Onlookers watch as workers attach a crane to the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park, now called Oak Lawn Park.EXPAND
Onlookers watch as workers attach a crane to the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park, now called Oak Lawn Park.
Stephen Young

Best and Worst of Dallas Culture in 2017

You have to take the good with the bad. Getting the ratios right is the tricky part. How did Dallas' cultural scene fare in 2017?  Hey, we just report. You decide.

Institutions that received fantastic news early this year, like the Dallas Theater Center (which won a Tony award) and the Dallas Museum of Art (which had its best attendance in a decade) were later at the center of one of the year's most disturbing trends when senior staff members at both organizations left because of "inappropriate behavior."

Other exciting new Dallas developments, like the arrival of multiple stationless bike-sharing companies, had unintended negative consequences. All over the city, people can be seen pedaling bikes rented from VBike, Spin, Limebike and OFO, but some bikes are sequestered while others are left piled in inconvenient and even hazardous places, like the middle of the Santa Fe Bike Trail.

We took a look at the stories the Observer published this year and present to you the 10 best and 10 worst events in Dallas culture.

Children from Bachman Lake Together attend Public Works theater’s dual-generational workshop.EXPAND
Children from Bachman Lake Together attend Public Works theater’s dual-generational workshop.
Guy Rogers


Agustin Arteaga is killing it at as the Eugene McDermott director of the Dallas Museum of Art. The museum attracted 802,870 visitors in his first year, its highest attendance in a decade. A big chunk of that figure is due to the wildly successful Mexico 1900-1950 exhibit, which closed in July. The concurrent exhibit of Dutch designer Iris van Herpen's technology-inspired designs was also a big hit this year.

The Dallas Theater Center accepted a regional Tony Award at Radio City Music Hall this summer. Artistic director Kevin Moriarty said the theater's resident company helps it to stand out. “Having a resident company wasn’t surprising in 1959, but it is in 2017," Moriarty said in May when the award was announced. "There’s only a handful of theaters that still have one.”

Speaking of theater, companies across Dallas put on provocative plays this year that addressed important, of-the-moment topics such as immigration, racism and sexual harassment. Miller, Mississippi at Dallas Theater Center, Ironbound at Kitchen Dog Theatre and Proper Hijinx's Boy Gets Girl are just a few.

Dallas also did more to confront racism this year. In the wake of a Charlottesville, Virginia, neo-Nazi rally that left one woman dead, the Dallas City Council voted in September to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Lee Park and to rename the green space Oak Lawn Park. Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington also removed its Confederate flag and replaced all of the flags with American ones.

People with ties to Dallas made two of the year's best movies. A Ghost Story, local director David Lowery's new film about love and grief starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, has catapulted him to a new level of fame after directing Disney's Pete's Dragon and cult hits Upstream Color and Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Dallas movie studio Cinestate released gruesome Vince Vaughan vehicle Brawl in Cell Block 99 in October, which The New York Times described as "painstakingly paced" and with an "intensity of purpose that makes it impossible 

to dismiss."

After a contentious 20-year debate, the City Council voted in August to quash the plan to build a toll road between the levees on the Trinity River. The project lacked public support, and "opponents said it would be an expensive project that would've provided little traffic relief and faced a constant threat from the river's floodwaters," the Observer's Stephen Young reported in August. We offered a few ideas for what the city could do with the floodplain instead.

In October, Dallas welcomed the long-awaited Museum of Street Culture. The Young Street museum presents the street as "the core of urban life, art and culture," with "immense history and presence," says Alan Govenar, the museum's founding director and co-curator. The first exhibit, of Mary Ellen Mark's photography, challenges ideas about who becomes homeless and how.

The resurgence of arcades hit a peak this year when Bishop Cider Co. opened its Cidercade in the Design District in January. For $10, you can play all you want, and this arcade's collection games — from cabinets like Street Fighter to a dozen pinball machines and new, hard-to-find games like Killer Queen — is continually improving. It doesn't hurt that the beer's good, either.

