Dallas Art Display Shines Light on Diversity of American Experience

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In the shadow of Dallas’ "Eye" sculpture, a new art display has temporarily popped up as part of "American Portrait," a public art project celebrating PBS’s 50th anniversary.

Carlos Ramirez, an artist from Southern California, built "Altar to a Dream" as a colorful homage to the challenges his parents faced as Mexican-Americans building their American dream.

After migrating to the United States at just 12 years old, Ramirez said his mother spent her young life traveling the country in search of agricultural work.

“They would go to Southern California, to Northern California, back to Chicago, to Texas and do it all over again,” Ramirez said.

His work includes an antique car, the same make and model his parents logged all of those miles in, along with items they carried along the way.

It paints the picture of a story he said belongs not only to his family but also the country’s vast migrant population.

“It is a national storytelling project. Really our goal was to really try to figure out what it means to be an American today,” PBS’s Betsega Bekele said.

Bekele served as the project director for American Portrait, which started last year by collecting the stories of more than 13,000 Americans.

Partnering with the creative director at RadicalMedia, James Spindler, they also commissioned public art displays around the country like "Alter to a Dream."

It’s a project Ramirez said comes at a critical time, pointing out that his art sits within a stone’s throw of the iconic Dallas "Eye" sculpture damaged in the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“There are countless stories that have taken place, and it's important for us to remember those stories,” Ramirez said.

Though those stories highlight our nation’s diversity, the project’s organizers said they hoped they also weave a feeling of unity.

“I think by getting a window into all these different people’s lives all over the country, it creates connection and you really see how similar we are,” Spindler said.

"Altar to a Dream" will remain on display through Feb. 14.

PBS also commissioned a Dallas mural by Chicago artist Cody Hudson on the side of the Off the Cuff Bar and Restaurant in Deep Ellum that will remain up for several months.

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