News and Features

Art, Money and Labor at CentralTrak

CentralTrak2UTD’s Central Trak on Exposition, a block from Fair Park

Whenever a painting sells for millions of dollars, there’s talk of art and money. But a group of North Texas artists will be talking about artists not making money – and how they might. KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports on an unusual exhibition.

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The exhibition opening Saturday at CentralTrak is called The NON-PROFIT Margin – because most artists, whether they’re actors, painters or singers, don’t make that much profit.

kate sheerin3Kate Sheerin (right) is the director of CentralTrak, a gallery and artists’ residency in a former post office near Fair Park. It’s part of the University of Texas at Dallas arts program. That’s one reason, Sheerin says, she was interested in exploring the issues surrounding the selling of art and artists marketing themselves. UTD graduates art students – looking to make a living with their art, when the majority never will.

SHEERIN: “Obviously, there are some artists that can make a living. But you know what? I lived in New York and worked at a very established gallery and with artists who were selling $80,000 paintings. And they still had a day job.”

But Sheerin says the purpose of The NON-PROFIT Margin and its related talks is not to complain about how low-paying art is.

SHEERIN: “It’s to really show artists solutions that they have for securing greater autonomy for themselves. Instead of just, ‘Why do I not have a gallery and why does nobody buy my art?’ someone could say, ‘You know, I could do that with my practice.’”

Some works in the show still treat art simply as merchandise to be sold. But the artists find novel ways, as investment bankers say, to ‘monetize’ their works.

In 1924, artist Marcel Duchamp jokingly printed his own Monaco bonds (left) – to raise money so he could play roulette in Monte Carlo. The bonds that Irish artist Gary Farrelly is issuing are different. He’s been printing Kunstbonds (“art bonds), but these, naturally, will be “Tex Bonds.” But they can only be redeemed to buy Farrelly’s other artworks. And he’s more systematic with the whole bond idea than Duchamp was.

SHEERIN: “Oh yes, I mean, he even has his own rating, and of course, he gives himself a Triple A rating [laughs].”

UTD art professors Thomas Riccio and Frank Dufour have built a kind of memory machine. Visitors sit in it and can access video and audio clips. But, Sheerin says —

SHEERIN: “It’s coin-operated. You pay to play — like a ride.”

And then there’ll be a one-night only repeat performance of artist Shelby Cunningham’s “trunk show” with the Oh 6 Collective

SHEERIN: “In 2006, she hosted a trunk show where she got a bunch of her friends together in a parking lot. They were selling works out of the trunks of their cars.”

But the entire CentralTrak project isn’t solely about ingenious or ironic looks at selling art and promoting artists. It actually began with a newspaper, and with Carolyn Sortor (below), a North Texas artist.

Sortor herself makes her living as a real estate lawyer.

SORTOR: “I haven’t really managed to get paid much for my artistic efforts. So, I don’t know, maybe I’m a poster child? [laughs].”

Sortor learned about Art Work, a one-time-only newspaper put out by a Chicago group, Temporary Services. Art Work features essays about the economics of art, the history of unions for artists. Art Work called for a national conversation on these issues. Panels, exhibitions and spaghetti dinner theater performances have been held around the country.

Given the current economy, Sortor thought it was time local artists looked at their own practices, looked at the political forces that shape those practices. She turned to Sheerin and CentralTrak.

So in addition to the gallery exhibition, CentralTrak will host readings. And it will co-host a symposium with Southern Methodist University art professors Michael Corris and Noah Simblist. It’s part of Art Work‘s national conversation about art, labor and economics.

Sortor herself is putting up informative charts and videos at CentralTrak. The questions, she says, are about work and pay as much as they’re about art.

SORTOR: “There’s this tension over defining art as labor that’s just as hard as other kinds of work. But you know, part of the reason this is so timely is that the middle class in general isn’t getting paid very well for anything we’re doing.”

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Ticket Giveaway: Elixir of Love, Fort Worth Opera

Fort Worth Opera’s annual festival kicks off this weekend and we have a pair of tickets to Sunday’s matinee performance of The Elixir of Love.

This is a great comic opera about a guy named Nemorino whose in love with a gal named Adina, but can’t find the guts to tell her.  Meanwhile, Belcore asks Adina – a popular girl – to marry him.  Poor Nemorino tries to use a “love potion,” which really is just cheap wine gussied up, to win Adina. Perhaps this sounds familiar. Perhaps it sounds like Friday night.   Needless to say, just like in life, things get a little complicated before they’re resolved.

These are orchestra seats (nice!) at Bass Hall and go to the first to e-mail me at

I’ll be introducing the pre-performance talk at 1, so if you win – or if you’re going anyway – please stop by and say hello.

