How Six Artists Use Creativity for Social Impact

What does the act of true community investment look like?

Six artists receiving funding and mentorship from CultureBank and Ignite Arts Dallas gathered at a forum on Tuesday to discuss their acts of true community investment in Dallas.

VET, ArtcycleTX

“It’s more of investing my soul in the community that I’m serving. We’re doing something that’s going to last way beyond us.”

When a friend of visual artist VET asked her to recycle over 100 frames, she found an opportunity to give away her and others’ unneeded art supplies. Not only was it a better way to recycle, but the art supplies had stories and emotional connections to people. ArtcycleTX gives people the chance to be creative with access to art supplies and the techniques to use them, like a mom of five who acquired knitting and crocheting supplies for a hobby her son was passionate about. Along with the environmental impact, VET says the initiative has created bonds in the community.

Sara Cardona, Teatro Dallas

“Artists are investors in the community because their first and foremost interest is to bring people together and to bring forth the stories and things that are of interest to the community and in doing so, they build trust.”

When Sara’s actress mother immigrated from Mexico, she found a lack of opportunities and representation in Dallas theaters, and founded Teatro to tell stories, develop new plays, and train actors with professionally taught courses. Teatro uses the power of theater to help new immigrants like Sara’s mother embrace bilingualism and ease language barriers.

Jin-Ya Huang, Break Bread Break Borders

“A trusted place is when you show up, you speak to people and people speak back. It’s an exchange.”

Inspired by her Taiwanese refugee parents who came to Dallas when she was 13 and hired refugees at their restaurants, Jin-Ya founded BBBB to create job opportunities for refugee communities. Finding that it takes refugees seven years to acclimate to a local economy, she wanted to economically empower women from war-torn countries. Through events where refugees share cultural cuisines and tell their stories, bridges are built between people of differing cultures.

Ofelia Faz-Garza, Semillitas Literary Initiative

“Once people connect, you open their world and you create this idea that my individual story is your story and that when I grow, you grow.”

As a mother, the poet wanted to create opportunities for her children to explore, flourish, and “do more than just exist.” With this, she created a literary initiative that hosts storytimes and book clubs and places reading nooks with free books at community centers. She told the story of a grandmother with limited income who would come to the reading nook to gift her grandchildren with books.  The initiative’s goal is to give children access to characters that look like them in a safe and comfortable space and help families overcome hurdles like transportation and time. By giving children access to books, the initiative fosters a lifelong love for reading. 

Fred Villanueva, Ash Studios 

“The metric for any sort of impact really comes down to one on one, that you could possibly change one person’s life by kind’ve inspiring a sense of creativity and the value of self-expression, and also the right to express yourself.”

Villanueva brings the community into Ash Studios and is involved with outreach efforts in places like Jubilee Park and Fair Park, facilitating creative expression through shared spaces. Villanueva hopes to enable people to be themselves, “regardless of dominant social perceptions.” 

Tisha Crear, RecipeOC

“I think that artists have always been the early investors of a community. They embody that just out of necessity.”

Noticing a lack of access to nutritious food in Oak Cliff, artist Tisha Crear founded Recipe Oak Cliff, serving juices and plant-based meals. She has been able to build community connections through neighborhood gatherings at the restaurant. The restaurant also offers shared commercial kitchen space, cooking classes, and catering services.

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Dalia Faheid

Dalia Faheid is a writer who has studied and worked in media since 2014. She pursued a BA in Emerging Media and Communication at UTD. She has experience in journalism, marketing, and technical writing. If you have a story idea for her, you can email Dalia at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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