Updated: Mar 24, 2022
The Denton Women’s Interracial Fellowship Monument is a meaningful and colorful addition to the landscape of Denton, Texas. Storytelling through sculpture, landscape and digital components, the monument pays tribute to a group of the city’s Civil Rights era heroes: a group of black and white women who came together in the 1960s to ease public school integration and improve the lives of Denton’s African American community.
The piece began as part of a larger discussion about art monuments in the Deep South of the United States, as Denton, Texas began searching for a work of public art to provide balance for an existing monument, a Confederate-era statue (which has since been taken down). The five-year process culminated in late 2021, when the DWIF Monument was unveiled to the public.
Dina Fisher, an LA-based artist who works with sound, graphics, light-reactive murals and interactive tech, was commissioned by the city to create the monument. From the first, Dina saw the project as an exceptional opportunity to use photography and digital art to tell the story of the Fellowship.
Over three months, Dina collaborated with the women of the DWIF, as well as their descendants, to learn their stories and gather family photos for the digital art. Her intensive research also involved scouring multiple resources for information and visual materials, including university archives, local libraries, the Denton Record Chronicle, Denton public school yearbooks, University of Texas yearbooks, documentaries about the DWIF, the Library of Congress National Archives and oral history recordings of DWIF members.
The monument is meant to be interactive and inspirational, but it was important to Dina, as well as the women of the Fellowship, that the monument be educational as well.
“It wasn’t just about making a statue or using photos to memorialize these women, but also to make sure future generations and young children today are educated about our history in the United States.”
On a broader scale, Dina wanted to reimagine what an art monument could be, in content as well as form. Taking inspiration from the sculpture gardens of the past, Dina conceived of a space that includes multiple elements: lenticular sculptures, 8 decorated bollard lights along the pathway and a 24-foot-long stainless-steel arc displaying 30 discs, which Dina calls the image curtain.
“It’s dispersed throughout the park, like sculpture gardens were, but we have totally new technology and aesthetics.”
The pieces and their arrangement create a sense of flow and continuity across the site, anchored by the symbol of the circle, which Dina sees as an ancient symbol of unity. Throughout, curves, arcs and circles create a cohesive, intentional environment. The idea of the circle extends even to the park itself, which was designed in tandem with the city to showcase the art installation.
With so many dynamic elements, the piece is engaging and interactive on multiple levels. The lenticular discs encourage visitors to move around to get the full experience, and the image curtain is equally designed to get people to interact from different angles and perspectives.
When visitors wonder about the images, all they have to do is pull out their phones; extending the experience even further, Dina created a companion website that allows people to use Google Lens to pull up the images in the search results and find more information on the project’s landing page.
“It definitely increases the interactivity, and I did that intentionally. I watched many people interact with it and almost everybody walks around on both sides, and they wonder what those images are.”
On the technical side, Dina worked with different materials and fabricators to produce the many elements found in the park. Since the installation is outside in a public space, the materials and engineering have to stand up to a number of variables, including weather and vandalism. For certain elements, Dina needed a material that would be durable in the long-term while also respecting the color and detail of her digital art. After some research, Dina chose to use ALTO™ Aluminum for the image curtain discs and the curved panels that decorate the bollard lights.
“It meant that I could put my craft out into the open environment. It’s a strong enough substrate that I have no fears that the public is going to damage it, You just never know what’s going to happen. Doing public art, you have to really consider safety and durability."
With the DWIF Monument, Dina continues the work she’s been doing in the public art sphere since 2019, and looks forward to the projects on the go, and yet to come. For her, public art is a challenge, but one she is happy to take on.
“There’s a huge responsibility to being a public artist and I love that. It’s a wonderful way to contribute to the whole, to my community, to something larger than me. Public artists are helping to define and create a social identity for the entire community, and we are also creating collective memory, and as well, collective inspiration and aspiration.”
Thank you to Dina Fisher for speaking with us. The DWIF Monument is a public art project in the city of Denton, TX that uses lenticular sculptures, decorated bollard lighting and an image curtain to create a memorial park in honor of the the Denton Women’s Interracial Fellowship. It was installed in December 2021.
All photos and videos courtesy of Dina Fisher.