Arts

Tramaine Townsend Wants the World to See the Dallas He Knows and Loves

A Slick New Film Sheds Light on the Richness of the City's Creative Black Community

BY // 04.01.22

When you begin following cool Dallas creatives on Instagram, Tramaine Townsend is a name you’ll often see bandied about. The visual artist seems connected — both virtually and IRL — with every interesting local creator. Naturally, I perked up when I heard he was screening a locally-shot film, Sallad, at the historic Kessler Theater last month, but even more so when the press kit kicked off with “Dallas has changed drastically.” The only thing I love more than seeing my favorite Instagram follows IRL is learning about how much my city has evolved and (hopefully) outgrown a few of its more notorious stereotypes.

Filmed over a year and created in partnership with Dallas-based luxury watchmaker JBW, Sallad (pronounced like the dish) is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to local talent. That’s by design, of course. The film serves not only as Townsend’s love letter to Dallas, but as a chance to show Dallas as he wishes the world would see it.

“I was trying to figure out how to show this city in a way where it’s like, we’re out here,” shares Townsend, who has also produced music videos for Texas-bred artists like Leon Bridges. “You don’t have to go to either coast to find creativity or the artistry that we have in the city.”

More specifically, Townsend wants to shed light on Dallas’ Black creative community. “It’s a big one that happens in this city and we’re very supportive of each other,” the artist adds. “I think there’s beauty that we have in the city that most people probably do or do not see… but I know for sure that this is how I see the city. The individuals that I’ve been able to collaborate and work with in the past, we’ve built these relationships that can hopefully create a better and bigger future — without sounding too extra.”

Tramaine Townsend Dallas artist
Sierra Noelle Jones, Alexandra Newkirk, and Bianca Melidor represent the Dallas Black Dance Theatre in “Sallad.”

Screened first at a private event in Dallas and followed by a showing at Soho House Austin during the SXSW Film Festival, the short film (whose title spells “Dallas” backward) offers vignette after vignette of surreal, dreamy visuals. Without giving too much away — Townsend hopes to plan a public Dallas viewing soon — you’ll see glimpses of the Texas Hall of State, the Discovery Gardens Fair Park, and a particularly joyous scene at the Arlington Skatium during the 10th annual Dallas Skate Fair.

“That was one of the biggest productions we did and it just brought a lot of great positive energy,” Townsend says. “We were met with a lot of people that welcomed us, asked questions, and wanted to know more about what we’re trying to pursue with the film. They showed off their stuff for us. They skated until dawn. That had to be one of the most powerful scenes.”

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The Jubilee vignette in “Sallad” is one of Tramaine Townsend’s favorites.

Amid the gorgeous shots and striking backdrops (Dallas has never looked better), a variety of local Black creatives command focus throughout the film. From the Dallas Black Dance Theatre and the Xplosive Grenades Step Team to musicians like The Bros Fresh, Angel White, and Mattie Calloway, whose a cappella singing — scored by Dallas musician Adam Pickrell — brought the audience at the Kessler Theater to tears.

As for how he feels Dallas has changed, Townsend recalls his experience coming up in the city’s creative community.

“As far as being an artist and trying to get your voice out there, it can be very difficult in my experience,” he shares. “A lot of places I’ve worked in the city have been predominately white, and I’ve had to face a lot of adversity and people who don’t understand me as an artist. However, it has changed in the sense that people are listening more now and paying attention. Our voices are louder.”

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Tramaine Townsend behind the scenes.

Follow Tramaine Townsend on Instagram (@misadventures) to catch the next Sallad showing.

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