Press Release

“New Cities, Future Ruins” Convening to Take Place in Dallas, November 11-14, 2016

Event Date: 
11 November 2016
Dallas, TX
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New Cities, Future Ruins is an art initiative re-imagining the explosive urbanism of Western Sun Belt cities, catalyzed by SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ Meadows Prize

Registration is now open through October 19 for the convening, featuring lectures, performances, and installations from artists and scholars such as Andrew Ross, Postcommodity, Sophia Al-Maria, Lauren Woods, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman, and others.

New Cities, Future Ruins, a new curatorial initiative created through the SMU Meadows School of the Arts 2016 Meadows Prize and led by independent curator Gavin Kroeber, will launch November 11-14, 2016 with a public convening hosted by SMU at locations on campus and throughout Dallas. The convening, a hybrid conference and festival, will feature an international roster of artists, architects, and scholars who will explore the urgent issue of ecological and social sustainability facing America’s Western Sun Belt cities as a result of their rapid growth. It will also examine similar problems faced by other fast-growing cities around the globe. In addition to presentations and panels that unpack the histories and conditions that define these cities, there will be artist projects, installations, workshops, gallery talks, neighborhood tours, and other events throughout Dallas. The initiative will consider sustainable models for urban development and re-imagine these Sun Belt cities as potential sites for pioneering art and design. Registration for the convening is now open, and will be available through October 19. To register, please click here. For the full schedule of events, please visit

The convening’s keynote address will be delivered by Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, speaking on the issues and ideologies underpinning rapid urban development in a global context, from the Western Sun Belt to the rising urban centers of the Persian Gulf and China. Ross is author of a number of books, including Fast Boat to China: Corporate Flight and the Consequences of Free Trade – Lessons from Shanghai and Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City, which examines issues surrounding water supply, metropolitan growth, renewable energy, downtown revitalization, immigration policy, and patterns of pollution in Phoenix. 

Other participants include:

  • Roberto Bedoya, cultural affairs manager of the City of Oakland. Bedoya is a cultural activist whose work champions racial justice goals and the creative resilience of communities of color in the face of gentrification.
  • Curator Naima Keith will give one of a handful of mainstage presentations and participate in the panel “Futurisms & Ruins: Techno-Utopianism, Romantic Apocalypse, and Ethno-Futurisms.” Keith organized the 2013-14 exhibition The Shadows Took Shape at the Studio Museum in Harlem, which explored contemporary art though an Afrofuturist lens.
  • otherothers is an Australian design organization at the forefront of design, culture, urbanism, and public engagement. otherothers will present Offset House, a proposal to “un-supersize” McMansions presented at the Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015.  
  • Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, author of Sunbelt Capitalism, will participate in a roundtable session titled “The Western Sunbelt: An Urban Paradigm?”
  • Imre Szeman, Canada research chair in cultural studies and co-director of Petrocultures Research Cluster at the University of Alberta, will deliver a presentation on energy futures and partake in the roundtable “Urban Ecologies: Scarcity, Infrastructure, and Social Justice.”
  • Interdisciplinary arts collective Postcommodity will present a performance Sunday evening at The MAC gallery. 

The convening’s panels and roundtable discussions will explore the intersections of art, urbanism, futurism, and planetary crisis, including the urbanization of the “Global Sun Belt”; the production and policing of civic space; the role of art in activating futurist urban imagery from the techno-utopian to the apocalyptic; and the ramifications of ecological sustainability and environmental justice. The convening will also include artist projects and performances exploring these themes on the SMU campus as well as at sites across Dallas, including Jubilee Park and Community Center, a catalyst for community renewal and enrichment in a 62-block area in southeast Dallas. The installations and exhibitions include:  

