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The Perot Museum building is one of Dallas’ most iconic pieces of modern architecture. The Dallas Morning News called it “the boldest piece of modern architecture to hit Dallas.” Designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne, the layered architecture breaks the normal bounds of traditional form and features a 54-foot, continuous-flow escalator within a 150-foot glass-enclosed, tube-like structure that extends outside of the building, an unexpected design detail that defines Mayne’s style.

But one of its key outward features is the large outdoor multi-floor staircase that leads up to the museum’s entrance. The staircase faces Field Street and its design is frequently changed. When the Perot Museum of Nature and Science had a LEGO exhibit, the staircase was emblazoned with a giant LEGO-inspired mural. When the museum featured an exhibit on Mayan civilization, a Mayan-inspired painting was installed on the stairs.

Now, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science has partnered with the African American Museum of Dallas to search for a Black designer from North Texas to create a new image for the staircase that celebrates Black leaders in science from history to modern day.

There is an open call for artist submissions, and the winning designer will be awarded $5,000 and have their image recreated on the staircase this winter. The deadline is Oct. 30. The winner will be notified of his/her selection by no later than Dec. 1, 2020. There is no submission fee.

“The African American Museum is very pleased to partner with the Perot Museum on a project that will not only highlight both art and science but also promote the work of a local artist,” says Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney, deputy director and chief operating officer of the African American Museum, Dallas. “The Staircase Project will produce a visual and exciting work of art that recognizes the major contributions of local and national African Americans scientists to the STEM fields.”

As a major Southern city, Dallas has its share of violent history with race. In the early 1920s, the Dallas chapter of the Ku Klux Klan once included one out of every three eligible men—after discounting ineligible groups like women, children, and minorities.

This year and past years have seen massive protests against police brutality of people of color and some of the most high profile cases in the nation have occurred in Dallas and surrounding cities. Botham Jean, Dallas. Atatiana Jefferson, Fort Worth. Jordan Edwards, Balch Springs. In 2016, Dallas was also the site of an ambush where five Dallas police officers were shot while protecting protesters in a Black Lives Matter march.

The staircase project seems to be a chance to celebrate meaningful Black lives, rather than mourn their loss.

When a creative design is chosen, it will be reproduced on weatherproof, vinyl materials and professionally installed on the Perot Museum’s large, multi-story outdoor staircase. The African American Museum will also provide entrants with a list of notable people for inspiration from the “Wizard of Tuskegee” George Washington Carver to NASA’s Mary Winston Jackson, the father of the blood bank Dr. Charles Drew, and telecommunications inventor Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African American woman to earn an MIT doctorate.

They envision the final project will include a variety of noteworthy African American STEM leaders. 

A past design | Courtesy of Perot Museum

A design will be chosen by Panelists Dr. Lauren Cross, program coordinator and assistant professor, interdisciplinary art and design studies, College of Visual Art and Design at the University of North Texas; Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney, deputy director and chief operating officer of the African American Museum, Dallas, and former chairman of the history department at The University of Texas at Arlington; Byron Sanders, president and CEO, Big Thought; Dr. Linda Silver, Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer, Perot Museum of Nature and Science; and Arthur Simmons, quality systems management, processes and analytics, Texas Instruments.

“The Perot Museum’s mission is to inspire minds through nature and science, so we’re delighted to partner with the African American Museum, Dallas, to spotlight Black leaders in science from America’s past and present,” says Anne Woods, chief financial officer at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

“We look forward to seeing the entries, introducing the winner to the community, and sharing our new staircase design with the public later this year.”

Past design | Courtesy of Perot Museum

What to Know Before You Enter

To spotlight the artistic talent in the Dallas/Fort Worth region, the Perot Museum will commission a Black creative designer who resides in North Texas to design the image.

  • Participants must be a U.S. citizen 18 years of age and older
  • Collaborations of up to two individuals are allowed. 
  • Submission requirements include an overall image and detailed specs, artist statement, short bio and photo for promotional purposes. 
  • Finalists will participate in mandatory interviews—conducted in person or virtually—with the judges.
  • Because the Perot Museum and the African American Museum are both 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations, entries must be non-political and non-violent in nature.

For rules, details and submission instructions, visit perotmuseum.org/programs-and-events/adults-only/field-street-staircase.html.

Alexandra Cronin

Alexandra Cronin is Local Profile's senior editor. She has been with the company since 2016. She loves great coffee, good food, and average wine.