The Ark on Noah Street

Read all the Activating Vacancy posts, and learn more about POP Dallas.

We built an ark in the Tenth Street Historic District. Inspired by Noah Street, named for Noah Penn, one of the neighborhood’s pioneers and a founder of Greater El Bethel Baptist Church, the Ark consists of a superstructure of reclaimed and salvaged materials from the neighborhood built around a 20-foot shipping container and displayed at 1127 E 10th St (at the corner of Noah St and Cliff St behind Greater El Bethel Baptist Church). The Ark on Noah Street was the first project completed as a part of Activating Vacancy in the Tenth Street Historic District. Envisioned by artists Christopher Blay and constructed with help from neighborhood residents, the Ark was opened during a festival on March 1st, 2014.

During the festival commemorating the Ark, its interior was transformed into a gallery of collages of family and institutional narratives created by local community members, brought in a processional to the Ark. Following the festival, the Ark will remain on display for 40 days and 40 nights. When disassembled, the Ark will be stored within the container to be resurrected as part of a yearly ritual. The metaphor of the Ark represents the neighborhood and its families and institutions as a vessel for culture and memory and its annual resurrection as a means for celebrating the place’s journey across the years.

Read more about The Ark!

Check out Photos from the event!

Activating Vacancy Kickoff

Read all the Activating Vacancy posts, and learn more about POP Dallas.

After several months of engagement and planning Activating Vacancy in the Tenth Street Historic District is ready to launch. The 16 artists originally selected for the initiative have taken part in three engagement activities lead by members of the community; the first was a social and bbq intended to get people talking and sharing stories, the second was a neighborhood tour lead by community members to important historical sites including the Oak Cliff Cemetery, Greater El Bethel Baptist Church, and the N.W. Harllee Elementary School, and the final was a neighborhood launch where artists started to share their ideas. Following these engagements 11 artists continued and create project proposals with input from the community and curatorial committees. 

In the end teams of artists proposed 6 projects including; the Ark on Noah St., Story Corners, Dear House, Ghost Bridges, the Show Hill Biz Park, and the Tenth Street Sweep. Over the next 6 months check back to get details on the events and how you can participate! Many workshops, build days, and celebrations are sure to follow and will result in an amazing series of projects.  We hope to see you there!

Learn more about the selected artist through our Artist Profile Videos!

Dallas Heroes

Learn more about our Informing work.

Dallas Heroes was initiated by bcWORKSHOP in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s incredible legacy of service. Dr. King challenged us to build a more perfect union and taught us that everyone has a role to play. With the Dallas Heroes project, on January 20th we honored some of those who serve or have served locally by distributing "Dallas Heroes" trading cards across the city of Dallas. Our hope is that this advocacy will encourage you to honor your heroes and to engage the causes that you care about.

How were the 25 heroes chosen? For the First Edition we nominated our own local heroes, the people that have inspired us by striving to bring greater economic, social, and environmental justice to Dallas. They come from a wide range of causes, including civil rights, environmental justice, and the arts. There are many more heroes to honor - now we welcome your submissions for the Second Edition.

Why trading cards? They’re tangible, portable, collectible, and fun. We were inspired by vintage sports cards, and we believe our heroes can be celebrated in this form as well.

Where can I get a pack? This is a limited edition of 1,000 packs, distributed across the city. You can find locations posted on Twitter and Instagram (#dallasheroes). The cards will not be reprinted!

What can I do? Submit and share your Dallas heroes, either through the website, or through Twitter or Instagram  (#dallasheroes). On the website you can also connect to the causes or organizations associated with some of the 25 heroes in this pack. We encourage you to find other local opportunities for volunteerism, advocacy, or donations.

When will the Second Edition come out? That all depends on you and the submissions we receive. Submit your heroes through for a chance to win a t-shirt featuring your Dallas Hero!

More questions? Give us a call at 214-252-2900, e-mail us at or drop by our office at 416 S. Ervay Street!


Read more about the Dallas Heroes project in the local Dallas media:

Dallas Morning News

D Magazine

Announcing Activating Vacancy

Check out future Activating Vacancy posts here.

Activating Vacancy will explore how design and art can re-imagine the forgotten or neglected spaces in the Tenth Street community as part of a dialogue about what the neighborhood is, was, and could be. Up to six collaborators will be commissioned by bcWORKSHOP to immerse themselves in the community, working with residents and stakeholders to develop and execute six projects. Together, these works will challenge common public perceptions of vacancy in Tenth Street and critically consider historic preservation, among other urban conditions, as they relate to the neighborhood.

A vacant shotgun house retains some of Tenth Street's history
A vacant shotgun house retains some of Tenth Street's history

Diverse artistic media will be applied throughout Tenth Street, exploring sites and issues critical to the neighborhood’s past and future. Through creative interpretation, Activating Vacancy will enable both community members and the larger city to rediscover this culturally and historically significant place. Artists, designers, and arts educators are encouraged to respond to an open Call for Collaboration and submit qualifications to be a part of Activating Vacancy.

Recognized by both the National Register of Historic Places and the City of Dallas Landmark Districts, Tenth Street was founded as a freedman’s town shortly after the Civil War. As a result of segregation, the neighborhood was driven to self-sufficiency, and African-American businesses, churches, and families thrived. When integration opened opportunities in newer suburban areas and South R.L. Thornton Freeway (I-35E) was forced through the heart of the area, the aging Tenth Street neighborhood began to decline. Today, it is both one of Dallas’s oldest and most culturally significant neighborhoods, and one whose history is at greatest risk.

