Free DMA Admission + Klyde Warren Park = Beginning of a New Dallas

The Dallas Museum of Art just announced museum admission will be free, starting in January.

This is awesome. This is going to open up the museum to an entirely new group of people who’ve never set foot in a museum. For residents, it’ll become a new destination, and for conventioneers and visitors, a great introduction to Dallas.

This is yet another step towards a new, better, cooler, funner Dallas. Klyde Warren Park, to me, was step one: a fun park with lots of stuff to do, that’s free to the public. The combo of KWP and the DMA will be terrific. Play at the park, hit the museum, come back to the park for dinner. Very fun.

In a perfect world, here’s what else would be free: DART. The Nasher. The Zoo. The Arboretum. Neiman’s. (A girl can dream.) Add a robust system of bike lanes and I think Dallas can be the coolest city in the country. Yeah, I said it.

Dallas Observer: Best Councilmember 2009

The Dallas Observer just came out with their annual “Best of Dallas” issue, and I’m very honored to have been selected “Best Councilmember 2009,” both by Observer staff and their readers:

The thing about Hunt is that she’s money in the bank.  As Hunt begins her third two-year term on the council, we see her adding a whole lot of seasoning and steel to an already well-formed character as the smart maverick.  She isn’t a member of a clique, but she gets along well with those who are.  She knows when to hold ’em, as she has on the Trinity River, but she knows the even harder thing—when to fold ’em, as she did on approval of the bonds for the new convention hotel.  She’d make a great mayor.  She’s probably too smart to go for it, which is our loss.

Tour of Wyly Theater

Thursday was Arts Advocacy Day in Dallas, and arts organizations from across the city attended the annual luncheon at the Wyly Theater.  I was joined by several of my colleagues:  Councilmembers Jerry Allen, Ann Margolin, and Delia Jasso.

The featured speaker was Douglas Sonntag, Director of Dance for the National Endowment for the Arts, who discussed the importance of the arts in American life and the challenges posed by the 21st century.  He posited that attendance at live cultural performances are down, and that technological advances (e.g., watching the Kiev Opera on the interwebs) is a troubling trend.

I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Sonntag (who, by the way, was a very gracious guest and interesting speaker).  I love that technology opens up the arts to a much broader audience and takes people to cities and events that they may not otherwise experience.

Enjoy these photos from the Wyly.

Visit to New Opera House and Theater

I’ll have pics up later today, but in the meantime:

The council got to tour the Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theater today. Amazing. After seeing the models, and watching the exterior construction, it was exciting to tour the interiors of these buildings.

The opera has a great deal of seating, but they’ve created a very intimate house, so that the audience is very close to the performance. The panels on the front of the balcony seating has a wavy design, which is less aesthetic and more acoustical, to reflect the sound in the best way possible. Continue reading

Design of City Performance Hall Unveiled

I have to say, I’ve been worried about the design of the “Third Venue,” the city’s new performance hall in the Arts District. With all the incredible architecture going up in the Arts District, I feared that a municipal project would stick out like a sore thumb. I had nightmares about tacky architecture and cinderblocks.

I got a chance to preview the new design for the city performance hall and must say my fears are completely allayed. The new design is awesome, and will be enhanced by the right exterior materials.

I wanted to share my pics with you all. Here is the first phase of the hall. Here is the completed hall. And here. See other pics of draft designs.

The architect is SOM out of Chicago. I wasn’t familiar with them, so I checked out their website to see previous work. I was impressed by the depth of their work on arts venues, and with their work on international projects.

I met with them yesterday and they walked me through their design for the new City Performance Hall. They discussed the process they used to begin designing the space, then showed me all the iterations they went through before deciding on the final design (I’ve got the pics on my site).

They had really done their homework: they met with and analyzed the needs of the 70 or so small performing arts groups that will use the space. Among other things, SOM looked at the size of the space(s) needed as well as the frequency of the performances. There will be theater, dance, music, and other groups. Some groups need a small venue with only 100 seats, while larger groups need 750 seats or more.

SOM anticipated that 2-3 blackbox theaters and 1 large performance hall would meet the needs of most of the organizations. Given the budget of $38M (which sounds like a lot, but in terms of building an arts venue is just adequate), the city had anticipated that this project would be done in phases, with the first phase paid for the in 2006 bond. SOM therefore had to design a building that could be built in phases, while ensuring that phase 1 stood on its own architecturally. The end result is terrific, with the large performance hall and one black box theater being built in the first phase. (The Latino Cultural Center will have a new black box theater from 2006 bond funds, and this will provide another option while we gear up for phase 2.)

SOM was very cognizant of the fact that they are designing on a street occupied by the products of architectural giants. They knew they had to complement the Nasher, Meyerson, as well as the new Opera House and Theater. They also couldn’t overwhelm the space, and had to provide a beautiful and appropriate entry way into the Arts District. All of this was balanced with the goal of providing a venue that met the needs of smaller arts groups. I believe they have succeeded.

I for one would like to see the hall clothed in a metal exterior, whether silver, gold, or copper. I think that would look amazing with the silver theater next door and the red opera house across the street. Even warm wood would be beautiful, but I don’t know how realistic that is.

It’ll be several months before SOM has plans and a budget finalized. If all goes as planned, we’ll break ground mid-2008 and be finished by 2010.

Great News: Mercantile Art to be Saved

After fearing that the wonderful mosaics in the Mercantile would be lost to the wrecking ball, I am pleased to report that developer Tim Headington of Headington Oil has agreed to pay for the removal of all of the mosaics in the Mercantile Complex and to display them in a public location in Downtown Dallas.

I met yesterday for a couple of hours with Tim, Craig Melde and Jay Firsching from Architexas, and conservator Michael van Enter, who will be removing the art. Tim is very enthusiastic about the art, and wants to keep the art together as a collection if possible. Craig Melde will be coordinating the project with Forest City and Headington.

The ultimate location for the art has not been determined, other than it will be in Downtown Dallas in a public location. Tim Headington is exploring the possibility of placing the art in a single location so it can be viewed as a collection.

I’m also working to make sure that, if for some reason the art is sold and the owner wants to take it out of public display in Downtown, the City of Dallas has the option to take the art for the cost of removing it from wherever it is located at that time. This will not obligate the City to take the art, but will give the City the option to do so.

The removal of the art will not slow down the renovations and demolition of the Mercantile complex. The parties have agreed to work around Forest City’s timetable. I spoke with David Levey from Forest City earlier today, and he is very excited that we were able to save the art.

I could not be happier about this outcome. We owe a debt of gratitude to Tim Headington for his generosity to our city. By saving this collection of artwork, he is ensuring that future generations will be able to appreciate and enjoy this important piece of Dallas’ history.

Michael van Enter and Studio van Enter are also to be commended for taking on such a big task so quickly. Michael and his partner Wes have been working around the clock this past week to determine the cost of extracting the art. Despite working long days and putting other projects on hold, Michael and his firm have agreed to donate their long days and nights of survey time (which they had deeply discounted anyway) if they are selected to extricate the mosaics.

Craig and Jay from Architexas have also done an exceptional job of helping to make sure we saved this art. This would not have happened without their perseverance, and they are continuing to coordinate this project without payment. We could not have done this without them.

Lastly, a big thank you to everyone else who kept this story in the news and gently persuaded the parties to do what is right. I am certain that without that influence, we would have lost this art, either to the wrecking ball or to private collectors who would have taken it out of our city and out of the public domain. Now the art will remain in its home, Downtown Dallas, for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.