Oak Cliff Studio Offers Free Space for Emerging Artists

Sunset Art Studios boosts artists with free space while engaging community in artistic process

Sunset Art Studios; artists


Oak Cliff resident Rachel Rushing faced a dilemma. As an emerging artist she needed a space to work on photography projects, but found it difficult to secure a spot she could afford.

Knowing she couldn’t be the only young artist striking out on studio space, she drafted a plan that would not only solve her problem, but provide opportunities for her fellow artists.

Her idea was to offer free studio space and eventually a stipend to emerging artists while engaging the community in the artistic process. The plan garnered her a 2015 CADD FUNd award from the Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas.

“There are art centers throughout Dallas that focus on community engagement, but not necessarily with the focus of emerging artists, who are really raw and really young and just need a boost to get going,” Rushing said.

Sunset Art Studios; artists

Rachel Rushing (left) partnered with her friend, Emily Riggert to open Sunset Art Studios. [Photo courtesy of Sunset Art Studios]

The $4,000 prize helped Rushing lease about 600 square feet in the Elmwood neighborhood. She partnered with her husband, Ryan Rushing and friend, Emily Riggert, to convert the old dentist office into an art studio and exhibition space. In May, Sunset Art Studios celebrated its official opening by hosting Oil and Cotton‘s student art show.


Riggert said they plan to accept about four to five artists each year through the residency program. To be eligible, artists must submit a proposal detailing their project, which should include a community activation component.

Sunset’s first artist, Chesley Williams, recently wrapped up her eight-week residency. Normally, she works out of her house, but for her large scale installation that required cutting wood and assembling frames, it was helpful to have a dedicated project area, she said.

“The work would have been something different had I worked inside my home because of the constraint of space,” Williams said.

Sunset also provided a physical location to meet and collaborate with other artists involved in her piece. Her interactive exhibition, Tessellated Fold opened July 30 at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and will be on display through Sept. 2.


The studio will reach another milestone Saturday, when it hosts its first social impact event. Dog Days will raise awareness about responsible dog ownership and adoption in South Dallas.

“We noticed that the stray dog and neglected dog population has been getting worse and worse every year,” Riggert said. “We are both dog owners and it’s infuriating to see this giant dog population without the resources that they need, so we decided to get together and do something about it.”

A recent study performed by Boston Consulting Group estimates nearly 9,000 dogs wander loose on the streets of southern Dallas.

Unlike other social art events, the point of Dog Days won’t be to produce a final art product, Rachel Rushing said. Instead, she wants it to help initiate a conversation about dog ownership.

For Riggert, art making involves finding solutions along the way to reach the final product. That outlook can be applied to other challenges in life, she said.

“It opens your mind to a more creative way of problem solving. I think that’s a good mindset to be in if you are trying to tackle some larger issues,” Riggert said.

“I feel like the art world seems like the cool kids club sometimes. Something we are trying to do is make it more accessible to a broader audience.”
Emily Riggert

Money received from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Equity Initiative helped fund the event, which includes hiring two artists to draw dog portraits and constructing a pop-up dog park. Representatives from Dallas Animal Services will be onsite and dog rescue, No Bully Left Behind, will bring animals for adoption.

Riggert hopes Dog Days and other events Sunset holds in the future will help break down the walls of the art studio.

“I feel like the art world seems like the cool kids club sometimes. Something we are trying to do is make it more accessible to a broader audience,” she said.


Dog Days

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Sunset Art Studios, 1811 Balboa Place, in Dallas

More  Info: Visit the Facebook event page or email [email protected]

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