The Initiative begins Fall 2013 and is produced and curated by bcWORKSHOP, a Dallas-based community design center, in partnership with the Dallas CityDesign Studio who will be developing a policy framework and guide for future development for the historic district. Based on this partnership, Activating Vacancy will be part of a unique environment where art can influence, not respond to, policy creation.

Activating Vacancy is made possible through generous funding by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Trinity Trust Foundation, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundaiton and local arts patrons.

SMU deploys POP Toolkit

Learn more about POP Dallas.

testing sensors
testing sensors
creating power source for sensor node
creating power source for sensor node

In February 2013, Southern Methodist University’s Innovation Gymnasium and bcWORKSHOP began talks about a partnership to bring engineering students into neighborhoods to develop socially engaged technology solutions. The Innovation Gymnasium regularly runs Immersion Design Experiences (IDEs), intensive ten-day interdisciplinary engineering design projects for real clients that allow students to build skills with client relations, research, prototyping, finance, and marketing. During the last week of May 2013, the IDE began work within Dolphin Heights. Seven engineering students were presented with an unwieldy problem: how can you measure healthy living environment, connectivity, and cohesion, three of the Measures contained in the POP Toolkit? They brainstormed a number of possible solutions including: a wireless sensor network that could detect noise, light, weather, and air quality and relay the information to a website to host and display collected data; an interactive Neighborhood Board to display sensor-gathered data and also collect qualitative data; and a Wi-Fi bench to serve as a gathering place for the community while providing Wi-Fi to the neighborhood. Due to the budget and time constraints, the students decided to focus on producing the wireless sensor network and the website to display the collected data.

By tracking levels of sound intensity at sensors scattered throughout the neighborhood, students hypothesized that they could map movement and pinpoint circulation patterns (connectivity), gathering places (cohesion), as well as ambient noise (healthy living environment). Tracking light with photosensors at night and during the day would identify light pollution and available shade, two more components of a healthy living environment. An additional single sensor recording weather and air quality would help understand pollution (healthy living environment).

presentation of prototype to bcWORKSHOP and Ms Hill
presentation of prototype to bcWORKSHOP and Ms Hill

The students did a commendable job working hard under pressure with a great deal of sensitivity to the neighborhood’s interests and perceptions. Their technical success compares with their enthusiasm to extend their short-term solution into a long-term project complementing the POP Toolkit’s mission: assisting grassroots planning by preparing the community as advocates for change.

Many thanks to engineering students Kate, Greg, Elizabeth, Eric, Jeff, Lauren, Matt, Austin, and Alex! We are already looking forward to future collaboration!

POP Measures & Tools

Learn more about POP Dallas.

The last POP Toolkit post, in March, mentioned we were looking for a neighborhood to partner with us to Pilot the Toolkit. We found that partner in the Mill City neighborhood, but what has happened in the meantime? Making that announcement revealed to us how much more work still needed to be done -- refining our product and engagement, yes, but also our project definitions.

We had figured out what the Toolkit was and how it worked, but not how to explain it. Our (self-described) “fun and engaging process” was clumsy and awkward to explain or facilitate. We had to go back to the drawing board, where we had long ago stated that the POP Toolkit would structure, visualize, and organize grassroots planning. These principles neatly organize the pieces and parts that make up the Toolkit Process.

The Toolkit structures change by challenging stakeholders to declare a scale of intervention, whether it be the house, the street, the neighborhood or the city. This identifies expectations, a potential audience, and stakeholders.

Livability Measures and Engagement Tools

The Toolkit visualizes change by establishing baseline conditions, contributing factors, and possible solutions to neighborhood concerns. These neighborhood concerns helped us filter global livability research into eight Measures of Livability. The Measures are Density, Form, Use vs. Entitlement, Ownership, Healthy Living Environment, Connectivity, Safety and Cohesion.

Finally, the Toolkit organizes change through twelve Engagement Tools: strategies to convert everyday activities into activism. These are split into three Methods which provide a flexible guide to planning Workshops. The Walk, Meter, List or Web lend themselves to discovering Connections. The Messenger, Gallery, Performance or Meeting are good strategies to share those discoveries. The Act, Garden, Dinner and Plan make a difference. All of the Tools should be used with reflection to deepen the impact and understanding of each step.

The POP Toolkit is, at it's simplest, a way to deploy design thinking as a community organizing Tool. It reflects the process we at bcWORKSHOP use in all our design and making, and puts those skills in neighbor's hands to expand the impact we can make together.

Activity Book Launch

Learn more about POP Dallas.

The POP [People Organizing Place] Dallas Toolkit is an ongoing initiative that provides citizens with a common language and set of tools to gather neighborhoods around creating a vision & organizing community change. bcWORKSHOP is excited to announce the POP Toolkit Activity Book coming soon to a neighborhood near you! To participate in the pilot, you will need to gather an inclusive group of neighborhood stakeholders that will commit to seeking positive change guided by four meetings with bcWORKSHOP.

During the first meeting, bcWORKSHOP will help you collectively map and prioritize the issues and assets that sustain your neighborhood. This is used in the second meeting to generate a prioritized list of goals, which you will discover more about by building a Workshop around a Tool. The third meeting with bcWORKSHOP moves from reflection on discoveries to identifying partners and an audience to help reach your goal. You will build a second workshop around another Tool to share your goal with this audience. The last meeting with bcWORKSHOP helps identify and plan how a change will be made once the issue is understood and partners are gathered.

The Toolkit is a resource for neighborhoods in Dallas (and potentially beyond)! It teaches design thinking in the form of Tools that engage creative problem solving and Metrics that identify and compare outcomes. If your neighborhood is interested in exploring your assets and issues through the Toolkit, please be in touch!