about/ Initiative

New Cities, Future Ruins is a four-year curatorial initiative inviting artists, designers, and thinkers to re-imagine and engage the extreme urbanism of America's Western Sun Belt.

Fast-growing symbols of opportunity and entrepreneurialism, the region’s cities are sprawling agglomerations in delicate ecosystems, marked by resource overuse, dramatic demographic change, and political struggle that particularize and illuminate global crises of rapid urbanization. Suburban in texture, they are 21st-century spaces that resist creative and political strategies inherited from the industrial city. Bringing critical and innovative practices from around the world to bear on this urban landscape, New Cities, Future Ruins is designed to foster visionary thought and artistic experimentation at these urgent sites.

Launching with a convening in Dallas, TX (2016), the initiative will expand to include artist residencies and public projects around the region (2017-18) and culminate in an international touring exhibition and publication (2019).

New Cities, Future Ruins is lead by Artistic Director Gavin Kroeber. The founding partners in the initiative are the SMU Meadows School for the Arts, which will host the Dallas convening, ASU Gammage, and UTEP Rubin Center for the Visual Arts.

about/ Curatorial Statement

The new cities of the Western Sun Belt represent an ascendant paradigm and an emerging crisis.

From Houston to Denver and from Phoenix to San Diego, during the past 75 years a constellation of bright-burning cities has emerged in some of the most extreme environments of the American West. Historic testing grounds for neoliberalism avant la lettre, these exploding urban centers have become national symbols of growth, opportunity and entrepreneurialism. At the same time, however, they are sprawling agglomerations in delicate ecosystems, marked by resource overuse, dramatic demographic change, and political struggle. They are cultural landscapes that have been radically transformed by decades of dynamic expansion, sites that both particularize and illuminate global crises of rapid urbanization. In few other places is the question of whether our way of life can or should persist–environmentally, economically, and socially–rendered in such compelling and legible terms.

Unbuilt “Ascaya” Lots and Cul-De-Sac Looking Northwest, “Sun City MacDonald Ranch” Beyond, Henderson, NV, 2012. Photo: Michael Light.

Suburban in texture, this political geography is a 21st-century space that resists creative traditions inherited from the industrial city. Coming into their own only after the advent of air conditioning and the influx of New Deal funding, unbeholden to any well-established historic core, these multicentric cities are defined as much by their edges as their centers. Built around subdivisions, freeways, logistics infrastructures, and special economic zones, these cities achieved an early and unadulterated form of neoliberal urbanism and provided a blueprint for contemporary spatial patterns and today’s dominant global policy regime. They demand models of intervention and speculation attuned to their particularities, and they offer possibilities for new visionary practices better attuned to global realities. Yet while the worlds of art and architecture have rushed to engage the spectacular architectural arms races escalating in the exoticized cityscapes of the Gulf states or China, the precariously parallel but unromanticized urbanism of the Western Sun Belt has not found space in wider discourse. These cities often seem to be mistaken for their public image: a banal succession of box stores, cul-de-sacs, and retirement communities ignored on the way out of town to land art sites and desert utopias—too new and too manicured to merit engagement.

Central Arizona Project and New Homes Looking Northwest, Sonoran Mountain Road, Peoria, AZ, 2007. Photo: Michael Light

This initiative proposes that the anodyne landscape of the Western Sun Belt harbors wild images of both explosive growth and catastrophic decay. In these severe environments, amid the anxiety of recession, the national myth of boomtowns and ghost towns provides fodder for Ozymandian visions of civilizational collapse. But if it is easy to indulge in such apocalyptic speculation in the Western Sun Belt, this geography is dominated by an even louder strain of futurism: a celebratory techno-utopianism that envisions these new cities rising to the challenges of growth precisely by accelerating it. This attitude is predicated on a faith in market demand for solutions to foster new technologies and infrastructures just before a breaking point arrives, transforming these cities yet again. Futurisms have always shaped the cities of the Western Sun Belt, which existed first as promotional images mobilized by boosterist growth machines and only later as cities in any real sense. Today’s guiding futures, the equally romantic fantasies of new cities and future ruins, are insufficient: They are narratives that we must navigate around in a search for contravening forms of speculation and action, at once more grounded and more visionary.

Las Vegas. Photo: Michael Rehfeldt.

