They know it’s not every couple’s fantasy. But Tamara Johnson, a Waco-born sculptor and visiting lecturer at SMU, and her husband, Trey Burns, a new-media artist and multimedia producer, dreamed of creating an artist-run sculpture park.
The pair found a home for it in West Dallas’ Tin District, an emerging creative arts enclave that has sprung up in the former metal fabrication yards near Trinity Groves. They rented out a leafy, 1-acre plot they called Sweet Pass and started hosting show-opening barbecues with their closest neighbor, Allison Klion of the Ex Ovo gallery. This collaborative ethos is part of what they were seeking. In New York, where Johnson got her start in outdoor sculpture, they had seen the stifling effects of an art scene focused on gallery cachet and fraught with commercialization.
Johnson and Burns now define their role as facilitators. With a Suburban and a trailer, they pick up work in Austin, Houston, or elsewhere. For their first show in October 2018, titled “Getgo,” sunset-colored steps by New York artist Saki Sato joined work by Johnson’s Intro to Sculpture class. Workshops with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oak Cliff and Richardson led to an exhibition of outdoor cat sculptures. A four-channel sound sculpture provided an ambient atmosphere for an exhibit that included a Brutalist Connect Four game, camouflage material, a papasan chair, and a cocoonlike body suit.
Last April, the duo rented a dilapidated adjacent house, dubbed SP2, and turned it into an immersive experience with new-media work and video. A 2019 Nasher Microgrant funded outdoor film screening materials, and the couple cemented their nonprofit status. In the future, they’d like to tackle bigger projects and offer artist stipends and residencies.
“Before leaving New York, we had this idea to make this sculpture garden,” Johnson says. “Who knows what this would have become had we stayed in New York. A sidewalk show?”