There's so much to be grateful for in Dallas culture, it's difficult to limit the counting to two hands. But here's my best attempt.
The Dallas Opera
By the end of this year, the Dallas Opera will have produced three opera world premieres in under 12 months. They gave us the stunning Everest, the very funny football opera Great Scott, and coming up, the Christmas opera Becoming Santa Claus. Thus far, they've all been pretty damn good shows. Now that's world class.
Hanh Ho & Cydonia Gallery
If you haven't stopped by a show at Cydonia Gallery, you're making a terrible mistake. Gallerist Hanh Ho blew into town last year, bringing with her a roster of sharp international artists. Her gallery is committed to creating a relationship between the artist and the viewer. Her shows are complicated and engaging, and she has gallery assistants on hand to answer any questions or just talk art with you. And if you ever catch one of her Art Collecting 101 presentations, you'll find out she also makes a mean bloody mary.
Katherine Bourne, Dylan Key, Alia Tavakolian, Chris McCreary, Brigham Mosley, Josh Kumler
Shakespeare in the Bar, House Party Theatre, The TRIBE, Bar Politics — any of those names ring a bell? These six young theater artists have spent the past year shaking up the theater scene, both internally and externally. They're writing new words, refreshing old ones and taking audiences on a journey not just into new versions of theater, but into new areas of Dallas. Get out of your stuffy theater seats and see a show at a bar, at an art gallery or in the streets.
Jeremy Strick, Jed Morse, Catherine Craft, Leigh Arnold
The team at the Nasher Sculpture Center is smart. They're keeping the entire city engaged with contemporary conversations about sculpture, and they're also highly active in the Dallas arts scene. Jeremy Strick, the center's director, attends more exhibitions by local artists than any of his peers, which speaks volumes about his commitment to Dallas artists. In 2015, the center began a micro-grant program awarding small funds to local artists on a small scale, and launched the Nasher Prize on a large scale.
Just when we were skeptical of Beefhaus' future (one of its key programmers, William Binnie, moved away), this artist-run space in Exposition Park pricked some new artists for fresh blood. The first show under the new order was a two-person exhibition pairing William Sarradet and Joshua Westerman — a brilliant combination of new media. It even looks like they've swept the floors in there. Keep up with this collective at artbeef.blogspot.com.
Joshua King & Shane Pennington
Aurora was bigger than ever before this year, which for some people wasn't necessarily a good thing. But can we pause for a minute to consider how cool it is that a Dallas-grown, artist-driven event outgrew itself? Call me a cock-eyed optimist here, but with a few tweaks I think this brainchild of King and Pennington could become one of those iconic art events we're all so stuck on.
The godfather of art in Deep Ellum, Campagna is one of the rare few Dallas residents not caught up in the who's who pretension that so often accompanies the arts here. His Kettle Art Gallery celebrated its 10th anniversary this fall, which is mighty impressive. For the past decade, he's been giving opportunities to up-and-coming artists in one of the friendliest spaces in town. Now, I, for one, would love to see a solo exhibition of Campagna's work. Who's with me?
Danielle Georgiou and her Dance Group
The next time someone says, "Dance is boring," introduce them to DGDG. This local dance troupe run by choreographer/dancer/artist Danielle Georgiou plays with traditional choreography, mashing experiential music and theater into an irresistible bundle of thoughtful performance. The Show About Men, which Georgiou wrote with her partner Justin Locklear and premiered at the Festival of Independent Theatres, was funny, poignant and energetic.
Chuck & George
Two of Dallas' most wonderfully eccentric artists are the duo Chuck & George, known in real life (whatever that is) as Brian Scott and Brian K. Jones. Longtime partners-in-crime, these two wackadoos were the subject of an exhibition at Central Trak, Who's Afraid of Chuck & George? All their artist friends made work in homage to the pair, some of which remains mounted in the back hallway (or it did two weeks ago).
Kitchen Dog Theater
In its 25th season, Kitchen Dog Theater was ousted from its longtime home in Uptown when The MAC made the move to The Cedars. Longtime lovers of the company, like myself, were sad to bid adieu to the building in blue, but if the phoenix can rise from the ashes, we're damn sure the dogs can too. They've launched a capital campaign to raise the money for a new space, and they're performing this anniversary season in The Green Zone, a quirky space in the Design District. Want to see what we love about them? Just attend a performance of The Totalitarians and try not to laugh your tiny butt off at Tina Parker and company.