Bringing critical and innovative practices from around the world to bear on this urban landscape and the global crises manifest within it, New Cities, Future Ruins is intended to foster visionary thought and artistic experimentation at these urgent sites. A vessel for exchange between artists, designers and thinkers inside the region and beyond, the initiative will provide a platform to re-imagine and engage these cities—the conditions and histories that define them, the practitioners and communities working and living in them—while reciprocally mobilizing these sites in wider discourse, inspiring new approaches to parallel urbanisms globally, and challenging prevailing assumptions about which places and forms are appropriate to visionary, redirective art and design.

about/ Team

Kroeber Gavin

Gavin Kroeber

Artistic Director

Gavin Kroeber is an independent curator, writer, and artist working at the confluence of art and urbanism. His curatorial projects, writings, and performance events, which draw in equal measure upon visual art, urban theory, and cultural studies, are concerned broadly with dynamics of power in America and in particular their expression in the poetics of place. He is co-founder of the curatorial collaborative Experience Economies, which has presented event-based projects by artists such as Tania Bruguera, David Levine, and Theaster Gates. Between 2005 and 2010, Kroeber was a producer at Creative Time in New York City, overseeing projects by Michael Rakowitz, Paul Chan, Sharon Hayes, David Byrne, and Paul Ramirez Jonas, among others. He has written for Afterall, Art Journal, Art in America, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, and Theater, among other publications. Kroeber's performance events have been recently presented at the Mildred’s Lane Contemporary Art Complex, Storm King Art Center, and One Architecture Week.

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Noah Simblist

Associate Curator & Producer

Noah Simblist is Chair and Associate Professor of Art at SMU Meadows School of the Arts. He works as a curator, writer, and artist and has contributed to Art JournalModern PaintersArt PapersArt LiesArt Pulse, and Art21, among other publications. He edited the book Places of a Present Past (Publication Studio, 2015); contributed to Beyond the Aesthetic and the Anti-Aesthetic (eds. James Elkins and Harper Montgomery, Penn State University Press, 2013); and is in the process of editing a volume about Tania Bruguera’s project, The Francis Effect, which was co-produced by the Guggenheim Museum, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and SMU. He has published interviews with Kader Attia, Khaled Hourani, A.L. Steiner and A.K. Burns, Omer Fast, Jill Magid, Walead Beshty, Yoshua Okon, and Nicholas Schaffhausen. His curatorial projects include False Flags with Pelican Bomb in New Orleans (2016); Emergency Measures at the Power Station (2015); Tamy Ben-Tor at Testsite (2012); Out of Place at Lora Reynolds Gallery (2011); Queer State(s) at the Visual Arts Center in Austin (2011); and Yuri’s Office by Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation at Fort Worth Contemporary Arts (2010). He was also on the curatorial team for the 2013 Texas Biennial.

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Clyde Valentín


Clyde Valentín was born and raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He is the Co-founder and former Executive Director of Hi-ARTS (formerly known as the Hip-Hop Theater Festival). He is the inaugural Director of Ignite/Arts Dallas: A Center for People, Purpose + Place at SMU Meadows School of the Arts. The mission of Ignite/Arts Dallas is to challenge the imagination of students and citizens to foster more just and vibrant communities through art and culture. Clyde was a 2015 Community + Culture Fellow of the National Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program.

Valentín has served as a consultant and panelist for Creative Capital, has worked with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters on their leadership development programs, has served as a consultant for the Youth Speaks/Brave New Voices Leadership Cohort, and is a senior advisor for the New England Foundation for the Arts. He is also on the advisory board of the Latino/a Theater Commons. Valentín has presented at numerous conferences including the National Association of Latino Arts & Culture, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the National Performance Network’s annual meeting, and for the Atlanta Regional Arts Fund. He is a member of AlternateROOTS, a regional service organization for Southern-based artists and organizations who focus on community-engaged practices and social justice. 

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RonAmber Deloney

Project Manager

RonAmber Deloney is a native of Dallas, TX, and has worked on numerous arts and education endeavors, including projects with The Last Poets, literaturWERKstatt Berlin, The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities/Turnaround Arts, and the Austrian Cultural Forum NY. RonAmber is a poet in the Berlin-based spoken word band, The New Night Babies, and was recently awarded a special projects grant by the City of Dallas' Office of Cultural Affairs to create a STAAR-focused creative writing workshop with high school students. She holds bachelor degrees in English and German from Austin College, a Master of Arts in Arts Politics from NYU and a Master of Science in Education in Adolescent Education from St. John's University. She is a certified project management professional (PMP) and a Fulbright alumna to Germany. 

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Lauren Smart

Media Content Coordinator

Lauren Smart is an arts writer and educator based in Dallas. Her work as a writer and critic has appeared in Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer, Arts + Culture Texas, Cowboys & Indians Magazine,  American Theatre magazine, among others.  She works as an adjunct journalism professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where she teaches arts writing and criticism. She is a host on the Dallas Morning News' Mixed Media Podcast, which is a weekly discussion of local and national cultural topics. She’s been a critic fellow at the Chautauqua Institution and the O’Neill Theater Center, as well as guest critic for the Shreveport Regional Arts Council. She’s also a published poet. She holds a Master’s in Arts Journalism from Syracuse University and Bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and English from Southern Methodist University.

