Embracing Where You Live

Earlier this week, my friend Kyle sent me a message asking if I wanted to grab a bite to eat, an opportunity I quickly jumped at. A large part of our conversation that day ended up revolving around a new project that he was in the early stages of developing, a project that had, on some level, been sparked by a Twitter debate a few days before. His project, WhatIsDallas.com, launched today.

This shirt design is what sparked the original Twitter discussion. While we in the design community definitely love what United Pixelworkers is doing and heartily endorse their products, the decision to identify our local design scene with the Dallas Cowboys star was met with some dismay.

The catalyzing Twitter discussion revolved around how Dallas is perceived, and how it’s a city that is constantly either 1) solidly in the shadow of its cooler younger brother to the south, or 2) the central topic of some derisive conversation about city planning, obesity, or really terrible television. This is a frustration I share. Any time I leave this city I am on the defensive, feeling like I have to be prepared to justify my decision to live in Dallas as a creative individual. No one who lives in San Francisco, or Portland, or Brooklyn or even Austin ever has to think about the fact that mentioning their city of origin to a new acquaintance could result in a quick smirk, and maybe a football joke or some crack about Walker, Texas Ranger. It’s taken me a long time to come to grips with living in this city, and to come to peace with the fact that we’re here for the long haul.

The fact is, however, that there are good people here. We’re in a unique position of having a high density of smart, creative people who want to live in community, and who at the same time don’t have to deal with the built-in anonymity of being one of the millions that flock to the major creative centers in this country. We can all know each other.

Not only can we all know each other, but there’s so much opportunity to share. There’s so much opportunity to learn. We are not all bound together by our chosen profession or specialities, but by the bonds of living in a city where we really are the grass roots. We can design websites, open a coffee roasting business, renovate a hotel, or put on a concert. We can rethink major city infrastructure, and make those changes happen. We can teach people to screenprint. We can start a record label. We can open an art gallery, or even bake artisan pies. While you can theoretically do all of these things anywhere, here in Dallas the community is such where you have the ability to pursue your passion without being lost in the crowd. You can refine your craft in public, and your community can support you. That’s what’s cool about where we call home.

So, when Kyle laid out his plan for a website that would simply showcase Dallas creatives who are taking ownership of this community, I was excited. The fact is, we really need something like this here. While the opportunity for community is large, due to the expansive nature of the city and the disconnected pockets where we tend to live, making those actual connections can be difficult. WhatIsDallas.com is a step in the direction of making that process a little bit easier, and is hopefully a step in the right direction of giving this city its due. We live here. It’s our home. I, for one, want to be proud of that.

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