Pencil On Paper Gallery selected for Fort Worth Art Fair. Here are the works of Katie McKay Jones and Emanuel Gillespie.

This April is the 10th annual celebration of Dallas Arts Month and we wanted to feature a couple highlights from our favorites in the Black arts scene of DFW.

According to VisitDallas, the big D is home to the nation’s largest urban arts district. As of today, the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs operates 7 of the 19 facilities dedicated to a wide variety of arts and cultural programs that are offered for citizens and visitors. Some of these city-managed locations are the South Dallas Cultural Arts Center, the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and Bath House Cultural Center. Others like the African American Museum and Fair Park Music Hall are managed through private/public partnerships with nonprofit cultural organizations. Many Black owned entities dedicated to Black arts culture took advantage of the Dallas Arts Month excitement sweeping through the metroplex. With hundreds of private and sold-out events in the DFW, we have a few highlights from this year’s Black arts contributors.

Week 1

Forest Theatre on Martin Luther King Blvd. presents new mural done by local artist, Victoria Danne Simmons. The mural is an image of Dr. Valerie Bennett Gillespie, co-owner of Pencil On Paper Gallery in Dallas, Victoria Meek who is a nationally recognized artist, curator, writer, organizer, arts advocate and 2021 Texas Artist of the Year and Erykah Badu, who is a South Dallas native and indisputably the Queen of Neo Soul music. Victoria posted on her Instagram, “I met so many amazing people, that reinforced what I was already thinking. To never give up, that God always has his hand on you and nothing is ever too hard to overcome.”

Mural at Forest Theatre in South Dallas by Dallas artist Victoria Danne Simmons of her heros, Dr. Valerie Bennett Gillespie, Vicki Meek and Erykah Badu. Photo credit: Dallas Weekly

April 8th the Nasher Sculptuer Center partied for the preview of “Afro Mingei” by Chicago-based artist, Theaster Gates. “Afro Mengei is a convivial gathering space exploring the intersection of Japanese and African American philosophy, aesthetic modes and cultural classifications.” You have until April 29th to get to the Nasher Sculpture Center and check out this special exhibit.

Week 2

The African American Museum presents Dallas native, Frank Frazier Retrospective: The Visionary. The Advocate. The exhibition charts the 60-year career of one of America’s most influential modern artists, and follows his epic career as he changes artistic styles and explores mixed media. This exhibit was installed by Emanuel Gillespie of Pencil On Paper Gallery and to celebrate the AAMD held a private VIP reception on April 7th with a special guest appearance by Public Enemy’s Chuck D. The exhibit will be on display April 7th through June 27th.

Week 3

Officially Dallas Arts Week and this was a momentous one for those in the Dallas arts scene. DW partnered with the founder of Todo Sababa, Aaron Zilbermann and hosted a Passover ceremony to discuss the history and future of the Black and Jewish communities of Dallas. The ceremony included a short play written by Zilbermann based on The 1619 Project initiative, which he recently showed this past February at the Bishop Arts Theatre.

Dallas Weekly and Todo Sababa founder Aaron Zilbermann create conversation inspired by 1619 Project initative. Photo credit: Dallas Weekly

The African American Museum of Dallas hosted another VIP reception for a new exhibit brought to Dallas by Nando’s. The #SeeOurFuture exhibit is the first for Nando’s, who happens to be one of the largest collectors of contemporary Southern African art in the world. Additionally, the exhibition features 90 pieces from more than 60 emerging, mid-career and established artists. This exhibit was curated by Laurie Ann Farrell who has an illustrious career featuring South African artists. You can see this exhibit at the AAMD from April 20th through August 13th.

VIP Reception for “If You Look Hard Enough, You Can See Our Future” by Nandos at the African American Museum of Dallas

The Fort Worth Art Fair kicked off April 20th – 23rd and featured six gallery’s collections. Of the six, Pencil on Paper Gallery was the only Black owned and Dallas based gallery at this year’s event. Dallas Art Fair kicked off it’s annual celebration during the exact same time, featuring 90 galleries from across the globe at the Arts District’s Fashion Industry Gallery. On April 21st the Nasher Sculpture Center hosted a conversation with Vanity Fair’s Nate Freeman and Dallas-based artist Evita Tezeno. Tezeno is the recipient of the 2023 Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and the Elizabeth Catlett Award for The New Power Generation. Her work is included in the permanent collection of the African American Museum of Dallas and Dallas Museum of Art. You can also see her work at “Talk of the Town” a pop-up at NorthPark Centre until April 30th. That same night, Daisha Board Gallery hosted a VIP and press event to celebrate the opening of it’s second location in downtown Dallas, next to the Joule Hotel on Main street . The new location features works from renowned artists such as Jeremy Biggers, Sam Lao, Jennifer Monet Crowley, Nii Narku Thompson and YNG. The Joule Hotel also participated in Dallas Arts Week by featuring works from the gallery Moran Moran in their hotel’s lobby. One could easily say the streets were buzzing with artists and art enthusiasts of all backgrounds during Dallas Arts week.

Dallas artists Jeremy Biggers and his wife, artist Sam Lao in front of their pieces at the Daisha Board Gallery downtown opening reception. Photo credit: K&S Photography Instagram @kandsphoto

Week 4

The final week of April proves to keep that same energy with a new exhibit “I Know It Was The Blood” at the Dallas Museum of Art by Dallas native Ja’Tovia Gary on April 23rd. Additionally, a Freedom Day panel and celebration on April 26th at the African American Museum of Dallas moderated by Anne Bothwell and joined by panelists Daisha Board of Daisha Board Gallery, Director of Cultral Arts for the City of Dallas, Martine Elyse Phillipe, Anastasia Pather, Vivien Kohler and Clive Van Der Berg.

South African artwork exhibit at the African American Museum of Dallas by Nando’s Art Collection. Photo credit: Dallas Weekly

Art is an important vehicle to create conversation, allows cultural exchange and social critique. The U.S. Embassy stated in 2021 that “Black artists have always been an essential part of American culture.” Although there still much work to be done with Black representation from certain entities in the metroplex, across the DFW this entire month artists and art supporters came together – from across the globe – to celebrate. And this year’s Dallas Arts month certainly proves that the Black arts influence is alive, growing and undeniable.

Jess Washington is the CEO and Director of Finance for the Dallas Weekly. Her job is to oversee company operations, develop strategic relationships both in the community and for marketing service partnerships.