iv Amenti

Christopher Blay

Erika Huddleston


Akin Babatunde + Liz Mikel

Morgan Chivers

Linda Jones

Benny Walker

Melody Bell

Tammy Gomez

Marcello Pope (Rosie Lee)


bcWORKSHOP has convened two committees to act as advisors throughout the Activating Vacancy initiative, a Curatorial Committee and a Community Committee. Both play critical roles in shaping the goals of the project, selecting collaborators, and ensuring that the initiative stays true to its premise and to the Tenth Street neighborhood. Artists & Designers will engage in mutual learning through engaging with the Tenth Street Community and its residents to forge collaborations with one another to produce a series of artistic acts throughout the neighborhood.

Community CommitteeCuratorial CommitteeArtists & Designers

Catherine Cuellar serves as executive director of the Dallas Arts District, the largest neighborhood of its kind in the U.S. and world headquarters for the Global Cultural District Network. Previously she spent five years as communications manager for the sixth-largest electric power grid in the U.S., Oncor, supporting the creation of infrastructure to increase renewable generation; adoption of electric vehicles in Texas; deployment of advanced meters encouraging conservation; and creation of hike and bike trails in utility transmission easements. For 15 years she also worked as an award-winning multimedia journalist for national public radio stations and programs,, Sojourners magazine and The Dallas Morning News among others. She was a 2011 Regional Finalist for the White House Fellows program.

A native of Dallas, TX, John Spriggins has dedicated much of his life and career to the visual arts. John has been a professor of Arts and Humanities for Dallas and Tarrant County Community College for a combined 12 years. He currently serves as the Interim Curator for the African American Museum in Dallas, TX. John is also a practicing visual artist in the medium of painting and collage. He serves on the Public Arts Committee for the city of Dallas, jurors art competitions, and has been commissioned to create art for both public and private collections. John’s passion for teaching is equally matched by his zeal for the arts. He has worked with numerous organizations to bring arts awareness to the city of Dallas.

Phillip E. Collins is the Executive Director of the Memnosyne Institute and the former Chief Curator at the African American Museum in Dallas, Texas. Prior to Collins appointment at the African American Museum, he worked in the Education Department at the Dallas Museum of Art and spearheaded the vision and development of the Go-Van-Gogh outreach program. Phillip Collins has conceived and developed over ninety exhibitions locally and nationally and continues to curate commission exhibitions independently. Collins has developed specialized art programs, museum exhibition installation designs and fabrications, has written numerous art-related publications, and has served as a juror for art competitions both statewide and nationally as well as on numerous boards and committees for cultural institutions.

Tisha Crear is a Dallas native & global citizen dedicated to community development & building the local cultural & creative economy. She is currently Cultural Programs Coordinator for the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs and was the co-owner of the Oak Cliff arts venue Reciprocity. She is a trained theatre artist, mother, and loves the lessons of travel.

Isaac Cortez & Sarah Mendez, along with their young son, have resided in the Tenth Street Historic District for several years now. Isaac’s experience renovating houses in Winnetka Heights and Sara’s interest in establishing a local business helped bring them to their current home.

A long time resident and neighborhood advocate for the Tenth Street Historic District, <Shaun Montgomery received her education at Dallas County Community Colleges and Texas Women’s University. Shaun has performed in local theater productions and written and directed productions for the youth department at Historic Greater El Bethel Baptist Church. In addition, Shaun has volunteered as a member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Theater Committee for many years.

Lou Nell Sims was born in Dallas, Texas and grew up in the Tenth Street Historic District. Her father Noble Sims, Sr. and grandparents Nelvin and Lobie Washington Sims owned and operated the Sims Cleaner and Tailor, which for many years was a staple of the neighborhood’s business community. Lou Nell is a member of the Greater El Bethel Baptist Church and a practicing artist, having participated in numerous shows in the Dallas area. She received her degree from Prairie View A& M University in Prairie View, TX.