UPDATE: Tickets are gone!  But check back next week….

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Tonight on KERA: Paul Rusesabagina on The Writers Studio

Rusesabagina2 Smaller Credit Kevin Gass

Paul Resesabagina. Photo credit: Kevin Gass

Well, the Writers Studio is in its third week, and tonight’s guest is truly inspiring:  Paul Rusesabagina, the man whose story inspired the film Hotel Rwanda. Show time is 8 p.m.

From the program notes:

Thirteen years ago, as the country of Rwanda descended into madness, one man made a promise to protect the family he loved—and ended up finding the courage to save over 1200 people. Over the course of 100 days, almost one million people were killed in Rwanda. Hotel Rwanda, nominated for three Academy Awards, tells the inspiring story of real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina, who is portrayed in the film by Don Cheadle, a hotel manager in Rwanda who courageously sheltered over a thousand refugees from certain death. His autobiography, An Ordinary Man, delves into Rusesabagina’s personal journey, which has since led him around the world with his message of hope, peace and “never again.”

The Writers Studio is produced by Writers Garrett and presented on KERA by Art&Seek. Let us know what you think of the program. We’ll continue next week with Sigrid Nunez (The Last of Her Kind, A Feather on the Breath of God)

UPDATE: Got a note this a.m. from Kitty Kurth, who works with Paul and informs us of his Texas connections and also what he’s been up to lately:

“Thought you might want a couple of updates on what he has been doing since the interview was taped. Paul is the founder and president of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, which is working to get an internationally sanctioned Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Rwanda and the region in order to create sustainable peace. Paul splits his time between Brussels, Belgium and San Antonio, Texas.”

Kitty Kurth, for the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation.

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Art&Seek Q&A: Kimbell H.S. Art Teacher Julia Hogue-Smith

Kimball HS 007

Julia Hogue-Smith with students Brenda Rodriguez (center) and Ashley Durham.

Art teacher Julia Hogue-Smith and her students from Oak Cliff’s Kimball High School are the stars of “Masks from Our Hearts of Africa” at the South Dallas Cultural Center. The project is part of National Youth Art Month and offers a glimpse into Africa and layers of interpretations. Students chose an African country at random and were charged with researching their country and creating an African mask inspired by the information they gathered. Hogue-Smith and two of her 11th grade students, Ashley Durham and Brenda Rodriguez, shared some of their thoughts and time with me for this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:

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Thursday Morning Roundup

MUSIC BITS: KXT 91.7 has posted video of recent in-studio appearances by the Burning Hotels and the Beaten Sea on the station’s YouTube channel … Fort Worth’s Titanmoon is rocking out for the greater global good. ( … Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat” – a.k.a. the song she’s singing in her famous video from earlier this year – has made the cut for the Sex and the City 2 soundtrack. ( …  Badu also talks to Texas Monthly about growing up in South Dallas. ( … Take a listen to “Abigail,” a track from Paul Slavens’ new album, Alphabet Girls, Volume 1. (DC9 at Night)

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: Two years ago, Tammy Gomez found herself accidentally locked in a closet in her own home. For the next 52 hours, she panicked, cried and worked to get out. And she thought. “That’s how I perceive adversity,” the performance artist tells Fort Worth Weekly. “I tell myself, ‘If I survive this, it’s going to make an awesome poem or a book.’ ” In this case, the experience has turned into Saliendo Abierta (Emerging Open), a piece of performance art she will perform Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Rose Marine Theater in Fort Worth.

QUOTABLE: “I want to get our company to where people say, ‘I don’t know that opera, but everything I go to there has such great quality that I trust Fort Worth is going to put on a first-class show. Whether I love that style of music or not, I’m going to get great bang for my buck.’

- Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren K. Woods, in a discussion with about the company’s upcoming festival, which begins Saturday. The opera announced its 2011 festival lineup last night.

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Fort Worth Opera Announces Its 2011 Festival Lineup

HydrogenJukeboxRunning May 14-June 5 next year, the Fort Worth Opera Festival will feature the company’s first fully-staged work by Philip Glass, its first fully-staged opera by George Frideric Handel and its first “off-site” production presented in the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center (that would be the Glass piece — it’s a chamber opera).

That extra chamber opera also means that the 2011 festival will be made up of four shows, which is one more than this year’s festival but which the company has presented before. This is the schedule, with the shows performed in (somewhat) rotating repertory:

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, May 14-June 4

Verdi’s Il Trovatore, May 21-June 3

Handel’s Julius Caesar, for only two performances, May 28 and June 5

Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox, May 24-June 5

Notable items: Directed by John de los Santos, The Mikado will be set in contemporary Japan.

