Oak Cliff artist using ‘casita tristes' to send message to city council

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An Oak Cliff artist is drawing attention with his eye-catching pieces.

The creations, similar to piñatas, are tiny homes simply made of tissue paper and cardboard. They are meant to send a powerful message to Dallas City Hall about the city's affordable housing crisis.

Artist and lifelong Oak Cliff resident Giovanni Valderas has made about 10 ‘casita tristes’ or ‘sad little houses.’ Each home took six painstaking hours to make.

“I choose these colors because they are based on colors that are found in my community,” he explained.

The homes with the sad faces can be found in the shadows of new development that’s transforming the Oak Cliff landscape and crowding out older homes and businesses.

“Oak Cliff had its own commerce. It wasn't like we weren't doing anything before and waiting for someone to come and reinvest,” Valderas said. “These are individuals who are trying to make a living, and they will eventually get pushed out as well.”

Sandy Rollins, executive director of the Texas Tenants’ Union is also concerned that the lack of affordable housing that results from new development.

“We are providing subsidies for wealthy developers who are basically not required to do anything for the public,” she said.

Each tiny house is stocked with holiday-themed cards addressed to city hall.

“I'm not against development,” Valderas said. “I'm for responsible organic growth.”

Valderas also helps promote other artists at a Dallas gallery. He hopes his project helps plant a seed of change and serves as a not so subtle reminder to city leaders to not forget those who made Oak Cliff vibrant from the beginning.