A former resident of the Tenth Street Historic District, Alphonso Smith's roots in the neighborhood date back several generations. Alphonso’s commitment to the community continued throughout his life through his work with in the 1990s with the Tenth Street Community Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that worked towards neighborhood revitalization.

Alicia Yvette Holmes aka Iv Amenti studied Theater Arts at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her love for the arts and community empowerment led her to become an Ameri-Corps member which provided her the fundamental tools for community engagement. From that experience Iv began writing and facilitating various arts-in-education programs for some of Dallas’ most elite community organizations. Her civic pursuits also led to the awarding of various major grants including HUD Neighborhood Networks Grant, Millineal Return on Investment Grant, City of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs Community Arts Program, and project management with AARP/LifeTuner College Outreach. In 2011 through a grant made possible by  Iv started her own non-profit organization, C.O.R.E Elements Inc. whose mission is to strengthen the voices and self-determination of youth and adults through community advocacy utilizing arts, culture, leadership, and service. She is also lead acting coach for Soul Children's Theater, the resident theater company at the South Dallas Cultural Center. You can find Iv either on stage or in the heart of  Dallas' communities merging the worlds of art and activism!

Melody Bell was born 1 of eleven children in West Dallas. The family moved when she was 3 years old to Oak Cliff. Melody graduated from Skyline High School in Fashion Design. She has a B.S. Degree in Generic Special Education from E.T.S.U., with 10 years of public school teaching and Cultural Arts Chairperson. Remembering “Family Stories” Melody became a Griot (gree-o)-oral historian, storyteller, musician, poet and singer. Since 1996 Melody is a full-time Griot doing performances all over N. Texas. She has been featured on Channel 8 “Family First”, Good Morning Texas, Fox 4 “Insights”, and many newspapers articles especially Dallas Morning Newspaper “Kid Beat”. Junior Players, Big Thought and the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs (CAP) is some of the organizations she does performances and workshops. Melody’s stories will inspire, uplift and encourage audiences. She is mother of 2 sons Ishmael & Isaac.

Christopher Blay earned a BFA in studio art in 2003 from Texas Christian University. In the years since then he has had over two dozen exhibits, won several awards, and has worked with artists and galleries locally. His work has been featured on KERA channel 13, Glasstire, and magazines including the TCU Magazine, 360 West, The Collegian, D Magazine, Fort Worth Star Telegram, and Fort Worth Weekly. In the past 10 years he has also served on the Exhibition panels of several community organizations and institutions. He has received grants from the Arts Council of Northeast Tarrant County for community projects, and has served as a teaching artist in most of the area museums. In addition to his work as a full time artist he also works at TCC Southeast Campus as Curator of the Art Corridor Galleries, where he continues to work with artists.

Currently based in Texas, Tammy Gomez is a literary performer and playwright/director. As award-winning poet (Best Poet of Austin, Austin Chronicle, 1997), she has performed throughout the U.S., and in Mexico and Nepal. Her poems and essays have been anthologized widely, including in the Brooklyn Review, the Yellow Medicine Review, and Bicycle Love (Breakaway Books, 2004). She has lived in the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado, completed an introductory Permaculture Design course, and trekked up to see Mt. Everest in Nepal in 1999--all of which have shown her ways of living conscientiously on the earth. She is an urban gardener who has not owned a car in five years, and bicycles everywhere.

Erika Huddleston is a designer and artist. She recently completed a solo show in Dallas this fall with thirteen oil paintings and drawings exploring the Trinity River stormwater infrastructure system as "urban wilderness". This new body of work follows a research project begun at the University of Texas at Austin where she received her Masters of Landscape Architecture. A show in fall 2012 at Flatbed Press Gallery O2 in Austin was "Landscape Recordings: Shoal Creek Greenbelt". She is currently restoring a 1936 house by prominent Dallas architect, Charles Dilbeck. Immersed in double hung windows, lead paint, old growth pine, and daunting insulation options, she is documenting the process with the hope to write a neighborhood conservation template.