© Gesi Schilling 1 Of 1 2 Sofia Bastidas

Sofia Bastidas

Curatorial Assistant

Sofia Bastidas (Ecuador, 1987) is the 2016-18 Pollock Curatorial Fellow. She co-organized TVGOV, a company that aims to direct government towards preservation of territory, and developed Port to Port, a curatorial endeavor creating networks between global port cities

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Constance White

Artist Projects Manager

Constance Y. White has an intuitive sense to lead, guide, mentor and inspire. She is a creative professional whose passion and experience has contributed to over 19 years of successful arts and culture programming and project management.

As Lead Creative and Principle Consultant, White masters the ideation, planning and management of big ideas from inception to completion.  Her experience includes management of multi-million dollar programs as well as small and large-scale projects.

about/ Partners


Southern Methodist University | SMU Meadows School of the Arts

The SMU Meadows School of the Arts, formally established at SMU in 1969 and named in honor of benefactor Algur H. Meadows, is one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music, and theater. The goal of SMU Meadows, as a comprehensive educational institution, is to prepare students to meet the demands of professional careers. It is a leader in developing innovative outreach and community engagement programs, which challenge students to make a difference locally and globally by developing connections between art, entrepreneurship, and change. SMU Meadows is also a convener for the arts in North Texas, serving as a catalyst for new collaborations and providing critical industry research.

University of Texas at El Paso | Rubin Center for the Visual Arts

Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts is committed to excellence in the exhibition of contemporary art that encourages adventuresome thinking and dialogue. Located at the epicenter of the Americas, it serves as a laboratory for emerging artists and innovative practitioners, providing access for an audience of multiple and diverse communities. It offers our geographically isolated region a direct experience with contemporary art of international recognition and importance.

It serves as a learning site for students from the University of Texas at El Paso and the surrounding community by creating opportunities for student involvement in the planning and execution of exhibitions, and through formal and informal educational opportunities for audiences of all ages. 

Arizona State University | ASU Gammage

Arizona State University is a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but rather by whom it includes and how they succeed. Its values include advancing research and discoveries of public value, as well as assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural, and overall health of the communities it serves.

For more than 50 years, ASU Gammage has been a top cultural destination in the Valley. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed performing arts center, located on the Tempe campus of ASU, is one of the largest university-based presenters of performing arts in the world and a top touring market for Broadway. Home to the Desert Schools Broadway Across America—Arizona and BEYOND series, its mission of Connecting Communities™ goes beyond the stage to impact the community through shared experiences in the arts.

Jubilee Park | Jubilee Park Community Center

Jubilee Park Community Center is a catalyst for comprehensive community revitalization and enrichment in the southeast Dallas surrounding neighborhood, with emphasis on the education of children and adults. Jubilee’s purpose is to improve lives and strengthen community. Jubilee takes a comprehensive approach to revitalization through education, health, safety, economic development and housing.  

The foundation for all of Jubilee’s work is education.  The Children’s Education Initiative takes a holistic approach to educating children in the community, including Head Start (ages 3-5) and Early Head Start (ages newborn – 3) programs located on the Jubilee campus, an after school program for Kindergarten through 8th grade, summer programs, and weekend activities including tutoring.  Jubilee also provides adult education including classes in English as a Second Language and computer literacy.

Jubilee combines healthy meals, nutrition education and exercise initiatives aimed at improving nutrition and wellness for all area residents.The Jubilee Park area is designated as a “food desert” with no grocery store located within the neighborhood.  Healthy meals are provided to children in the afterschool program each day and healthy snacks are provided for the weekend.

Jubilee serves as an advocate for residents and a facilitator of community-led initiatives for home improvement.  This has included collaborating with community members, corporations and other nonprofit partners to build new homes as well as make repair to numerous existing homes. Jubilee worked with the City of Dallas to build new affordable housing for neighborhood seniors in 24 apartment-style residences. By the end of 2016, 28 affordable homes for families will be built in the neighborhood.

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP | bcWorkshop

The buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is a Texas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making. We enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of our cities where resources are most scarce. To do so, [bc] recognizes that it must first understand the social, economic, and environmental issues facing a community before beginning work.

As the only community design organization working across Texas, [bc] is unique in its approach to community engagement. We form strong relationships through our collaborative design work, educational outreach activities, and social media channels, enabling us to engage with a broad segment of the population. The success of our work is contingent upon reaching those residents not typically sought out by the design and planning community.

[bc] has been fortunate to receive several awards from AIA Dallas & LRGV AIA, the 2010 National AIA/HUD Secretary's Award for Community-Informed Design and a 2011 National SEED Competition award. In 2013, [bc] was awarded the prestigious Rudy Bruner Award Silver Medal for the Congo Street Initiative. We were recently awarded the Texas Society of Architects Design Award for the La Hacienda Casitas. Little Free Libraries/Libros Libres was also awarded the 2014 SXSW Eco Place by Design award.

