Scott Trent is a metal sculptor with a Lakewood studio, and he teaches digital collaboration classes at UTD, where he is working on a doctorate degree. He’s also the mastermind behind the Henderson Art Project, which debuts this spring. The project, backed by Andres Properties and Phoenix Properties Co., is a competition for Texas sculptors and offers $12,000 in annual prize money. The urban art project will select seven sculptures to be placed on Henderson Avenue the first of the year. Judges will decide one winner, and the public at large will get to cast ballots and select another. The seven sculptors will stay in place for two years, and the following year, seven more sculptors will be selected. So eventually there will be a rotating gallery of 14 sculptures along Henderson. The deadline for artists to submit applications is Feb. 19, and the art will be placed on the street at the end of March.

How did you become a sculptor?

I had a silkscreen business for nine years, and I’ve done a lot of other things too. But I found myself sitting in a warehouse pushing a squeegee, and I realized I wasn’t pursuing my passion. I like to work with metal because it’s heavy; it’s tactile. I want people to touch it. It’s permanent. It’s rough. It’s the perfect medium for me. I’ve been doing it about eight years, and I’m still at the beginning of my career.

What is the idea behind the Henderson Art Project?

There are always a lot of people who want to show your work, but it’s almost always for free. People think you should be paid with this thing called “exposure”. They say, “If you put your work here for free, think of all the exposure you’ll get.” And there are times when that works, but if your art isn’t put in the appropriate context, you’re not getting quality exposure. About 50 percent of my income is from art, so when I think of something, I think about it in terms of whether it’s worth my time and whether it’s a good business decision. So I wanted to make this a different business idea from anything else that’s out there. There is $12,000 in award money. The artists who exhibit each get an $800 stipend. That’s huge. You never see that.

Why did you want to do an urban art project?

In a gallery, you have white walls and good lighting and everything. I want to put fine art out in the street. So your lighting is a street light or a car that’s passing by. A good example is the sculpture I placed at 2323 Henderson (it’s a 6-foot-tall sculpture mad of red I-beams). I went out there to take a look at it, and there were footprints all over the top of it. That’s urban art. There’s no one there to say, “Don’t touch the art.”

Is this project only for sculpture?

I am almost 100 percent sure that everything we put out there this year is going to be a sculpture. But I don’t want to limit it. I’m really hoping that the art community will come out and express themselves in this environment. I would like for 2D artists to think about how to present their art in this way.

How did you get the Andres brothers involved?

They’re the reason this is happening. Andres Properties and Phoenix Property Co. are putting up the prize money, and they’re making it happen. I met Marc and Roger Andres through their mom, Ruth Andres, who is a great supporter of the arts. She bought some of my art, and she likes to get to know artists, so she and I became best buds, and now she’s one of my biggest supporters. Marc and Roger are really involved in the art community, and that’s why they get it. They know how important art is in the community.

What’s in it for them?

To do this project, it had to benefit everyone. There is money to pay the artists, there’s quality exposure, it builds the culture of the area, and it fits into the business model of the street. It’s a win for everybody. Another stakeholder is the merchants on the street. It draws attention to them, and we’re getting them involved in the balloting process.

What else can you tell me about the project?

I’m really excited about our panel of judges. We have about 30 judges. We’ve had a lot of pushback for having too many judges, and that’s coming from the traditional, established art community. It’s difficult to get three judges to agree. You almost never see more than two judges. But in our case, we’re doing all the judging digitally. They don’t have to be all in the same place at the same time, and they have a week, so they can judge at their own pace.

Who are the judges?

We’ve got Edith Baker, who had the Edith Baker Gallery in Dallas for a long time. We’ve got Jed Morse, who is curator a the Nasher. And Pat Porter, who was the assistant to Ray Nasher for many years – she is executive director of the North Texas Businesses for Culture and the Arts. It’s been amazing the people who are participating. As your average artist, you would never get in front of these people. But it works the other way, too. The judges get to come down and see what some emerging artists are doing, so I hope they have a good time with that. It’s not exclusive, and it allows the whole community to collaborate.

And the community gets to vote, too, right?

Yes. It was Marc’s idea to let the people vote. The community at large is another stakeholder. So there will be balloting at the restaurants and other places on Henderson, and those votes will select a people’s choice winner. Even if it becomes a popularity contest, that’s OK because people are getting involved in art.

What is your goal with this project?

I wan to make it more popular. I want to increase the money and have an art fair or an art walk. It can only get bigger by getting people involved. In time, people will have ideas for it that I can’t even imagine now. I’ve done my part, and now putting it out there for everyone else. We’ve involved two companies out of a hundred that could participate. This is a model that isn’t just for Henderson. It can happen anywhere. You just have to have the stakeholders come together and make it happen.

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