Linda Jones is an old school journalist, new media professional, and self-described ‘spoken notes’ artist.  She believes in promoting diversity through advocacy and the arts and has a penchant for writing about the lifestyle and culture of people of African descent.   Based in Frisco, Linda owns ManeLock Communications, a professional writing and media consulting service, and holds certifications in social media and grief recovery.   As an award winning  newspaper reporter and freelance contributor to publications such as AOL News, USA Today, Detroit News, People and Dallas Morning News, Linda was in her element when pursuing stories in underserved communities and producing articles from the global village.  She has written about Jamaican Rastafarians, Trinidadian Calypsonians, Afro Germans in East Berlin, Black Hebrews in Israel, Afro Cubans in Havana and Haitian residents, refugees and would-be revolutionaries.   She covered the historic South Africa nonracial elections in 1994.  Linda was based in Ghana as a  young summer  volunteer   for Operation Crossroads Africa.   Linda is founder of A Nappy Hair Affair, and through writing, performing, events and workshops she has campaigned to change negative perceptions about natural and African-inspired hairstyles and has promoted self-appreciation.

[pictured clockwise from top left:Lauren Cadieux, Eddie Fortuna, Abby Kipp, Jason Spradling]Rabbleworkshop is a group of artists and designers with a diverse set of experiences designing, interacting with, and producing installations and engaging environments with unique communities. Each of the individual designers has engaged in mobilizing individuals and groups to participate in the design and production of collective art and experiences. As a group, we have engaged with people in all levels of the creative process, from conception, fundraising, social media and advertising, to production
 We have found a healthy dose of humor, breaking bread together, simply listening to people and providing them with the tools to express their own artistic explorations provide the most direct and genuine methods of engaging people. Our strength lies in creating works of art that engage others, even while using materials that are the leftovers, the discarded, the free, and even the unexpected. We create environments where touch, light, color, and sound reflect the past while imagining the potential of the future. Our art can be made out of almost anything and practically nothing.

