Nasher Public: Urban Historical Reclamation and Recognition will document and memorialize the Tenth Street Historic District Freedman’s Town in Oak Cliff, an urban neighborhood with past and present ties to the Black community. Structured as an artist think tank and led by Meek, artists, scholars, community members, and partners will research, document, and interpret the history of the Tenth Street area, highlighting the importance of including voices from these groups in the memorialization processes, particularly in places where redevelopment has endangered public historical memory. Collaborative and community-centered research and design will serve as a model and catalyst for cross-sector and cross-cultural collaborations between artists, arts institutions, and community organizations.
The research and public programming efforts will culminate in a capstone public art project—such as a performance, installation, or exhibition—based on the goals set by the collective, incorporating social history and public memory. Projects may include community-based historical research; photo, video, and archival documentation; pop-up exhibitions and/or installations; performances, plays, or stories; and/or artist-facilitated community gatherings. The project will be co-developed with partners and community members and may either have permanent physical manifestations or be ephemeral in nature.
This project establishes the Nasher Fellow in Urban Historical Reclamation and Recognition to act as curator, community facilitator, and lead investigator. Vicki Meek will serve as the inaugural Fellow and will advise on the selection process for any subsequent Fellows following the pilot term. She will also serve as a project consultant to provide support and advisory services in any future iterations.
The Fellow will assemble a collective of artists, historians, and partners to connect with local organizations and community members. Throughout the process, the collective will work directly with partner organizations and facilitate collaboration with residents, students, business owners, and other stakeholders to excavate and examine the past, present, and future of each community. The collective will communicate their work through artist-facilitated gatherings; photo, video, and archival documentation; and a culminating project such as an exhibition, installation, or performance.
To engage with the Tenth Street Historic District Freedman’s Town, Meek has identified the following collective members: Johnathan Norton, playwright; Christian Vazquez, filmmaker; Ángel Faz, social practice visual artist; and historian Dr. Marvin Dulaney, President of the Association for the Study of African American Life & History.
The Fellowship provides a pathway for sustainability by creating a model and methodology for future projects that does not hinge on any one individual artist or curator.
About Tenth Street Historic District Freedman’s Town
The Tenth Street Historic District Freedman’s Town is one of the only intact Freedman’s towns in the nation. The Oak Cliff town was settled by enslaved people in the mid-1800s, becoming a thriving, self-sufficient Freedman’s town by the end of the century with churches, a school, and many turn-of-the-century dwellings. Though the construction of I-35 and other city-led ordinances have resulted in significant demolition of the historic structures, many important landmarks remain, including Oak Cliff Cemetery, established 1846; Sunshine Elizabeth Chapel C.M.E. Church, 1911; Greater El Bethel Baptist Church, c. 1926; N.W. Harllee Elementary School (now N.W. Harllee Early Education Center), 1934; and a collection of residential architecture. In 1994 the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Meek chose to focus on this area, located in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, because its historical significance has not been met with adequate interest in preservation or memorialization. Many of the community elders are reaching advanced age and the demolition of historic structures has surged in recent years.
Nasher Public: Urban Historical Reclamation and Recognition will partner with and build on the decades-long work of the Tenth Street Resident Association and Remembering Black Dallas.
About Vicki Meek
Vicki Meek has exhibited widely and is in the permanent collections of the African American Museum Dallas, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She was awarded three public arts commissions with Dallas Area Rapid Transit Art Program, was co-artist on the Dallas Convention Center Public Art Project (the largest public art project in Dallas), and was one of ten artists in Nasher XChange, the Nasher Sculpture Center’s tenth anniversary public sculpture exhibition. In 2021, as a part of Nasher Public, Meek exhibited Stony the Road We Trod, a contemporary shrine dedicated to the Black community onsite in the Nasher Public Gallery. That same year she was awarded Texas Artist of the Year by Art League Houston. Meek resides in Dallas, where she is also an independent curator and writes cultural criticism.
Nasher Public: Urban Historical Reclamation and Recognition is made possible by leading support from the Sapphire Foundation and the Embrey Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by Humanities Texas and individual donors.