D Magazine: How Community Colleges are changing the Dallas Art Scene

The schools may be small, but they’re taking risks and creating galleries for alternative art and artist interaction.

RyderRichards by Sam Fleischman

If you had walked into Richland College’s Brazos Gallery on the evening of September 3, 2010, you would not have seen a single painting on a wall, sculpture on a pedestal, or print in a frame. Instead, you would have seen a strange, machine-like object in the center of the room, flashing lights and laser projections. The piece, Personal Victories, by artist Richie Budd, wasn’t exactly something you would find in the galleries in the Design District. It was a multimedia experience, the kind of art spectacle that you imagine confronting in a gallery in London’s Tate Modern or at a special installation at Mass MoMA. But was it art? It felt more like a performance than object.

Richland College gallery coordinator Ryder Richards got the same sort of puzzlement from the art department administration when he proposed hosting the exhibition of Budd’s work. “They said, ‘Well, do you think it is art?’ ” Richards says. “And I said, ‘Oh yeah.’ And they said, ‘Okay, let’s go for it.’ ”

The attitude reflects one of Richland College’s guiding principals: “Responsible risk taking.” As an academic institution, Richland has the luxury of remaining somewhat independent of commercial trends and fashions, of pushing boundaries. But in the context of the Dallas art scene, Richland’s approach to its on-campus gallery space means so much more. Under Richards’ guidance, Richland joins a handful of other schools—such as Brookhaven College and Tarrant County College—that use their on-campus galleries to fill a void in the local art scene for alternative spaces, where emerging and established artists can create museum-style work, mount noncommercial exhibitions, or explore off-the-beaten-path projects.

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Written by Peter Simek_   peter.simek@dmagazine.com.