The Projects

The Ark on Noah StreetStory CornersShow Hill Biz ParkDear HouseGhost Bridges
The Ark - March 1
(Christopher Blay)
We’re building an ark in the Tenth Street Historic District. Inspired by Noah Street, named for Noah Penn, one of the neighborhood’s pioneers and a founder of Greater El Bethel Baptist Church, the Ark will consist of a superstructure of reclaimed and salvaged materials from the neighborhood built around a 20-foot shipping container and displayed at 1127 E 10th St (at the corner of Noah St and Cliff St behind Greater El Bethel Baptist Church). During a festival commemorating the Ark, its interior will be transformed into a gallery as collages of family and institutional narratives created by local community members are brought in a processional culminating at the Ark. Following the festival, the Ark will remain on display and when disassembled, will be stored within the container to be resurrected as part of a yearly ritual. The metaphor of the Ark represents the neighborhood and its families and institutions as a vessel for culture and memory and its annual resurrection as a means for celebrating the place’s journey across the years.
Story Corners- April 12
(Linda Jones, Iv Amenti, Rabble Workshop, Erika Huddleston, Melody Bell)
In many of America’s inner cities, there are street corners and vacant lots, porch steps and ‘elder’ trees that have long served as informal gathering places for sharing stories, playing games, socializing and entertaining among residents. But those locations, especially in neighborhoods that suffer from blight and neglect, have also become breeding grounds for drug dealing, prostitution and other criminal activities. In an effort to reclaim the street corner as a site for gathering, Story Corners will work with local residents to record, rehearse and perform their own stories to be shared in a series of performances on street corners throughout the Tenth Street Historic District. In addition, design interventions will explore how these corners can be enhanced to foster the activities for which the corner gained cultural significance.
Show Hill Biz Park- June 21
(Iv Amenti, Tammy Gomez, Benny Walker)
The Tenth Street Historic District was once a self-sufficient place, with a thriving micro-economy that supplied the community with jobs and goods. An intersection between art and economic development, the Show Hill Biz Park will activate Show Hill, a streetcar stop and important retail site at 1401 E 8th Street, now vacant, with a pop-up market. The market will feature vendors selling locally crafted goods. Vendors will complete a certification program designed to train them to develop a small business model that will enable them to successfully bring their goods to market. In addition, the Show Hill Biz Park will feature musical and sculptural tributes to the neighborhood’s cultural history. Show Hill Biz Park reinvigorates the latent economic potential of the neighborhood, exploring how local talent can demonstrate the potential for different kinds of commercial and cultural activity in the Tenth Street Historic District.
Dear House- May 19 - 20
(Tammy Gomez, Linda Jones, Christopher Blay)
Dear House aims to explore vacancy as a state, not an end, for structures, and how a myriad of actions can transform how we understand and engage with vacant structures. Drawing on metamorphosis as a metaphorical and literal inspiration for the project, 1212 E. 9th Street will undergo a series of changes- windows will be replaced and given artistic treatment and the house lit from the inside; an over-sized mailbox will receive art-mail from around the world, demonstrating the house is a cared-about place, and local residents will create butterfly sculptures from rocks on the roof of the house, positively transforming signs of past engagement and activity there. Together, these activations will challenge the status quo of how vacant structures are cared for, encourage dialogue and expression with a wide audience about abandoned and vacant spaces, and empower the community to take ownership of beautifying the house, all while making the surrounding area safer and more vibrant.
Ghost Bridges- June 20 - June 29
(Rabble Workshop, Erika Huddleston)
The block in the Tenth Street Historic District bounded by I-35, Tenth Street, Clarendon Drive and Betterton Circle is the center of the neighborhood, but behaves as an obstacle, not a seam. A branch of Cedar Creek, now dry, cuts through it, flanked by trees and sloping topography. Paths worn into the ground indicate the desire for a way to traverse this block where currently no roads or trails exist. The lost creek, the footbridges that once crossed it, and a platted street that has only ever existed on paper form the inspiration for Ghost Bridges, an exploration through light, sound, and built forms of how this block is shaped and in turn shapes the neighborhood, and how a series of connected installations reveal the relationships between the street, the creek, and the house, and how we connect and move between these spaces.
Tenth Street Info

Founded in the 1870’s by freed-slaves on Hord’s Ridge, the Tenth Street Historic District developed into a thriving neighborhood of businesses, families and churches. Covering an area of 85 acres with 358 subdivided lots this was a vibrant neighborhood for decades. Today, nearly 150 parcels and many houses are vacant making the Tenth Street Historic District unlike any other historic district in the city of Dallas. Despite these challenges, the neighborhood is striving to revive its identity and retain its heritage in the face of demolition and disinvestment.

View Tenth Street Historic District in a larger map
The Initiative

Activating Vacancy will explore how design and art can re-imagine the forgotten or neglected spaces in the Tenth Street community as part of a dialogue about what the neighborhood is, was, and could be. Artists and designers will be commissioned by bcWORKSHOP to immerse themselves in the community, working collaboratively with residents and stakeholders to develop and execute six projects. Together, these works will challenge common public perceptions of vacancy in Tenth Street and critically consider historic preservation, among other urban conditions, as they relate to the neighborhood.

The Initiative begins Fall 2013 and is produced and curated by bcWORKSHOP, a Dallas-based community design center, in partnership with the Dallas CityDesign Studio who will be developing a policy framework and guide for future development for the historic district. Based on this partnership, Activating Vacancy will be part of a unique environment where art can influence, not respond to, policy creation.

bcWORKSHOP and the CityDesign Studio have been working with the Tenth Street community for the past eighteen months, forming relationships with a cadre of active and dedicated residents and stakeholders while researching the areas history, mapping conditions, and discussing dreams for the future.

Activating Vacancy is made possible through generous funding by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Trinity Trust Foundation, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation and local arts patrons.

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