The house lights dimmed; the backdrop was the deep blue of the sky when the first stars appear. A lush chorus of violins, violas, cellos and basses caressed the opening bars of Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings.” A dozen ballerinas, light and delicate as dandelion seeds, floated across the stage.
Above: The Dallas Symphony Orchestra performing at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. Dallas Symphony Orchestra photo
Below: Chihuly glass sparkles in the windows of the Atrium Café at the Dallas Museum of Art. Elaine Warner photo
The following night the house rocked and clapped to the rhythmic melodies of the Soweto Gospel Choir. The venue–Winspear Opera House–is the newest addition to the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, just one of the gems in the Dallas Arts District.
The 68-acre Dallas Arts District–one of several entertainment and cultural neighborhoods–is the result of three decades of planning. Beginning with the 1984 Dallas Museum of Art, the area is now home to institutions such as Nasher Sculpture Center, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Crow Collection of Asian Art. The area also features restaurants, condos, office and retail space, as well as several historical churches.
Scheduled for completion in 2012 is a 5.2-acre deck-park. Built across a freeway, it will connect the Arts District, Uptown and downtown Dallas. Walking and biking trails, a playground, gardens and lawns, a dog park and fountains will make this an exciting public space.
Grand dame of Dallas museums
The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) was founded in 1903 when two paintings were purchased following a showing of borrowed works. Today, the museum owns more than 23,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years and many continents, and offers something for everyone.
One of my favorite exhibits is a silver dressing table set created by Gorham silversmith William Codman for display at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair. My other favorite is the Reves Collection–an aggregation of more than 1,400 paintings, drawings, sculptures, furniture and decorative pieces. Wendy Reves specified that these items should be shown in rooms replicating the French home she and her husband Emery shared. Almost every significant impressionist and post-impressionist artist is represented among the paintings on the walls–Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Cezanne in the library; Renoir, Gauguin, Degas, Seurat, Morisot in the salon.
If you visit at lunchtime, the museum offers two choices. The Atrium Café serves soup, sandwiches and salad in a bright, open area. A Dale Chihuly installation uses natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows to enhance the colorful, ruffled glass shapes.
Seventeen Seventeen restaurant offers more extensive eating options and a special tea menu. This restaurant also hosts Late Night Fridays Lounge featuring small plates and half-price bottles of wine on the third Friday of each month excluding December.
Just east of the DMA, a 1.4-acre green space that’s dotted with close to 100 trees provides relief from the city streets and sidewalks. Among the greenery are about two dozen large-scale sculptures that are part of the Nasher Sculpture Center.
The collection’s indoor portion is housed in a glass and travertine jewel box flooded with natural light. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the contemporary space features a barrel-vaulted ceiling and brings the outdoors in through an expanse of glass.
Raymond and Patsy Nasher’s tastes were eclectic and the styles represented range from abstract and esoteric to realistic and readily accessible. In the unabashedly modern collection, the oldest piece is a life-size plaster cast of Auguste Rodin’s 1876 “Age of Bronze.” The only site-specific item in the collection is the walk-in James Turrell “skyspace,” which always provokes reaction–whether puzzlement or pleasure.
Just south of Nasher Sculpture Center, the towering Trammell Crow Center houses the Crow Collection of Asian Art. This intimate institution allows the public to view some of Trammell and Margaret Crow’s private collection, including scrolls, paintings, metal objects and large architectural pieces.
Trammell Crow amassed one of the country’s largest collections of Qing jade, including jewelry, teapots, cups, bowls and vases. One of the most unusual pieces is an example of the variations of color in jade. Two green cicadas and a pale green spider perch on an amber-colored leaf–all carved out of one single stone.
One of the largest pieces on display is a 28-foot by 12-foot façade carved from red sandstone. Once the front of a grand residence in northern India, the stone is carved into a perforated screen delicate as lace.
If A is for art, B is for bed
The Sheraton Dallas Hotel couldn’t be handier for exploring the Arts District. The hotel offers all the amenities you’d expect plus some of the best food you’ll find any where. In addition to The Kitchen Table, the main restaurant, you’ll find a coffee boutique, a yogurt bar and a cool sports bar complete with karaoke and Wii gaming.
Pets are welcome and weekends are especially friendly for families and recreational travelers. Check for specials and don’t forget to ask about AAA discounts.
The Dallas Arts District offers lots of entertainment opportunities, and best of all, after you get there, park your car until you’re ready to leave. You’ll enjoy strolling to the museums and performance venues. It will satisfy both your soul and soles.
Elaine Warner is a contributor from Edmond, Okla.