  • New Cartographies: Visualizing Emergent Urban Forms (at Owen Arts Center’s Hope Theatre Lobby, 6101 Bishop Blvd., SMU) – featuring maps and urban visualizations co-organized by Jessie Zarazaga, Gavin Kroeber, and Sofia Bastidas. 
  • Hallucinations of the Global Future (at Owen Arts Center’s Doolin Gallery, 6101 Bishop Blvd., SMU) – featuring video works by Sophia Al-Maria and Cao Fei.
  • Jubilee Park Installations (at Jubilee Park Community Center, 917 Bank. St.) – featuring works by Quilian Riano, Rodrigo Valenzuela, Lauren Woods, bcWORKSHOP, Jeff Williams, Caitlin Berrigan, and Lais Myrrha. 
  • Visionary Sprawl (at BEEFHAUS, Expo Park, 833 Exposition Ave.) featuring video installations, photography, and models/drawings by CLUI (Center for Land Use Interpretation), Matthew Moore, Michael Light, Mary Ellen Carroll, and otherothers alongside materials drawn from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City and Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour’s Learning from Las Vegas.

These exhibitions will be open to the public; a map showing locations of specific works in Jubilee Park will be available on the New Cities Future Ruins website. In addition, the public is invited to attend the Saturday evening social hour and exhibition opening of “Visionary Sprawl” at BEEFHAUS, Saturday, November 12 at 7:00 p.m. 

The title “New Cities, Future Ruins” is deliberately provocative. The Western Sun Belt, stretching from Houston to Denver and from Phoenix to San Diego, is home to some of the fastest-growing cities in the country, symbols of opportunity and entrepreneurialism, historic cradles of free market capitalism. Their path, however, may be unsustainable: located in delicate ecosystems, the unprecedented growth of these cities is marked by sprawl and resource overuse, dramatic demographic shifts, and struggles over immigration. Some of the most pressing questions of our moment—questions of whether current ways of life can or should persist environmentally, economically, and socially—are in few places as clear or as compelling as in these Western Sun Belt cities. Bringing critical and innovative art and design practice from around the world to bear on this urban landscape, the initiative seeks to foster visionary thought and artistic experimentation at these urgent sites, places that both embody and illuminate global crises of rapid urbanization.

“We are thrilled to launch this ambitious project in Dallas, made possible by our partnership with the SMU Meadows School,” said Gavin Kroeber, the project’s artistic director. “We greatly look forward to bringing these important topics to the forefront of artistic dialogue in this city. The issues presented in New Cities, Future Ruins are critical to re-imagining the future for urban landscapes and cities in the region and around the world.”

New Cities, Future Ruins is a four-year initiative with seed funding from the Meadows Prize, awarded by the SMU Meadows School of the Arts, in collaboration with Arizona State University Gammage and The University of Texas at El Paso’s Rubin Center for the Visual Arts. Following the convening, the initiative will expand to include artist residencies and public projects around the region in 2017 and 2018 and will culminate with a touring exhibition and catalog. The Meadows Prize is awarded to innovative artists and creative professionals and is a key aspect of the School’s Ignite/Arts Dallas program, the arts and urbanism initiative at the Meadows School which integrates artistic practices with community engagement in Dallas and across the country. 

“We are very excited to bring together creative minds from around the world to Dallas to address topics and issues central to this city’s creative community and ecosystem,” said Clyde Valentín, director of Ignite/Arts Dallas. “Ignite/Arts Dallas strives to challenge our students and citizens to create ever more just and vibrant communities—artistically and socially—and this convening and overall initiative will help drive us towards this goal as a city and a university.”  

“The rapid growth and vibrancy of the desert in the Southwest makes ASU Gammage a perfect partner to delve into these issues. The arts have always served as an innovator of change,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and associate vice president cultural affairs for ASU. “ASU Gammage has a long history of connecting communities and helping artists take on challenges and find creative solutions. We’re proud to be a part of this innovative project.”

“Our participation in the New Cities, Future Ruins collaborative follows the Rubin Center’s long-standing commitment to address critical border issues and connect communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border through contemporary art practices,” said Kerry Doyle, Rubin Center director. “Our participation brings the special perspective of border cities to conversations about urbanism and environmental sustainability, and highlights the inevitably international nature of both problems and solutions in the region.” 

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Looking East Over Unbuilt “Ascaya” Lots, Black Mountain Beyond, Henderson, NV, 2010. Photo: Michael Light

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