By Paulina Herran
The historical area of Oak Cliff has begun to attract the work of artists through its newly created Twelfth Street Art Park, a collaborative project between Dallas businessman and philanthropist Ralph Isenberg and widely commissioned sculptor Jim Gallucci. When Isenberg first told Gallucci about an empty lot in which he could display art, Galluci said, “Let’s do one better and make it an art park.” Working to serve the community of Oak Cliff, the Twelfth Street Art Park holds Gallucci’s “9/11 Sculpture #2”, “Oracle’s Gate,” and “Arrow Arch (A number of Directions).” “Oracle’s Gate” and “Arrow Arch (A number of Directions)” explore different themes. One reflects on the presence of gateways and what they mean, while the other presents choices. Gallucci also brought one of his hundred whisper benches as well as benches he made from cutouts of the “9/11 Sculpture Project #2.”
When asked why he used the cutouts of the firemen from his sculpture as benches, Gallucci said, “I was sitting on a bench with a boy from the community, talking about the 9/11 piece. And I asked him what he saw and he said, ‘Well, I see shadows.’ And I thought that was really insightful, because they are shadows. They’re shadows that we’re still living with.”
The benches are a way to interact with the memorial in the same way we still interact with the shadows from that day, shadows that still linger in our lives.
That boy is one example of the interactive response the park has received from the local residents. According to both Isenberg and Gallucci, the neighborhood response to the park has been incredibly positive.
“When we were installing the three pieces, we had people honking their horns and calling out that they’ve been waiting for this for thirty years,” Gallucci said.
The park creators are hoping to include the work of artists from the area. Local Joe Whitney might contribute artwork, as well as other unexpected artists.
“The next work is going to be done by yours truly,” Isenberg said. “I am not an artist but I am doing my piece of sculptural art that will be called ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone.’” Titled after the Vietnam protest song, its name is fitting since his contribution will be in protest of the 64 conflicts in the world today. Isenberg sang a bit of the Peter, Paul and Mary song.
“And I think to have that around 9/11, that’s where I got the idea, was that, you know, I want there to be peace but there’s sixty-four nations fighting right now,” Isenberg said.
Concerning future exhibits, Isenberg also said, “In addition, in January, Wendell Rogers, who is one of the top five African-American photographers of all time, will be having his first photography exhibit since he suffered a stroke.”
Rogers has more than 20,000 negatives from his time working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Having met Dr. King, Isenberg is passionate about this project.
“It’s going to be a three month exhibit, but, at the same time, we’re trying to split up the exhibit so we can send a series of photographs to major museums in every single country in the world to help capture what the civil rights movement was in the United States,” Isenberg said.
Acting as a bridge between different major events in human history like 9/11 and the civil rights movement, the art park seems to contribute to the depth of Oak Cliff. An idea that started 13 years ago with a large beam scavenged in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks has now been realized in the memorial in the Twelfth Street Art Park.
The Twelfth Street Art Park is now open and not only serves as a reminder of tragedy with its 9/11 sculpture, but also reminds viewers of the hope of tomorrow with its representation of Gallucci’s “Oracle’s Gate” and his “Arrow Arch (A Number of Directions).”