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Museum of Street Culture announces first exhibit, coming this fall

Encore Park, left, and 508 Park studios in 2014 as seen from the roof of The Stewpot, a non-profit that serves the homeless, in Dallas. The amphitheater, at left, is now completed.
Encore Park, left, and 508 Park studios in 2014 as seen from the roof of The Stewpot, a non-profit that serves the homeless, in Dallas. The amphitheater, at left, is now completed. Special to the Star-Telegram

The Museum of Street Culture, part of the long-awaited Encore Park development that includes the historic 508 Park building in downtown Dallas where the likes of Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton once recorded, announced its first exhibit Tuesday.

Opening in the fall will be a yearlong focus on the work of the late Mary Ellen Mark, the Life magazine photographer and documentarian known for her work focusing on people on society’s fringes.

“The reason we picked Mary Ellen Mark to open the Museum of Street Culture is that it reflects our philosophy of what Encore Park will be,” Alan Govenar, the museum’s founding director, said at a presentation at 508 Park on Tuesday. “It’s not simply an exhibition.”

Govenar also announced a partnership with Dallas’ Nasher Sculpture Center for an exhibition to open in January 2018 about which he couldn’t release any details. Scheduled for fall 2018 will be a sound-art installation that will take place in both the Nasher and at Encore Park.

Also on deck is a collaboration with the Dallas Museum of Art and another with the Texas Folklife museum in Austin called “Encore Pachanga,” which will focus on Tejano music.

The Encore Park development, spearheaded by the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, which purchased the 508 Park building in 2011 and operates The Stewpot homeless-resource center across the street, plans to be as a much a community resource as a museum.

According to “museographer” (museum designer) Adrien Gardere and architect Graham Greene, who have been brought onto the project and were present Tuesday, the entire Encore Park property — including the Museum of Street Culture, an amphitheater, a garden, the Stewpot and another building at 515 Park — will be treated as one space including turning Park Avenue into a street for pedestrians. Renderings of new design concepts were shown Tuesday.

The idea of the Museum of Street Culture is that it doesn’t just exist in buildings We’re going to be on the street and other places. That’s the philosophy of the museum.

Alan Govenar, founding director

Some of this aspect will be on view during the Mary Ellen Mark exhibit.

“Clearly, part of it will include the Stewpot; some of it will be in the garden, the amphitheater, public programs, outdoor film screens,” said Govenar. “We want to do forums and discussions about this multifaceted, intersectional world of art, culture, history, ideas, music, the history of this place and how it connects with everything around it.”

However, despite the announcement of the exhibit, the facility will still be under construction at the time. “The idea of the Museum of Street Culture is that it doesn’t just exist in buildings,” said Govenar. “We’re going to be on the street and other places. That’s the philosophy of the museum.”

Encore Park is in the midst of raising $18 million to fulfill its plans. Last month, the Moody Foundation announced it was donating $2.1 million to Encore Park. In the past, the foundation has contributed to Klyde Warren Park, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and other civic projects. According to The Dallas Morning News, as of last month, just over $10 million had been raised, including the Moody donation.

Musicians who recorded in the building include 1930s blues musician Robert Johnson and Bob Wills, the ‘King of Western Swing.’

The 508 Park address holds special importance for fans of American roots music as well as those interested in the history of American film. Built for Warner Bros. Pictures in 1929, the building later was the home of such labels as Brunswick and Decca.

In addition to Johnson, Clapton and Autry, Western swing kings the Light Crust Doughboys and Bob Wills as well as conjunto pioneer Lolo Cavazos recorded there.

Cary Darling: 817-390-7571, @carydar

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