Hydrogen Jukebox (above) was written in 1990 for the Spoleto Festival in collaboration with Allen Ginsberg. It reflects his life, poetry and evolving Eastern philosophy — from his landmark Beat poem, Howl (from which the title is taken), through the anti-war movement, the sexual revolution and environmentalism, all the way up to the ’80s.  It’s a chamber work for ensemble and six soloists, who portray archetypal American characters (policeman, waitress, priest, etc.).

Handel’s Julius Caesar (officially, Julius Caesar in Egypt) centers around the Caesar-Cleopatra romance. The Fort Worth company will cast three male counter-tenors in the roles originally written for castrati, which includes the title role itself.  Commonly, some of the roles  have been filled by female singers, but increasingly, counter-tenors have been used. The Houston Grand Opera, for instance, did it that way for its 1920s Art Deco version, broadcast on NPR’s World of Opera in 2007.

Season tickets range from $29-$327 and go on sale for current 2010 subscribers on May 22 over the phone or at the Bass Hall box office.  The general public can start ordering tickets then, too, but they won’t get their seat assignments until Aug. 1.  Also, seating is limited for Hydrogen Jukebox, so they will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis to current subscribers. If any single tickets are still available, they’ll go on sale to the general public in 2011. The season announcement also appears on the opera’s Facebook page. And you can call 1-877-FWOPERA

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Ben Fountain to Be on 'This American Life' Saturday

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Categorized Under: Books, Culture, KERA Programming


Saw one of Texas’ best writers, Ben Fountain (author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara), at the station yesterday. Readers of his short stories (or my profile of him for the DMN years ago) know of Ben’s fascination with Haiti. He just came back from another visit recently — which he’s reporting on for this Saturday’s episode of This American Life, which is devoted to Haiti.

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Fort Worth's Heritage Plaza Now Officially Both Endangered and Historic

The downtown park, designed by Lawrence Halprin, has just been placed on the National Register of Historic Places – the announcement was made in D.C. today. This comes slightly over a year after it was also named one of Texas’ most endangered historic sites. The 112-acre park next to the Tarrant County Courthouse  has fallen into disrepair, has structural problems — which is why it’s currently fenced off and closed to the public as unsafe.

Heritage Plaza is considered one of the finest examples of modernist landscape design in the U.S. Charles Birnbaum is president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, which just held a regional symposium in Dallas-Fort Worth on post-war Texas landscape and which has an online oral history of Halprin. Birnbaum says the Heritage registration is an honor for Fort Worth. He also hopes it will energize fundraising to restore the park.

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Flickr Photo of the Week

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Categorized Under: Dance, Uncategorized, Visual Arts


Congratulations to Shri of Frisco, the winner of the Flickr Photo of the Week contest! You can check out more of his work at He follows last week’s winner, Jeff Adams.

If you would like to participate in the Flickr Photo of the Week contest, all you need to do is upload your photo to to our Flickr group page. It’s fine to submit a photo you took previous to the current week, but we are hoping that the contest will inspire you to go out and shoot something fantastic this week to share with Art&Seek users. If the picture you take involves a facet of the arts, even better. The contest week will run from Monday to Sunday, and the Art&Seek staff will pick a winner on Monday afternoon. We’ll notify the winner through FlickrMail (so be sure to check those inboxes) and ask you to fill out a short survey to tell us a little more about yourself and the photo you took. We’ll post the winners’ photo on Wednesday.

Now here’s a bit more from Shri

Title of photo: Alter Ego

Equipment: Canon 50D Lens 70-300 AV

Tell us more about your photo: The strong yet elegant pose of the free form dancer in the back ground and my little girl’s attempt to emulate her grace (she is doing a walk like an Egyptian pose) was hilarious. I thought given the post 3 o’ clock sun, Sepia would be the best colors to capture the moment.

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Charles Strouse, Broadway Composer of 'Superman,' Falls Ill Onstage

In Philadelphia Sunday to receive a lifetime achievement award, Charles Strouse — Tony Award-winning composer of Bye Bye Birdie, Annie and It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!, which is set for a major revival at the Dallas Theater Center next month — fell ill while being interviewed onstage at the Arts Bank, reports the Philadelphia Daily News.

Strouse received the Gershman Y’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award for Arts and Culture from Warren Hoffman, the Gershman’s director of arts and cultural programming. About 3:30 p.m., Strouse began “shaking” and looked “visibly sick, visibly ill,” said Donna Katz, spokeswoman for the Gershman Y.

Strouse was taken by ambulance to Pennsylvania Hospital, Katz said. He was reported to be in stable condition and was expected to return home to New York.

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