By Raven Jordan

Dallas artist, curator and activist Vicki Meek will highlight the Tenth Street Historic District Freedman’s Town in her next public project for the Nasher Sculpture Center.

Tenth Street Historic District, which is located in Oak Cliff, is one of the few remaining Freedman’s Towns in the country. The town was a thriving, self-sufficient community until the construction of I-35 destroyed some of the historic landmarks.

Through the project, Urban Historical Reclamation and Recognition, Meek will collaborate with other artists, members from the Tenth Street community and historians to bring attention to the community through art. 

The community has faced some gentrification, and Meek wanted to particularly address that issue first.

“That’s why I chose that particular community to highlight in this first phase of the project. I know some things about it because I worked very closely with Mamie McKnight — Knight was the founder of Black Dallas Remembered. She’s from that community, and she did a lot of research on it while she was putting together the organization, so I’ve had a knowledge of the origin of the neighborhood for a long time.”

Texas Historical Commission Marker for theTenth Street Historic District Freedman’s Town in front of N.W. Harllee Early Childcare Center, established in 1928. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Zizzo, Nasher Sculpture Center

Meek will be working alongside three other artists she’s hand selected: Christian Vazquez, Johnathan Norton and Ángel Faz. She calls them her mentees.

Though the conception of the project is still in its early stages, it will touch on performance, installation and exhibition work. So, just how will this public project look? It hasn’t been set in stone yet, but it could take on many forms, such as a play, film, murals or other mediums.

The community engagement process, getting the stories of the people, will begin in January. Starting with the elders, the team will gather firsthand information from them and go from there.

”We do hope that we can put a spotlight on this community so that perhaps other people who have some influence can pay attention and come up with some solutions to not having people being pushed out of the neighborhood simply because there’s some changes happening from a developer standpoint.”

The Nasher Sculpture Center and Meeks have been in collaboration since 2013, first with Black & Blue: Cultural Oasis in the Hills in 2013. It was featured as part of the Nasher’s 10th anniversary, her Nasher XChange, a public art project. Then, in 2021, she exhibited Stony the Road WeTrod.

Since Meek established Urban Historical Reclamation and Recognition, and as a Nasher Fellow, she will be able to advise on the selection process for any subsequent fellows following the pilot term.