Theme text by Lauren Cross, Ph.D.

If the past year has taught us anything it is the importance of seeing and thinking differently.

As a curator and scholar, I am always challenged to reimagine and rethink everything, and to allow myself to be open to the creative impulses of the artist. As an artist myself, I respect, take very seriously, and see the value in the artist’s voice. With that in mind, I see exhibitions as responsive, critical platforms for prospective cultural awareness and exchange.

When I was given the opportunity to curate this monumental outdoor exhibition in conversation with the Pioneer Tower Public Art Project in Fort Worth, I was excited about the opportunity to work in collaboration with Fort Worth Public Art and Aurora to select artists who  could contribute new narratives about our collective experiences within Fort Worth and North Texas more broadly. Thinking about the Pioneer Tower Project and its ambitions to tell stories that represent all of Fort Worth, I was interested in how I might translate a similar idea within the exhibition as well as featuring artists who bring diverse approaches both in their lived experiences as well as within their art. 

Public art, afterall, often serves as an equalizer of sorts; a platform where the intentions of the artist intervene, and sometimes collaborate, with the experiences and needs of everyday people. The artists selected for the exhibition, Sedrick and Letitia Huckaby of Huckaby Studios, Jessica Fuentes, Nick Bontrager, Raul Rodriguez, Jin-Ya Huag, Angela Faz, Jeff Gibson, and Bernado Vallarino are all artists whose individual voices tell their unique experiences that both relate and challenge us to open up and consider realities that might not look like our own.

While in so many cases public art meets us where we are—in our neighborhoods, work environments, and learning spaces—the current exhibition engages our local community in a completely different way. Necessarily, New Stories, New Futures like the Pioneer Tower Public Art Project is a landmark, a meeting or gathering space; a site where we as a beloved community can come together through an experience to see ourselves and to see others through a new lens.

In thinking about the regional artists who were selected for the exhibition, I was intentional in my desire to put artists from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and making in conversation with one another. Curating from a critical, post-colonial, and cross-cultural approach has always been the hallmark of my style. Too often we are restricted from communicating with one another across differences and I strategically use exhibitions to create opportunities for many kinds of conversations and intersections to happen. 

As a result, New Stories, New Futures is the culmination of a culturally-interrelated approach, and is especially celebratory of the artists I have come to know both in Fort Worth and within the North Texas region. The featured artists share stories in their work of people, themselves, and experiences that are often hidden or overlooked. Ironically, these artists are also sharing their creative gifts materially in completely new ways as well. With Aurora at the helm, the exhibiting artists are supported in their efforts to try something new and to innovate. The artworks on view may feel familiar to the communities they represent but most importantly share ideas that deserve our wider attention and investigation.

As one who teaches art, I have always admired the ways that public art solicits us to appreciate the wonder of creativity, to engage in visual literacy, and to aspire to deeper learning and humility with one another. For me, New Stories, New Futures critically explores the need for compassionate listening and seeing both in art and in our communities. I have hope that this exhibition will be a seed planted towards a foreseeable future that is inclusive, learning and growing, and evolving to become a better world.