Black & Blue: A Cultural Oasis in the Hills, Nasher XChange, Entry Eight of Ten

Previously in the Nasher XChange series:

  1. Flock in Space, Nasher XChange, Entry One of Ten
  2. X , Nasher XChange, Entry Two of Ten
  3. Fountainhead , Nasher XChange, Entry Three of Ten
  4. Moore to the Point, Nasher XChange, Entry Four of Ten
  5. Buried House, Nasher XChange, Entry Five of Ten
  6. dear sunset, Nasher XChange, Entry Six of Ten
  7. Music (Everything I know I learned the day my son was born), Nasher XChange, Entry Seven of Ten

I had a cycling route picked out from the Audubon Center to Paul Quinn College, where the next Nasher XChange installation was located. It involved a trail through the Great Trinity Forest across the Trinity River. I was a little nervous about that – the green lines were clear enough on the Google Maps Cycling Layer, but I wasn’t sure the trails were finished or even if they went exactly where the map said they did. Documentation on trails when they are finished is light and unreliable and I was going to be alone and a long way from home.

…Shouldn’t have worried – the route through the forest was a beautiful ride. New, smooth, level trail, gentle winding, and that feeling that, in only a few feet, you have left a giant city for some remote wooded wilderness. Of my entire ride that day, this is the part I will return to. There are more trails under construction – hopefully there will eventually be a complete complex that can be used for recreation and transportation.

The forest was, of course bare, the sky leaden and gray – but the promise of green spring isn’t very far away. There will be a narrow sliver of time between when the vegetation comes alive yet before the killer summer heat slams home. I’ll have to plan a trip in that window – maybe a picnic somewhere. On this day I had it all to myself and it’s hard to imagine other people down in that isolated forest – but maybe someday.

As I emerged from the trail system onto Simpson Stewart Road I began to see some familiar landmarks. I was surprised at how far south I had ridden. Off to the side was an incongruous mountain rising from the tabletop flat river bottom lands – a treeless smooth, undulating highland beginning to cast a long shadow over the winter afternoon. This is the McCommas Bluff Landfill – a gigantic pile used to dispose of the city’s detritus – a massive hidden cache of flotsam and jetsam.

Then I rode past a building, the city’s Eco Park structure. I had been there several times for meetings or educational events – and had always looked at the abandoned roads stretching out into the floodplain and wondered about riding a bike there. I was surprised to find myself coming the other way.

At that point I arrived back into civilization… and road traffic. There was a nasty steep hill leading up to the entrance to Paul Quinn College and the next stop on the Nasher XChange tour – Vicki Meek’s Black & Blue: Cultural Oasis in the Hills. The exhibition is a series of artworks posted around as signs that illustrate the history of Bishop College – a historic educational institution that sat on the site.

I was exhausted from the hill climb and running late, so I wasn’t able to take the time or energy to find all of the exhibit or to give it proper thrift – but I could feel the history, the promise, and the difficulties that an institution like Bishop College offers or offered and faces or faced.

I still had miles to go, another XChange site to visit – and after that a train station to find and two trains to take home. I was getting tired and slowing down more and more. Nothing to do but keep pedaling.

Vicki Meek, Black & Blue: A Cultural Oasis in the Hills

Vicki Meek, Black & Blue: A Cultural Oasis in the Hills

Vicki Meek, Black & Blue: A Cultural Oasis in the Hills

Vicki Meek, Black & Blue: A Cultural Oasis in the Hills

From the Nasher Website:

DALLAS, Texas (August 16, 2013) – The Nasher Sculpture Center is pleased to reveal the plans for a newly commissioned work by artist Vicki Meek that will be located on the campus of Paul Quinn College. The work is one of ten commissions for the Nasher’s 10th anniversary, city-wide exhibition Nasher XChange, which will be on view October 19, 2013 through February 16, 2014.

Entitled Black & Blue, Cultural Oasis in the Hills, Vicki Meek plans to celebrate Bishop College’s role in the intellectual and cultural life of Dallas through a series of historical markers commemorating important people and moments from the college, and which will also include an interactive web component and video interviews. Bishop College was a historically black college founded in Marshall, Texas in 1881 that moved to southern Dallas in 1961 and closed in 1988. The campus is now occupied by Paul Quinn College.

To develop her project, Vicki Meek is working with former Bishop College faculty and alumni, and members of the Highland Hills and Singing Hills neighborhoods around the school. Bishop College played a significant role in the development of academic and cultural life in Dallas, giving birth to important cultural institutions such as the African American Museum and the Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

She describes the motivation behind her work as a desire, “to reclaim African American history, restore our collective memory and illuminate critical issues affecting the Black community through visual communication.”

Meek, a native of Philadelphia, PA, is a nationally-recognized artist residing in Dallas, Texas. Trained as a sculptor, she has focused on installation art for the past 25 years that asks for direct engagement from the viewer in an effort to foster dialogue on often difficult subject matter. Meek’s work is in the permanent collections of the African American Museum in Dallas, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, Connecticut. She was awarded three public art commissions with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Art Program and was co-project artist on the largest public art project in Dallas, the Dallas Convention Center Public Art Project. In addition, Meek is an independent curator and writes cultural criticism for her blog, Art & Racenotes. Meek is currently the Manager of the South Dallas Cultural Center and serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for National Performance Network.