LEADING BY EXAMPLE

BY DOUGLAS KING | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

Going way back, as an elementary school teacher in New York, Gail Sachson relished the mandate to create artistic hall bulletin boards. As a young mother, she took advantage of museum workshops, showed her amateur art locally and painted in the garage. Sachson moved to Dallas in 1974, where she entered SMU to study to be a serious artist.

“I loved my academic training, but I realized that I loved sharing my enthusiasm for art with others even more, and when not painting with Roger Winter at SMU, I taught art appreciation to preschoolers at the Jewish Community Center. We visited galleries and museums and shouted the names of Jackson Pollock and Alexander Calder, who had become our friends because we experimented with their styles in the classrooms,” Sachson recalls.

She went on to write one of the first draw-in, tear-out workbooks, Ask Me About Jackson Pollock, which was sold in museum stores across the country. It is now in the Pollock-Krasner Foundation archives.

Today, Sachson leads tours of art galleries and museums for those who wish to learn more about art and how to view it. She created Ask Me About Art as well as Inspire Art Dallas as a way to continue her lifelong love of teaching others about art.

Dallas Style & Design spoke with Sachson about her tours and the Dallas art scene.

When and why did you begin Ask Me About Art (AMAA)?
I completed an MFA at SMU in art education/painting while creating the children’s art programs at the DMA and the FWAM (now MAMFW) as well as the Young Artists at SMU. Finding that the children’s parents were also interested in exploring art, AMAA evolved to become an adult-focused program with monthly tours, art education programs and workshops through the SMU/CAPE (Continuing Adult and Professional Education) program, all of which continue today.

Why do you feel it is important to study art?
What do you wish people realized and knew about art? The men and women who join me on my tours realize that looking at art, talking about art and/or making art adds passion to everyday life. It enhances one’s world as it organizes one’s world, encouraging experimentation rather than rigidity. Spending time with art is an introspective experience. It allows us to know ourselves better while encouraging a deeper understanding of others.

You were also involved in KERA Art & Seek. Can you describe your work there?
Reaching others is best done today online, so being a guest blogger for KERA Art & Seek has allowed me to cheerlead to a wider, younger and more diverse audience within all parts of the city. Having been chair of the Dallas Cultural Affairs Commission, I wanted very much to continue that involvement with the whole city. Among a myriad of posts, I have blogged about the art collection at Clements Hospital at UT Southwestern Medical Center, the Creative Art Center, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts, museum exhibitions, local gallery shows, public art, the Dallas Theater Center Acting and writing workshops, art programs for inmates, and a black beauty shop-focused photography show at the African American Art Museum.

You also are a co-founder of Inspire Art Dallas (IAD). What was your motivation to launch that organization?
As a Leadership Dallas graduate and former vice-chair of the Dallas Public Art Committee, I wanted to reach out to all of Dallas and cheerlead for the arts, so with my co-founder, Rick Kneipper, I created Inspire Art Dallas last year. The organization is a 501(c)(4), with funds from the Dallas Foundation. Our mission is to partner with the city to encourage an awareness of our sublime collection of public sculpture and help fund necessary conservation and restoration. IAD is a membership organization. We encourage participation and welcome questions and comments at inspireartdallas.com. Our inaugural project, Keep Pegasus Flying, will help fund the repair of the deteriorated 1943 oil derrick supporting the Pegasus sculpture on the roof of the downtown Magnolia Hotel and make the beloved city-owned sculpture revolve once more. We are also excited about creating temporary art installations, happenings and workshops to add to the fun of living in a city that appreciates the arts.

What art trends have you noticed in the last year in Dallas?
Social media has been a great boon for the arts. It’s a constant feed of, “Look what I like!” Everyone posts. Many immersive pop-up, Instagram-worthy installations have proved popular with young people and corporations, encouraging camaraderie and party-like perks. Murals are popping up all over town. Most are group painted, making the art making a social happening. Museums are offering more experiences to promote social gatherings and sharing. The youth of the city want to engage with art and culture, but in their own way. The definition of culture has changed, and our institutions, nonprofits and for-profits are changing as well. Health care facilities are realizing the importance of art in design and as a benefit to healing.

Do you feel that Dallas has a healthy art scene?
Yes! Dallas does appreciate the arts. Partnerships among organizations and galleries are frequent. There is a grand sense of cooperation, rather than competition. Pop-up galleries and happenings are popular. The Office of Cultural Affairs has completed a strategic plan and is intent upon involving more Dallasites by creating work and living spaces for more artists and making art more easily accessible. Late nights and free admission to our museums are bringing more people to the Arts District. Newsletters, apps and blogs on our smartphones alert us constantly to art and cultural events. Instagram and Snapchat keep us in the loop.

What future plans do you have with your various art ventures?
The Dallas art scene offers new excitement every day, and I want to share the best part of every day with others. I look forward to continuing AMAA tours, teaching at SMU, blogging for KERA and writing about the arts. I am also eager to create IAD happenings, which will excite us to talk about the creative spirit and stop us in our tracks during our daily routine.

Personally, I am looking forward to another summer of making art at Anderson Ranch in Colorado, where I have enjoyed taking workshops in almost every medium for many years.

Who is one artist or what is an individual piece of art that you return to again and again that provides you with the greatest enjoyment?
I get great joy out of living with the art of others, but the pieces of art that give me the most enjoyment again and again are the artworks that I have made myself. I look at them and remember their birth, the processes, the rewards of satisfaction and delight. The art we make ourselves is tangible evidence of the joy being alive.