By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"He talked about wanting to attract tour groups," she said. "And he kept comparing the Center for the Arts to the Sixth Floor as a tourist attraction. Well, Deep Ellum doesn't have something exciting like a presidential assassination to draw people. Apparently he wants to try and bring people down there who don't normally come. I say, more power to him, but I'm a married lady with a lot of projects. I can't be tied to a building all day seven days a week."
Don Blanton finally did get his executive director--Melissa Savage, formerly director of the Arts Centre of Plano. Her background isn't just in arts administration.
"Don is a very successful businessman," she says. "But that's exactly what he is--a businessman. He's hired me for the cultural side of it."
Savage insists that there will be live performances of all kinds, including dance, readings, and theater--although, admittedly, no long-term production runs. She says she is in the process of booking a series of visual art shows. And she confirms that Blanton has a commitment to "community partnerships" with Booker T. Washington. And if there is a collision between art and profit where her programming is concerned, she says only, "I'm exploring all avenues, but we also have to be financially responsible."
Savage admits it's unlikely that the Deep Ellum Center for the Arts will have the daily schedule that Don Blanton first envisioned, because a large grant they were hoping for has fallen through. But they also haven't finalized public hours. In fact, they haven't finalized anything as far as programming goes. "Right now, we're still in start-up," she says. "We haven't signed contracts for anything."
By way of explaining her extremely cautious reaction when she hears Blanton's quotes about the future of the Deep Ellum Center for the Arts, she says with a small laugh, "I have a master's in public relations. That's why I'm cringing.