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Artists and Community Pull Together at the Creative Arts Center of Dallas

By S. Mathur

Since its founding fifty years ago, the Creative Arts Center of Dallas has pursued its mission to nurture "a community where people discover, develop and express their artistic vision." With its innovative teaching artists program, the Center brings together artists and community in North Texas together in a very tangible way.

CAC was founded by artists and it shows. Executive Director Diana Pollak says that "CAC is a 50-year-old nonprofit art school and community art center. It was founded by Octavio Medellin, a renown Mexican-American artist who had taught at the Dallas Museum of Art for 21 years when it was located in Fair Park. We were originally located in western landscape painter Frank Reaugh's studio in Oak Cliff and moved to the east Dallas location in 1990. To this day there is really nothing on the level of the Creative Arts Center of Dallas offering more than 500 classes and workshops a year."

The classes are taught by artists and include: books and paper arts, clay, ceramics, metal, glassworks, drawing, painting, creative writing and stone carving. The Galleries also show work by local artists and groups, Pollak says: "We rotate department shows exhibiting the work of our teaching artists and students and often showcase the work of groups such as The Bridge, Dallas' largest homeless service center; the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts who study figure drawing year-round at CAC; and C.C. Young, a retirement community located near White Rock Lake." Other non-profits with an arts program can also request to have their work featured.

The programs also encompass the practical, combing art with job training, as in the Camp MetalHead Program, which is "a summer program that combines job skills training and arts instruction for at-risk and underserved teens in welding and small metals." To help artists grow in the community, Pollak says, "We have a new professional development series that is free for members and topics include DIY Website, Gallery Protocol and Social Media for Artists."

The community has been very supportive of the CAC mission, starting with the Mayor. Pollak says that "Our tagline is: CreateArt+Build Community and that's exactly what happens here. When Mayor Mike Rawlings visiting the school a couple of years ago, he said "CAC is a place for the citizen artist". He gets it." CAC is known for its collaborations with other arts groups and social service organizations in the area.

These collaborative activities often take the form of fundraising for local charities, explains Pollak: "We are working with many artists several local community groups to produce artist-designed ceramics plates for our upcoming Blue Plate Special on April 30th, the signature fundraising event for our 50th anniversary in 2016. We also host events for the community to produce ceramic bowls for Empty Bowls, a yearly fundraiser for the North Texas Food Bank."

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