uthor, artist, filmmaker, historian, and Guggenheim
fellow Alan Govenar founded Documentary Arts in the
fall of 1985, after completing a large commission from
the Dallas Museum of Art as part of the Lone Star Regionalism
exhibition called Living Texas Blues. “The commission involved the
documentation of a Texas blues style that emerged during the 1920s
and ‘30s and paralleled the growth of a Texas regionalist style in
the visual arts that was featured in the exhibition (Bywaters, Dozier,
et al) at the DMA,” says Govenar. The exhibition inspired a book,
an anthology of Texas blues recordings, and three short films that
showed at the museum during the exhibition.
Documentary Arts has received multiple National Endowment
for the Arts grants, including a $40,000 NEA Grant for this
year to support the development of the Masters of Traditional
Arts Interactive Website. “The concept for Documentary Arts
grew from my deep commitment to present new perspectives
on historical issues and diverse cultures,” Govenar notes. “The
founding mission is to broaden public knowledge and appreciation
of the arts of different cultures in all media.” He has also been
tapped to curate and oversee the Museum of Street Culture
planned for 508 Park Avenue, which will present fresh perspectives
on performance, installation, and emerging art forms. It expands
the outreach of The Stewpot, the subject of his latest feature-length documentary to be released this spring.
Documentary Arts is based in Dallas and New York, and
FIELD OF VISION
DOCUMENTARY ARTS, FOUNDED BY ALAN GOVENAR, CHRONICLES
CURRENT PERSPECTIVES ON ART, CULTURE, AND HISTORY.
Govenar divides his time between the local office in a historic
building on Columbia, where he and his wife Kaleta Doolin also
co-founded the Texas African American Photography Archive,
and NYC. He has also worked in Europe for more than 20 years.
“Dallas is my primary residence,” he notes, “though much of my
work is based in New York City, where I have and continue to
work with the International Center of Photography, the York
Theatre, and the American Friends of Blérancourt.” His feature-length films include The Beat Hotel, Master Qi and the Monkey King,
and You Don’t Need Feet to Dance.
Govenar’s passion for the arts began as a child, as his
grandmother and parents collected Asian art and his father had
eclectic musical tastes and introduced him to blues, jazz, rock and
roll, salsa, and opera at an early age. He describes the signature
event of his career: “Blind Lemon Blues, the musical I created
with Akin Babatunde, was developed in Dallas with a local cast
and premiered in Paris and Geneva before going to New York,
where it was presented in full productions as part of Central
Park SummerStage, off-Broadway at the York Theatre, and then
touring to nine cities in Europe as part of the World Music Theatre
Festival.” Govenar is currently developing a new musical, and
has published his 26th book, Deep Ellum: The Other Side of Dallas,
in 2013. Another film, Bridging Utopia, will be released this year.
He notes, “I’m very committed to seeing this local community,
particularly as it relates to the arts, become more vibrant.” P
BY NANCY MYERS
The Museum of Street Culture will be housed in a landmark Deco building downtown, erected in 1929.
Photograph by Alan Govenar, courtesy of Documentary Arts