Songs for a City Park

by Cynthia Mulcahy


Sunday, October 25th, 2015, 5:00 to 7:00pm,

Kidd Springs Park, 711 W. Canty St., Dallas, TX 75208

For more info contact: Cynthia Mulcahy 214.948.9595


Performance as Gesture: Songs for a City Park is a socially-engaged, research-based public artwork by Cynthia Mulcahy that culminates in an evening of musical performances on Sunday, October 25th, set amidst the historic Japanese gardens of Kidd Springs Park, a public city park located in the North Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. Performance as Gestureis intended to recognize the rich cultural history of the public park’s Japanese gardens, originally established in the late 1960s from a gift to the city by private citizens, Dr. & Mrs. Jack Edwards. The artist-led public art project is funded by a new artist grant from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs.

Project Description

altResearch in public municipal, museum and library archives in Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco and New York as well as oral interviews with park visitors conducted by Mulcahy have revealed not only a lively history of citizen use of the public gardens at Kidd Springs Park, but also the surprising provenance of several of the Japanese artifacts now residing there. As it turns out, this public city park has quite an engaging story to tell.

A ten-foot tall two-ton granite stone lantern now residing in Kidd Springs Park was sent by the Emperor of Japan's government for the Japanese pavilion of A Century of Progress, the highly successful World's Fair held in Chicago in 1933. Two stone Buddhas in Kidd Springsalt Park have been identified as 18th century (c. 1730) Japanese artifacts that came from the collection of George Turner Marsh, a San Francisco Japanese antiquities expert whose collections established two of the oldest and most important Japanese gardens in the United States: the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco (the oldest public Japanese garden in America) as well as the Japanese Garden at The Huntington Library, one of America's great museums and botanical gardens in San Marino, just outside of Los Angeles.

All of these Japanese antiquities and others were collected in the 1920s and 1930s by Ethel Buell, an Oklahoma oil heiress, for her private garden in Muskogee. By a stroke of good fortune, Buell’s collection was offered to the Dallas Park and Recreation Department after Buell’s death in 1964 by her daughter, Betty Buell Bradstreet, who, for admitted sentimental reasons, wanted to see her mother’s Japanese collection stay together. Through a monetary gift from private citizens of Oak Cliff, Dr. & Mrs. Jack Edwards, the Dallas Park and Recreation Department was able to acquire the private collection for a public city park for an unusually low sum in 1966.

Since the public dedication in 1971, Kidd Springs Park’s beloved Japanese gardens have over the decades been the site of Japanese tea ceremonies, moon-viewing parties, neighbors’ daily strolls, couples courting, even guerrilla weddings and, today, the Japanese gardens remain a vibrant public green-space frequented by many admirers. On Sunday, October 25th, an evening of musical performances to celebrate and honor the cultural history of the Japanese gardens at Kidd Springs Park will include songs performed by a Japanese taiko drumming group, Dallas Kiyari Daiko, and, in the Oak Cliff neighborhood’s musical tradition, an award-winning North Texas mariachi group, Mariachi Jalisciense. The performance is also a lament for what has since disappeared from the park (rumored to have been stolen, damaged by fire, deteriorated or perhaps in storage) including an irreplaceable Japanese Edo Period temple bell (1773), an enormous torii gate once installed in the park’s lake and an intricate bridge that spanned the creek. Both the torii and the bridge were built based on the famous originals in Miyajima and Nikko by expert Japanese craftsman and shipped from Japan to Ethel Buell’s Oklahoma garden in 1928.

Performance as Gesture: Songs for a City Park will begin at twilight on a Sunday evening, October 25th, in Kidd Springs Park’s Japanese gardens. The entire two-hour event from 5 to 7pm is free to the public. A printed map detailing the history of the Japanese park will be available at the event and inside the park’s recreation building.

About the Grant The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs inaugurated a new artist grant in 2015 to support Dallas-based artist-led public art projects. Artist Cynthia Mulcahy was recently chosen as one of five artists to receive the inaugural round of OCA Cultural Projects Program Special Support Grants for her socially-engaged public artwork proposal for Kidd Springs Park.


About the Artist

Cynthia Mulcahy is a Dallas-based conceptual artist and curator whose large-scale intermedia works and ephemeral environments create immersive experiences that re-interpret cultural traditions while often addressing socio-political issues. Be it a community square dance or farming as street theater, her participatory public artworks place emphasis on notions of beauty, humility and human connectedness and function as temporarily appropriated spaces for social interaction. In like manner, Mulcahy’s interrelated practice of platforming the work of others through organizing/curating exhibitions has focused on pressing contemporary subjects such as modern warfare and American militarism.

Recent projects include Engines of War, an exhibition that examined the United States wars in Iraq and Afghanistan co-curated with Charles Dee Mitchell (NYC, 2013), Seventeen Hundred Seeds, a site-specific land work collaboration (a large cultivated farm field in the middle of the city) with Robert Hamilton (Oak Cliff, 2012), and Square Dance: A Community Project, co-organized with Leila Grothe at the Trinity River Audubon Center (South Dallas, 2011). Square Dance proposed social engagement as art in the form of an outdoor seasonal community dance and was funded in part by an Idea Fund Grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Reviews of Mulcahy’s work have met critical acclaim appearing in The Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, The New York Times, The New Yorker and New York Magazine.