Dallas Observer – Daisha Board Leads a Herd of BIPOC Artists With Black Sheep Art Culture

It was Daisha Board’s daughter who first pointed out to her that there weren’t many female artists in the museums and galleries she regularly visited with her mother and siblings. Board noticed, too, the lack of artists of color.

“We noticed on our visits that there was a void,” Board says. “I came back home and I just really thought about what can I do to help advocate for these artists that I know personally who could benefit from being in spaces like the spaces we visited.”

It was 2016, and Board had just lost her finance job at Fanny Mae, where she’d worked for several years. At the time, she was in transition, wondering what she wanted to do with her career. Tired of working for others, she finally decided to follow her passion for art, and founded Black Sheep Art Culture.

“It was initially just advocating for the artists and helping them transition from working solo and not having any representation,” Board says of the project. “A lot of artists that I talk to were just upset with the whole system of the art spaces here in Dallas. A lot of times these artists of color were just given the runaround. They weren’t given any representation, they weren’t given any opportunity up until a moment of social justice unrest, when a Black artist was needed to speak on what was going on in society. A lot of artists felt that they were being taken advantage of.”

“My part of helping with the artists was helping them navigate through that process and working with the gallery to help them understand that we can’t continually take advantage of these artists of color,” she says. “Like, if you want to represent these artists, represent them in their full scale, in their full capacity. So, basically, I was a bridge. I helped these artists gain representation with gallery spaces.”

Board approaches traditional and nontraditional art spaces, communicates artists’ needs and works with the business owners and artists to establish relationships. She also manages a few artists. Right now, she has a roster of around five artists she works with personally, helping to sell their art and place it in traditional and nontraditional art spaces alike. She also works with private and corporate collectors on establishing or building their art collections and with galleries, museums and art fairs — including the Arlington Art Fair, Erin Cluley Gallery, Neighborhood Store + Gallery, African American Museum and Pencil on Paper Gallery — to curate shows.

As a curator, Board aims to create and curate spaces that are comfortable for all people.

“I’m really loving the fact that I’m able to go into these spaces and give them something different than what they’re traditionally used to showcasing, whether it’s incorporating BIPOC artists or bringing in a new set of eyes to see these spaces,” she says. “Because traditionally these galleries only market or promote or inform a certain group of people and we have to get out of that mindset.”

Board’s last project was the exhibition Holding Space — on view at the 500X Gallery in the Tin District until Aug. 22. Kay Seedig, the vice president of 500X, reached out to Black Sheep Art Culture via email, explained the exhibition’s narrative and themes and what they were aiming to accomplish, and asked if Board would like to curate it.

“Unfortunately, a lot of spaces were reaching out after the whole Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd’s murder, and it just didn’t feel authentic for me to curate or to coordinate any type of art exhibit that was for our trauma,” Board says. “It wasn’t authentic. It was more just to showcase the fact that Black people are being murdered. I didn’t feel like they were truly invested in the art or the sociopolitical movement.”

Board looked to work with galleries interested in effecting long-term cultural change.

“When Kay contacted me — which was months later, actually, after everything — I just really thought about where they are in their arts organization, how they support their artists and how it could benefit them and also how their narratives can be shared,” Board says. “They put in some serious work with independent curators of color and artists of color and 100 percent of their sales go to these artists. That’s important. A lot of times these galleries take advantage of these artists.”

The inspiration behind Holding Space, Board says, was not so much about grabbing a seat at the table as it was about creating a space where artists could be comfortable in their truest form and express themselves unreservedly. Board says many galleries tend — or at least attempt — to persuade artists to “tone it down” for exhibitions. Holding Space was intended to ensure that all the artists’ narratives were seen and heard as intensely as they wished.

“These artist statements and the missions were phenomenal,” Board says.  “And most of them were young artists straight out of college or grad school, or had never even shown anywhere … During this whole lockdown and COVID and the uncertainty, a lot of that art was on those areas — of anxiety, or mental health, self-care or wellness, and how they felt during this past year and a half. So my idea was to take that trauma and see where they were now. How are they healing? What helped them heal to get where they are now?

“A lot of spaces were reaching out after the whole Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd’s murder, and it just didn’t feel authentic for me to curate or to coordinate any type of art exhibit that was for our trauma.” –Daisha Board

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Board was also very careful in how she laid out the exhibition. Upon entering the space, a large portrait of a Black man was surrounded by images of white fragility and Black women expressing love or fear. Hands, bodies, faces, figures and nature were the exhibition’s motifs. “Code Switching,” a video installation by Cher Musico, grappled with the concept of identity as something that is experienced and expressed, not just performed and perceived.

“All of these things that play within this particular exhibition just comes from a place where it compels us to be still and ourselves and honor the fact that we were created and we have stories to tell,” Board says. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be based on trauma. It can be based on joy, it can be based on how nature influences (…) and just the fact that we’re still here after such a trying year. So to me it was more of a celebration and a continuation of the conversation of healing from the trauma.”

 Meanwhile, Board is making major moves for Black Sheep Art Culture.

“The fact of the matter is, I’ve worked with a lot of galleries and institutions and spaces and created a good group of people who I feel are supportive of Black Sheep and encouraging me to open up my own space,” she says. “So that’s the next big step set for the fall — of having Black Sheep Contemporary Art Gallery. We’re working hard on that, and continuing the representation of these marginalized artists.”

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