Los Angeles, California
provided by The Exceptional Children’s Foundation
DAC Gallery, The program provided by The Exceptional Children’s Foundation, in LA was a welcome surprise and is really an under-appreciated Progressive Art Studio. It was one of the best programs we’ve encountered so far.
DAC’s art program seems to do everything right that we’ve mentioned so far. They’re fairly large, serving about 160 student artists, but divided amongst four locations of a manageable size. The Director, Allen Terrell, is enthusiastic and very well organized; he describes himself as a pragmatist rather than an ideologue, which he feels is an asset to his work. The basis of his philosophy is tangible, critical respect.
The studio is structured in a fairly typical way, with a staff of working artists who are each specialized in a process or media and direct a particular station. The artists rotate between teachers only as they choose, in accordance with their interests; they’re sometimes encouraged to work with another teacher in order to try a new media. Allen’s pragmatic sensibility also informs his attitude about the Outsider Art genre. He was comfortable offhandedly categorizing some of the work created in the program as outsider, and it was clear that he was identifying it as being aesthetically consistent with this, regardless of ideological inconsistencies with traditional Outsider work.
The most impressive aspect of DAC is the gallery program, which is managed to the highest standard. This is informed by the central concept of respect and is generally based on a simple litmus test for Allen and the artist staff - they ask the question, “Would I do this with my own work?” As a result, there are no salon style installations, but instead carefully curated solo or group exhibitions, the gallery space is minimal and pristine, and the work is handled, stored, installed, and documented in a professional, regimented manner.
Allen’s art programs are a small part of The Exceptional Children’s Foundation (ECF), which provides a wide range of services to thousands of clients in LA. An important insight to take from this is that Allen’s administrative approach allows him to work within a larger organization effectively. When discussing his program, he speaks clearly with specific objective figures to advocate for what he’s planning. The exhibition space exists because in this way he successfully justified that it would have a positive indirect impact on the program and organization as a whole. Securing a deal to sell work on Amazon and getting individuals in ECF’s workshop involved in fabricating the artists’ wooden panels are also important examples of his innovative ideas. Allen stays informed about the current art world climate, from the progression of his staff’s artwork to what is significant internationally. One can’t lead without being caught up first. It was refreshing to witness his overall ambition and execution of relevant ideas, while still maintaining sincerity.