Dallas artists and art institutions got an opportunity to show their better nature in the wake of devastating hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico this fall. Local museums and performing arts spaces such as the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas Comedy House, and Perot Museum of Nature and Science all extended free admission to Hurricane Harvey evacuees in Dallas. Throughout November, art events in Dallas raised money for Puerto Rico and sought to educate locals about the conditions there.

Our city received a big honor in February when New York's Public Works theater program/social experiment paid a visit. Dallas became the first city outside the Big Apple to produce a Shakespeare play (The Tempest) starring hundreds of local nonactors. The Observer's Katy Lemieux called the result a "gorgeous mess."

"Noooooooooo!" says every local Marvel Comics fan who just learned that 20th Century Fox won't be filming its new network series The Gifted in Dallas.
"Noooooooooo!" says every local Marvel Comics fan who just learned that 20th Century Fox won't be filming its new network series The Gifted in Dallas.
courtesy 20th Century Fox


Artistic directors at two local theaters were victims of unrelated violent crimes. In January, two masked men savagely beat Firehouse Theater's Derek Whitener with a pipe outside the Cityplace Target. Just two weeks later, Ochre House Theatre founder Matthew Posey was shot outside Cold Beer Co. in Deep Ellum.

The abuse of power by men became the biggest story of 2017, and it hit close to home when two high-profile figures in Dallas art institutions — Lee Trull, Dallas Theater Center's director of new play development, and Gavin Delahunty, the Dallas Museum of Art's senior curator — were fired or resigned (respectively) on the basis of inappropriate behavior. The gravest accusation against Trull is a sexual assault, and DTC and the other theaters Trull is affiliated with have publicly broken ties. The DMA, on the other hand, has chosen to remain silent about the specifics of Delahunty's departure.

The State Fair of Texas received negative press this fall when visitors' claims that a giraffe in the petting zoo was being neglected went viral, attracting the attention of PETA. "It should not be hitting its head and gushing blood everywhere, while not one handler does anything about it," Samantha Tutton posted to Facebook. The giraffe was promptly sent home to Hendrick's Exotic Animal Farm in Kansas.

North Texas lost its only long-term artist residency when the University of Texas at Dallas closed CentralTrak in June. Last winter, Dennis M. Kratz, dean of Arts and Humanities, told the Observer he was “exploring ways to continue the residency” and hoped to relocate it, but there has been no news to that effect.

Premiere Video goes fishing, or maybe sleeps with them. The beloved Mockingbird Lane video store, which helped Dallasites locate indie and obscure titles for more than 33 years, posted a note to its door in May that read "On hiatus. Gone fishing." At the time, owner Sam Wade said he was hoping to find a new, less expensive space for the store, but we haven't heard a peep since.

Good news for those traveling to Waco soon, bad news for Fixer Upper fans: In September, Chip and Joanna Gaines announced that they are abandoning their popular home renovation show on HGTV. Fixer Upper draws 40,000 people to the otherwise unglamorous city each week.

Deep Ellum has received a dramatic facelift in the last two years, and this year, rent hikes forced some long-term tenants to say buh-bye. But not before they raised a middle finger. Before its February closing date, the owner of Elluments vintage on Elm Street plastered the shop's windows with signs blaming its exit on "greedy property owners" and "gentrification."

Demolition finally began this year on '70s relic Valley View Mall, which had become a haven for artists and small businesses in recent years. The mall is being torn down to make way for the $4 billion Dallas Midtown project, which its developers say will help attract corporations to Dallas and pay for city infrastructure fixes.

The many new stationless bike companies are motivating more Dallasites to hop on two wheels, but not everyone is a fan of the emerging trend. "I ride my own bike daily as I have in Dallas since ’96 and the practice of inconsiderate parking seems to be causing a backlash," Mike Bell posted on Facebook. "I’ve also seen these bikes blocking wheelchair ramps."

Fox shot the pilot for its new superhero series, The Gifted, in Dallas ... and then promptly took the production to Georgia. The Dallas Film Commission says Texas' weak film incentives compared to those of states are to blame. And this year, new bills proposed to wipe out the incentives program entirely. "I have always believed that this is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars, and given the apparent culture of sexual exploitation of women in Hollywood, it is now even more clear that we should not be wasting taxpayer money on this industry," State Rep. Matt Sheehan of Plano said in October.


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