• Cristee Cook

Interactive art exhibit ‘Healing Pieces’ offers a sensory experience on themes of social justice

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

By Cristee Cook

Healing Pieces, a multi-sensory interactive art exhibition led by SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ Ignite/Arts Dallas, is open through December 10, 2020 at Sweet Pass Sculpture Park and the vicinity of Dallas County Criminal Court. The project looks at how architecture, green space, urban planning and community development can lead to transformation of the city, and invites community conversations on the topics of race, geography, justice reform, and urbanism. Healing Pieces contains contributions from a cohort of organizations, artists, and social justice advocates.

The three works that comprise Healing Pieces, each at a different site, are: Black Power Naps/Parque Siestas Negras by Navild Acosta and Fannie Sosa, a multi-sensory outdoor installation at Sweet Pass Sculpture Park; Project Witness – an augmented reality experience that depicts the cruel effects of solitary confinement through true stories of incarcerated youth; and The 2021 Healing Pieces Action Calendar by RESO BAR.

Dallas Art Beat sat down with Co-Curator Sofia Bastidas Vivar. Originally from Ecuador, she came to the United States at 20 years old. She started out in Miami, where she had a successful run of residencies and independent projects as a Curator. She arrived in Dallas in 2016 after being offered a position at SMU’s Pollock Gallery. Now, she primarily works with Ignite Arts Dallas. In our conversation, we took a deeper look at each project within Healing Pieces, and how the cohort hopes to engage conversation about art, social justice, the history of and future for Dallas.

What inspired you all to do a project about neighborhood development?

I think art is a space where certain possibilities can be tested and prototyped. I don't think that art is going to change the world, but I think it can create spaces for certain things to happen and to test certain ideas and ideologies. With Healing Pieces we're working with a cohort of about eleven other artists. So our role there is to listen to all of the experts and figure out what this community came together to want to do. We have [several groups] as part of our cohort that are experts in their own field. So, how do we listen to that, and how do we create art with that? How can we move forward in a city where it hasn't even acknowledged its past?

The area that we’re talking about is the Trinity River, the river front, and Commerce St. – and all of that area is going to change. It is important that people visit these places before they change, so they have a visual understanding of exactly how the city is changing. Because when you are seeing that, and culture becomes part of that, you can have a different understanding of your city that is not so detached. And you can make more informed decisions about what you want to see in your city.

Let’s take a deeper look at Black Power Naps Park. Can you give us some more information about the installation?

Black Power Naps Park is happening at Sweet Pass Sculpture Park. Eventually that place is going to become a condominium or something, so it's interesting to do work there. In Black Power Naps Park we created a park because we are going to see a park being developed in this area of Dallas. We are seeing a lot of parks being built in Dallas. And who are we making these parks for? That's a question this project asks. Black Power Naps Park is a prototype for a park for Black and Brown people to be able to rest and use it without being judged as being lazy, without having the police called on them because they’re resting in a park. This project looks at rest as a form of reparation for Black and Brown people. It looks at the politics of rest.

When Black Power Naps Park was being created was there a conversation about the healing power of nature? Is this project about nature, or is it more about just embracing the idea of innocent rest?

Well, I think that nature is a big part big specifically because we're seeing our city creating parks all over the place, and investing in parks and green space. And so for us, it was important to do something that is about our parks and the future of parks in our city.

I would love to hear more about Project Witness.

It is an augmented reality experience on the subject of solitary confinement. Part of our cohort is Jason Hernandez, who is a clemency reform advocate. He was sentenced to life without parole for a non-violent drug offense in 1998 when he was 21 years old. While he was incarcerated, he became a jailhouse attorney who filed a petition independently. He sent a letter to President Obama asking that his sentence be reduced. And he became one of the first to receive clemency through Obama. Jason [Hernandez] connected us with Johnny Perez, who is part of Project Witness, which is the free augmented reality experience created by the national Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth with Google and YouTube. Its several stories of kids that were incarcerated while they were kids and put into solitary confinement. It’s in the area of the criminal court and you access it through your phone.

The third part of Healing Pieces is The 2021 Healing Pieces Action Calendar. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

This is a methodology. It’s a way to approach working with our collaborators in a more in-depth and sincere way. It is another project that we're working on together by [highlighting] important days that we should be looking at that. These are dates that we feel the general public should know about, and are on the topics of mass incarceration, neighborhood development, and environmental justice. So it will have some artwork, and some poems, things like that - and is going to be printed by RISO BAR. The calendar is all about awareness and education.


Healing Pieces is available to experience through December 10, 2020. No reservations or tickets required. For more details about each project, including location information, please visit www.healingpieces.art.

As of Friday, December 4, 2020 Healing Pieces 2021 Action Calendar is available for pre-order. The limited edition calendar is published by RISO BAR and 100% of the proceeds will benefit Miles of Freedom, a Dallas-based nonprofit whose mission is to equip, empower and employ individuals returning home from prison and provide support and assistance for families and communities impacted by incarceration. Pre order your calendar HERE.

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