A story about CentralTrak and living and working in Deep Ellum.
Read it here, and after the jump.
Living and working in Deep Ellum
By Ashley Withers
December 14, 2011
The petite brunette performance artist stood near her desk in her studio. She lit up as she began to talk about her work.
Danielle Georgiou pointed at stills from her latest video projects and talked about her passion for utilizing videos, songs and dance to represent the view of women in modern day society.
This is where she lives.
Just down the hall was a flurry of activity as a small group of art students bustled around the large, white-walled gallery, helping hang up final pieces and setting up for the night’s visiting artist exhibition.
Georgiou, a performance artist, and the other residents are responsible for running the art gallery.
This is where she works.
Georgiou is fully immersed in her art, spending every day living and working in the creative environment at CentralTrak in Deep Ellum.
A Living and Working Environment
CentralTrak is a part of the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD). Master of Fine Arts students at UTD can apply for residency at CentralTrak where they can live and work in the intensive arts community.
CentralTrak is the only university-backed artists’ residency in Texas.
Georgiou has lived and worked here since July. She is the only performance artist at this time. Other residents include a photographer, an oil painter and a sculptor, among others.
The resident artists are expected to work on their own art projects in the space of CentralTrak, exhibit their work and run the gallery at the front of the building.
Just beyond the gallery is a hallway, which serves as a gallery space for certain exhibitions.
On the left side of the hallway are the loft studio apartments for the resident artists like Georgiou.
The apartments consist of a large studio space downstairs, as well as a kitchen and bathroom. Upstairs is the bedroom.
“It helps so much to live in your studio,” resident Ruben Nieto said. “As an artist you have these times where you just wish you were in your studio. You don’t pick when creativity comes and now I don’t have to.”
Nieto has lived at CentralTrak since its opening three years ago. He shares a studio loft with his wife as he works toward his M.F.A. and his PhD. He is an oil painter who is currently working on a series of comic abstractions, a process where he takes old comic strips and reinvents them on canvas.
CentralTrak also has living and working spaces for visiting artists. Visiting artists go through a different process than UTD students. They apply with a specific idea for an exhibit in the gallery. They also can apply for residencies that can last anywhere from one month to a year.
On the right side of the gallery hallway are the studio lofts for the visiting artists.
The current exhibition in the gallery is the creation of Shannon Novak, a visiting artist from New Zealand. Visiting artists are brought in from all over the world to introduce residents to very different forms of art.
Novak’s work surrounds the idea of a connection between music notes and different colors. The current exhibit is titled, “One Song, Three Composers.”
Though he is only living at CentralTrak for one month, he said he has had an incredible experience with the community.
“I’d recommend it to any artist no matter where you are in your career,” Novak said. “It helps your creative focus to be pulled away from your life.”
A Creative Community
The creative community at CentralTrak is designed to help resident artists grow and develop their craft. The proximity to other like-minded people has been what Georgiou and other residents have enjoyed the most.
“It’s the easiest way to show my work and get critiques because the people I’m getting it from are my next door neighbors,” Georgiou said.
“It’s a good environment to grow as an artist,” Nieto said.
Every six months the resident artists have critiques and give a presentation of their work.
“It keeps you focused,” Nieto said. “It helps you know that you are headed in the right direction. It helps to know that people can see what you’re trying to communicate.”
As an outsider only staying for a short period of time, Novak had to dive in very quickly. For him, CentralTrak gave him the community he needed to put the finishing touches on his exhibit. He said he was free to work alone when he wished or to be inspired by the creative energy from the other artists.
“It’s a mixture of extreme isolation and bonding with like-minded individuals,” Novak said.
Location, Location, Location
The tight-knit community at CentralTrak mirrors the larger community in Deep Ellum where the gallery is located.
CentralTrak is in the renovated Fair Park Station Post Office Building on Exposition Boulevard.
Even the name “Centraltrak” comes from the rich history of Deep Ellum. The location was close to the Houston and Texas Centraltraks and the neighborhood was commonly referred to as “Centraltrak.” The name was chosen to pay homage to the cultural history of the area.
The gallery is also very close to 500X, The Reading Room, and The Ochore House Theater, all staples of the Dallas art scene. The artists at CentralTrak are often featured at these locales and they work together to promote each gallery.
On the night of Novak’s exhibition, 500X, The Reading Room and CentralTrak all opened at the same time, making it easy for visitors to enjoy all three exhibits while exploring that part of Deep Ellum.
“We want each gallery to succeed,” Georgiou said. “The arts community is really small, so we have to all support each other.”