From his perch in Firehouse No. 15, ART GARCIA overlooks the Bishop Arts District, and soon the founder of advertising agency Graphic Content will be able to glance down at his own handiwork — a streetcar sculpture recently commissioned by the City of Dallas. It will be his fifth public art project for the city, and his second in our neighborhood; right now, he’s putting the finishing touches on a project for the new fire station at Vernon and Illinois.
So what can we expect to see at Fire Station 33?
What we’re doing is presenting translucent canopy panels, and the theme on the panels is the science of fire fighting … so, for instance, we have a match that is combusting, and we show the formula for combustion; then we have a scuba apparatus, and in that one we’re showing the chemical compound that helps fire fighters breathe; then certainly a smoke detector, because that’s what a lot of fire fighters and fire marshals fight with neighborhoods about, and we’re showcasing the science formula of how it works. So when the children in grade school go and see these formulas, hopefully it will inspire these kids to take up science or take up fire fighting.
Or maybe take up art?
There you go. I love being around kids, so when it comes to educating kids, it goes hand in glove. Plus I never grew out of drawing. I still play with crayons. I’m also the director and head coach of the Oak Cliff YMCA Wrestling Club at Bishop Dunne.
How did that come about?
The athletic director at the YMCA found out I wrestled in high school, and asked, ‘Hey, do you want to help us start a program here?’ To make a long story short, I basically instigated the program. I love the sport. As a kid, I was not a baseball player, I was not a football player, I was too short to be a basketball player. and I discovered the sport of wrestling and thought, ‘Yeah, this is it.’ A lot of our kids are inner-city youth, and we introduce them to a sport other than basketball, football or baseball. I think a lot of kids who have gone through our program have benefitted from a self-discipline and self-confidence standpoint.
When did you start creating public artwork in Dallas?
Four or five years ago. My first commission was the Grauwyler Park Library, where we did a mural. Because the library is in a park, we took a fauna approach, but fused that with telling the history of the community. That’s where we differ from fine artists, because we do research rather than creating fine art that’s very abstract. We create art that speaks to the viewer, and that relates to anybody from a child to an adult to an elderly person.
Is a project in your own neighborhood more meaningful to you?
As an artist, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s in my back yard or across the state or across the country — the love of our work is applied to the project no matter where it is. But certainly for me, the Bishop Arts project is very near and dear to my heart. Those projects are few and far between in an artist’s lifetime, and that project, when I was commissioned for it, it was just kind of a natural fit. In fact, I was asked if I would want to be on that selection committee, and my first question was, if I’m on the panel, can I submit artwork? Of course the answer was no, and I said, you know what: I’m going to take my chances because this is my community, and I love my community. I think the great thing about the Bishop Arts District is it has this great history, and for me to do this project, I automatically become part of this history. I’m speaking to our community, and I’m speaking to future generations of what our past was, and this piece will speak of the past and of the future. —KERI MITCHELL