Ash Studios is a creative response to the racial segregation, political disenfranchisement, and economic displacement that is the reality for many citizens in Dallas, TX.
Our mission is to encourage interracial and inter-generational dialogue and collaborations between creatives and citizens, to empower creatives to have a voice in public life, and to promote and create opportunities for economic self-determination for creatives.
Initiated in 2012 by artists Darryl Ratcliff and Fred Villanueva, Ash Studios has already impacted over ten thousand citizens and creatives in Dallas through events, think tanks, classes, exhibitions, activist campaigns, and site-specific work. Ash Studios is fully owned by creatives, and serves as a bastion against gentrification in the South Dallas area. We value and model racial equity and accessibility, believe that art is a public good, and are in the process of re-imagining art school, while organizing to achieve municipal funding for individual artists.
Ash Studios collaborative is an artist owned, 22,000 sq. ft. parcel of property with a partially finished shed building for painting, sculpture, and performance space. A small, two-story building, and outdoor sculpture garden provide an office, indoor studio gallery, and an outdoor gathering and performance space.
Situated between traditionally Latino East Dallas, and traditionally Black South Dallas, the vision for Ash Studios must necessarily be equally scaled and envisioned as a large scale, maximum impact endeavor. Currently, 12,000 square feet of property remain underutilized and must be activated to integrate the entire space.
The physical space, however, is only a minor part of Ash Studios collective’s project. We envision Ash Studios as the nexus of art, ideas, cultural and political exchange across racial and economic structures, and community confrontation with “the complex connections between art and society.” “By insisting that art, even art of the avant-garde, is part of the general culture, not autonomous or above it” we think differently not only about art and artistic practice, but about society itself. Ash Studios’ vision is to consider that the local community of artists and nearby residents offers fertile ground for becoming a catalyst of cultural work, exchange, positive change, and gradual progress through creativity, sharing of ideas and knowledge, and by fostering a sense of wonder about the world itself.
Traditionally, these communities have been neglected and chronically suffer from generations of civic disregard, thereby further harming the populace of these areas through lack of education, self-empowerment, and equal and equitable access and contribution to the arts. Additionally, Ash Studios itself was a product of disregard. Through artist initiative, the properties transformed from a dilapidated metal scrap-yard and auto salvage yard into a semi-enclosed mural painting studio, outdoor sculpture garden, indoor meeting and gallery room, with an upstairs loft-office. All of this was accomplished by painter, sculptor, conceptual and earthworks artist Fred Villanueva, a former apprentice of Dennis Oppenheim. After two years of laboring towards the goal of establishing a painting and sculpture studio, with the intent of working towards the foundation of a “Bauhaus-like” working and learning studios, it became clear that the project was much larger than a single artist’s endeavor. Teaming with social practice artist Darryl Ratcliff, Ash Studios was formed and founded. Ratcliff has worked with social practice artist Rick Lowe, the Houston artist responsible for Project Row Houses in Houston’s 5th ward neighborhood, a community not unlike ours. Rick Lowe visited Ash Studios recently, as did Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera. Both were overwhelmed by the potential for massive community impact and transformation by the sheer footprint of scale and project location placement. A Karbomb painted by international pop and street art icon Kenny Scharf complements the silver, diamond window, store-front facade of Ash Studios, designed and built by Fred Villanueva and V.I.W. in 1995. Acclaimed hip-hop artist Travis Scott debuted his song, “Antidote” impromptu at Ash Studios, alongside Metro Boomin and Post Malone. In 2020, during the global Coronavirus Pandemic, artist Carrie Mae Weems’s public service announcements were tiled to create a wheat pasted poster mural.
Ash Studios has positioned itself to become a major collaborative, community arts platform, not simply for the artists who bring the ideas to the community, but the community nearer to learning from all the arts, which is the essence of arts advocacy and activism. The vision is that the community then takes learning out into the broader context of living, which increases the potential for learning through art in the home, in the family, and in every relevant aspect of society.
In Dallas, the mere act of being a Black or Latino contemporary artist is a political act. Acknowledging this is crucial to the understanding that through every artistic medium we have the potential to change the life of youth and adult communities by fostering and sharing a love of the arts with all.
Ash Studios collaborative will be a community source for learning about studio practice for painting, sculpture, music, dance, performance, theater, poetry, and art history in a bilingual (English-Spanish) environment.