[bc] was established in Dallas in 2005 and a field office in Brownsville opened in 2011, and a Houston office followed in 2013.

The McKinney Avenue Contemporary | The MAC

The McKinney Avenue Contemporary (The MAC) opened in October of 1994 as the first venue in North Texas where contemporary art in all disciplines could be explored under one roof. With exhibitions from regional, national, and international contemporary artists, The MAC’s intimate and flexible space presents art on a human scale. All visual art exhibitions, lectures and literary readings are free and open to the public. Performances are offered at a small admission fee. The MAC strives to make the challenging world of contemporary art relevant and accessible to new and continuing audiences. Since it’s opening, The MAC has set an extraordinary record of presenting over thirteen hundred artists in the galleries, including our annual membership exhibition, with monthly seminars by artists and art professionals. In 2012, The MAC welcomed more than 14,000 visitors to the gallery making it the home of some of the most inspiring, challenging and riveting art in Dallas and North Texas

The MAC is a nonprofit organization that stands as a Dallas advocate for creative freedom offering the opportunity for experimentation and presentation of art in all disciplines. It supports the emerging and established artist’s role in society by providing a forum for critical dialogue with their audiences. This relationship is cultivated through education and innovative programming.

Nasher Sculpture Center | The Nasher

Located in the heart of the Dallas Arts District, the Nasher Sculpture Center is home to the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculpture in the world. The longtime dream of the late Raymond and Patsy Nasher, the museum was designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, in collaboration with landscape architect Peter Walker, to seamlessly integrate the indoor galleries with the outdoor garden spaces, creating a museum experience unlike any other in the world. In addition to gallery spaces, the Center contains an auditorium, education and research facilities, a cafe, and an award-winning store.

On view in the light-filled galleries and amid the garden grounds are rotating works from the Collection, which features more than 300 masterpieces by Calder, Giacometti, Matisse, Picasso, Rodin, and many more modern masters, as well as rotating installations by celebrated and emerging contemporary artists. In dialogue with the Collection and special exhibitions, the Nasher also offers an elevated series of special programs, including artist talks, lecture programs, contemporary chamber music concerts, artist-led classes, and exclusive member events, all meant to enrich the museum experience and highlight the Center as a catalyst for the study, installation, conservation and appreciation of modern and contemporary sculpture.

Arts in a Changing America| ArtChangeUS

ArtChangeUS: Arts in a Changing America is a new, five-year initiative that seeks to explore and understand the dramatic demographic transformation of the United States and its profound impact on arts and culture. Led by Roberta Uno and based out of the California Institute of the Arts, ArtChangeUS is creating a vast network of relevant organizations, artists, scholars, idea producers, and resource people across sectors to reframe the national arts conversation at the intersection of arts and social justice. Through a carefully curated series of special events, performances, presentations and conferences, ArtChangeUS will serve as an urgently needed catalyst that brings unheard, leadership voices in the arts to the forefront of social discourse, arts production, and community change. The mission of ArtChangeUS is to reframe the national arts conversation by responding to the cultural assets of demographic change and creating opportunities for artists, organizers, and thinkers to advance cultural equity.

Howlround | Howlround.com

HowlRound is a condition—one that results in a howling noise when sound from a loudspeaker is fed back into a microphone. It’s an amplified feedback loop. This idea of a feedback loop represents the condition upon which HowlRound was born five years ago—as a place for artists to provide feedback, learning, expertise, frustration, and vision. We believe that making art is more than a money game, that ticket sales for a live performance are just one piece of what it takes to claim success in our art form. Access and engagement are our highest values, and everyone, yes everyone, has something to contribute to the learning, the making, and the sharing of art. All of our content comes from our community. We curate by saying yes. We curate by listening to you.


The Meadows Prize

New Cities, Future Ruins is the 2016 recipient of the The Meadows Prize, which is awarded as a key part of Ignite/Arts Dallas, a program launched by the SMU Meadows School of the Arts to foster projects that integrate the arts and community engagement in the broader SMU campus, the city of Dallas, and the arts field at large. Led by Clyde Valentín, Ignite/Arts Dallas aims to engage SMU Meadows in deep relationships with the Dallas community, using the arts to foster connections between diverse groups and to introduce its students to the arts’ critical role in social engagement.

Re-envisioned in 2009, the Meadows Prize is now presented annually to innovative artists and projects in a discipline represented by one of the academic units within SMU Meadows: advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music, and theater. The Prize includes support for a residency or program in Dallas in addition to a $35,000 award. In return, recipients are expected to interact in a substantive way with Meadows students and collaborating arts organizations and to leave a lasting cultural legacy in Dallas. The Meadows Prize is sponsored by SMU Meadows and The Meadows Foundation.