Art curators Leila Grothe and Cynthia Mulcahy this week won a $4,000 Idea Fund grant to do a community project in Oak Cliff. Their idea? A square dance and potluck at the Trinity River Audubon Center.
Yes, swing your partner, do sa do and all that. Square dancing is not just for elementary school gym class and vivacious seniors. In Oak Cliff this spring, it will be public art.
Grothe and Mulcahy are interested in a growing art movement called art as social practice, social sculpture and other names. But it basically is creative work that shapes community.
Neither woman is an epxert square dancer, but they chose square dance because it’s the official dance of Texas, and there is a history of hoedowns in Dallas through out the early 20th Century. Plus, the dance lends itself to community building.
“If you go to a dance, you just dance with people you know, but if you go to a square dance, you dance with everyone else who’s dancing,” Grothe says.
They’re planning the dance with a live band, professional square-dance caller, lights and an exhibit of historical square-dance photos projected onto the building. It’s a potluck, so everyone will be asked to bring a covered dish that serves 12 or more people.
A goal of the project is to foster a sense of ownership of the Audubon center among neighbors. The center was built on a reclaimed dump, and the women wanted to showcase it for Dallasites.
“Occasionally, when we’re down there, we see people from the neighborhoods,” Grothe says. “But for the most part, they don’t feel it’s for them, and we want to change that.”
Grothe and Mulcahy are among 10 Idea Fund grant recipients this year, and they are the only recipients in Dallas.
For those of us who haven’t done the Cotton-Eyed Joe since gym class, Grothe is reassuring.
She says expert square dancers will be peppered throughout the dance to help everyone along.
“You don’t have to know what you’re doing bc the square dance caller will instruct you,” she says. “You can’t get the smile off your face. You have to have fun if you’re square dancing.”