"Bridge Building: A Tiny Studio Unites an East Dallas Neighborhood," by D. Architecture,

The Dallas Morning News, August 2000.

Here's a dumb little building that is smarter than it looks precocious even, with a sporty outrigger canopy above the front door and a rippling red wall that explodes beside a busy urban street.

Designed by Dallas architect Dan Shipley, this tiny (1,700-square-foot) studio is the latest addition to the 5501 Columbia Art Center, founded in 1992 by folklorist Alan Govenar and his wife, Kaleta Doolin. The couple originally hired Mr. Shipley to convert a 1918 firehouse into offices and exhibition spaces, then brought him back a few years later to design a warehouse and photo archive next door. The studio, at the corner of Columbia Avenue and Augusta Street, houses the center's Art in the Neighborhood program, which brings schoolchildren and professional artists together for weekend workshops. The program started with two workshops and this year will sponsor five, thanks to a National Endowment for the Arts grant and support from the city's Office of Cultural Affairs. The first ones took place in the firehouse, until cleaning up all the glitter and spilled paint began to interfere with other programs.

"The coordination became impossible so we decided to create another space," says Ms. Doolin, who has two degrees in art. "Children in urban neighborhoods are underserved. The schools 1 visit don't have art classes, so this is away to turn children on to painting and drawing in an informal way."

Mr. Shipley calls the studio a 'hinge building' that connects two parts of a fluid East Dallas neighborhood. On one side is a narrow street lined with modest single-family houses that date from the 1920s and '30s; on the other are dense apartment blocks and a six-lane boulevard. The studio responds to both scales. Its gray shingles and suspended canopy recall the older neighborhood, including the corner grocery store, while the broad red wall has the blunt simplicity of a freeway billboard. Un mistakable at 50 mph, it also picks up the colors and textures of the firehouse across the street.

The studio cost only $150,000 and might have been strictly utilitarian, like the garages and tire shops that line Columbia and adjacent streets. Mr. Shipley's skillful detailing has lifted it above the neighborhood norm without making it seem out of place. The exterior consists of corrugated, shingles and treated pine- about as basic as you can get. The interior is a large open room with a concrete floor, ceiling trusses from Home Depot and large windows that flood the space with light. The windows are actually clear polycarbonate panels designed to resist the stray rock or bullet. The children have plenty of room to make and display their art, including metal doors that close over windows to create additional pinup spaces. A narrow side yard has been converted into a play area for the obligatory breaks. Mr. Shipley speaks of the studio as just another building that takes its place alongside everything else on Columbia. "It's there and not there," he says. 'You can't tell if it was designed or just happened." But modesty is only part of the story. Like the rest of the 5501 Columbia Art Center, the studio sends a message that the arts are part of daily life and available to everyone. In a changing neighborhood, it is impossible to overstate the importance of that message.

Copyright © 2006 Kaleta Doolin