For decades, a seemingly innocuous metal plate that was screwed into a marble wall hung above a public drinking fountain in the Dallas County Records Building.
One day in 2003, it fell off.
A public outcry ensued as people learned what that metal plate was meant to cover up: traces of a Jim Crow "White Only" sign that was removed during desegregation.
The metal plate inadvertently preserved a memory that it was meant to help erase...
A Dallas Drinking Fountain Project is a novel public artwork in three parts for Dallas County.
The highlight of this ambitious work is the unveiling of Drinking Fountain #1, an interventionist and interactive new media monument.
A transformed, yet still functional, public drinking fountain at the Dallas County Records Building triggers a projection of digitally-altered newsreel footage of 1960s civil rights protests under the remains of the rediscovered Jim Crow sign. Visitors to the building unknowingly initiate this meditation on history, heroism, civic duty and social change as they attempt to sip water from the seemingly normal drinking fountain. Upon activation, the water flow is suspended for the duration of a 15-second video, allowing one to drink only after it ends. The sculpture is accessible to the public during normal operating hours of the building.
A Dallas Drinking Fountain Project utilizes the residue from the “White Only” sign to activate a public conversation in Dallas/Fort Worth on the historic Civil Rights Movement. The project wants to shine a bright light on efforts in DFW and by doing so join the larger U.S. movement that is currently examining contemporary public interactions that reveal the residue of racial segregation. The re-revealing of the Jim Crow sign becomes a poignant metaphor as racism and denial of civil rights continue to exist at the structural level in present society.
The unveiling of the monument this year, in cooperation with The Dallas County Commissioners Court, aligns with the 50th anniversary of many important actions that became The U.S. Civil Rights Movement and is one week prior to the city’s event that will honor of the memory of John F. Kennedy and the anniversary of his death in November 1963.
In Spring 2014, the second phase of the project presents a series of public programs in collaboration with community partners including The South Dallas Cultural Center, The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
“Brown bag” lunches on-site at the Records Building, targeted towards visitors and employees, aim to reactivate the civic space by providing a platform for dialogical exchange. Public programs off-site, at arts/humanities and community centers, will correspond with strategic dates in national and international history to examine multi-national/ethnic movements and struggles for human rights and their modern implications as well as discussion surrounding public art, monuments, and social practice. A youth-centric workshop that looks at the intersection of contemporary art, politics, and education will be developed and made available to an existing network of local schools and creative community institutions. The workshop puts forth objectives that serve to envision how a work of art can facilitate young people’s education, participation in their community, and make possible their input into the forces that affect their everyday lives as young citizens.
To extend the idea of civic engagement and meditation on collective memory present at the physical site of the monument, an online platform goes live in 2014 serving as a bridge from a local to an international audience for broader discussion, archiving other sites of similar discovery and contested public memory.
Dallas County Records Building
Join us for the unveiling reception!
Friday, November 15th
12 - 1 PM
Dallas County Records Building
509 Main Street
Dallas, TX 75202