Erica Felicella is an ‘accidental leader’ in the Dallas art world

2018’s Five Fierce Females of Oak Cliff

Dallas helped Erica Felicella reconnect to her artist self.

Originally from New Hampshire, she moved to Dallas 18 years ago to be near her sister.

“Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Felicella, who lives in Beckley Club Estates, was part of the original Art Conspiracy fundraiser in 2005 and served until recently as executive director of the fundraising nonprofit that it blossomed into.

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She’s a performance artist, currently working on a piece that she’s secretive about but says it will involve herself and 20 other people, asking, “Can a community of strangers come together and work as one and create a path and trail-blaze?”

She is a curator, serves on nonprofit boards, is a consultant to arts incubator the Cedars Union and sits on the steering committee for the city’s arts plan.

Felicella, a community builder, attributes some of that to a passion for coffee.

“If anyone asks me to have coffee and talk about life, I take the meeting,” she says. “I’ve met some people who I might not have met. The direction my life has gone in is all thanks to coffee.”

Her third place after home and work: I’m at home lately at Full City Rooster during the day. The Cedars has become a hangout of mine. I grew up in a small town, so I feel really at home in Oak Cliff.

The scariest thing she’s overcome: Every day. I talk about mental health being an important part of my work and that’s because I have many struggles of my own. There isn’t a single day that I don’t wake up afraid, but I get up and do it every day. I’ve always been the girl who likes to stand backstage, and in the past decade I’ve had to come into the light. I’m an accidental leader. I’m a public speaker that can hardly call in a to-go order.

I’m a public speaker that can hardly call in a to-go order.

The best advice she’s received: One of my favorites is “Do it anyway.” An old studio mate always said, “Say yes and panic later.” That’s taken me to so many places. And “take risks,” because it’s worth it.

Her advice for others: Listen. Don’t make it about yourself. 

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What she’s proud of: I found a way to make work life. I’m proud of where Dallas has gone in the creative community and what it’s turning into. When I first moved here, we only had a small number of openings to go to once a month, and it was all the same people. Of course, I wasn’t here during the time of the Oak Cliff Five and all that. I can only speak to how it was in the early 2000s. There were a lot of jaded artists, but there was this bubble that was just going to continue to grow. Over the years, Dallas has just become a great place for artists to live and work. If you want to get it done here, all you have to do is ask. There’s not a lot of communities where that’s the case. It’s welcoming, and you just know that an artist has your back.

How she chooses volunteers: I look for people that need a community, people that have that little glimmer of passion. You know you can nurture that, feed it and watch them grow. 

On the nonprofits she supports: It’s been a pleasure to watch Foundation 45 grow into a nonprofit. Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico and what they bring to the community. Cry Havoc Theater Co. [founded by Oak Cliff resident Mara Richards Bim]. What she’s doing is off–the-charts amazing. I’m proud of the nonprofits that create big impact with smaller budgets.

How she would like to be remembered: Believer in community, defender of community, somebody who listened.

The biggest problem facing our neighborhood: If we can be sure that we don’t lose our identity in this process because we’re going through massive change. Remember the past and stay true to the future. That’s a hard line to travel.

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