100 Dallas Creatives: No. 50 Dallas Arts District

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The midpoint of this list seemed the appropriate time to acknowledge the Dallas Arts District. Decades in the making, the Dallas Arts District signals not only the city's dedication to the arts, but is a significant promise to future generations. It's reshaped how Dallas thinks and talks about the arts, for both good and bad.

In this five-pronged edition of 100 Creatives, we chat with Catherine Cuellar, who runs a nonprofit named Dallas Arts District, which she describes as a homeowner's association of sorts. The neighborhood and its leaders have been shaping the arts scene, from the AT&T Performing Arts Center's interest in presenting both touring productions and local artistic organizations to the Nasher Sculpture Center's investment in the city with projects like Nasher Xchange, and of course the resident companies who are creating the art in the gorgeous buildings, like Dallas Black Dance Theatre and TITAS. It's this top-level leadership that provides a stronghold for the entire arts scene. We can blame it and praise it for things. What happens in the Dallas Arts District is not the only arts scene in Dallas. Hardly. But's an important component of the cultural landscape in Dallas and for that, we've included the neighborhood in this list.

Max Anderson, Executive Director of Dallas Museum of Art When Max Anderson joined the DMA in 2012, he was on a mission to up the institution's technology game. In the past two years, the museum has seen exponential growth by updating everything from its website to the quality of visiting exhibitions to the way a visitor interacts with the exhibits. Bolstered by the opening and immediate success of Klyde Warren Park, and the 2013 instating of free general admission to the DMA, attendance numbers have grown and the museum has become a place more accessible to the community.

Plus, Anderson has actively participated in earning the neighborhood (and Dallas) a reputation from outsiders. He played a key role in acquiring the New Cities Summit, along with Mayor Mike Rawlings. Under his leadership, the museum continues to make huge strides, by making moves like hiring Gavin Delahunty as senior curator of contemporary art.

Whatever the Arts District has been and will become, Anderson has been at the forefront pushing the city's largest museum into the future.

By Erin Alexis Goldman

Catherine Cuellar, Executive Director of Dallas Arts District Since being named the new Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District in April 2013, Catherine Cuellar has barely had time to catch her breath. Between the highly successful Aurora exhibition, the anniversaries of both the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Dallas Opera's live simulcast and the New Cities Summit, it has been both an exciting and busy year for the Arts District. And in spite of her brief tenure as director, Cuellar has handled it all as if she's been doing this job for years.

After earning a degree in creative writing from Rhodes College, the native Dallasite returned home and started a career in journalism writing for the Dallas Morning News followed by working as an on-air reporter for KERA. She then spent five years as communications manager for the sixth-largest electric power grid in the U.S., Oncor before becoming director of the largest contiguous urban cultural neighborhood in the United States and world headquarters of the Global Cultural Districts Network.

Cuellar has a lot to be proud of and a lot of hope for the future. She is fiercely passionate about art and culture in Dallas, both in and out of the Arts District and her enthusiasm and desire to make Dallas a cultural Mecca is inspiring.

What have been the greatest highlights as well as obstacles you have faced thus far? The highlights have been our block parties, including Aurora last fall. Several milestones such as the 10th anniversary of the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Nasher Xchange, the 15th anniversary of the Crow Collection of Asian Art and their renovation of the garden surrounding the entire sculpture center, the arrival of new leaders including Tara Green at Klyde Warren Park, Colleen Walker at the Perot Museum, Scott Rudes at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts but also Emmanuel Villaume at the Dallas Opera. The Dallas Opera's simulcast at Klyde Warren Park for the first anniversary of the park, which drew almost 4000 people. Even though I wasn't in the Arts District for it, the global simulcast of "Death and the Powers," which I got to watch in London. All the world premieres at the City Performance Hall. Another huge highlight is five students from Booker T. getting into Juilliard--that is an amazing thing. 

And I'd like to bundle that with the challenges. Losing Bruce Wood, who passed away, and Ann Williams, who is retiring as founding artistic director for Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Lily Cabatu Weiss the head of Booker T., who retired [although she stayed on as interim director], is a huge blow to the dance community to have those three things happen in one year, especially in a year when Bruce Wood was supposed to be a choreographer for a Dallas Theater Center play. 

Life is full of ups and downs. Hopefully more ups than downs. There's definitely been a lot of ups but the downs are still addressing the safety of pedestrians and the misconception of challenges that may or may not actually exist when visiting the Arts District. Getting people out of their cars and getting them to try public transportation--whether that be light rail, trolley, D-link bus. And just harmonizing so many successful arts institutions, each with their own mission and their own boards and their own audiences.

The biggest challenge is that the business world wants to talk about efficiency and selling every ticket in the house at the highest possible price and those can be at odds with excellence. If you're trying to sell every ticket in the house at the highest possible price, how do you make the business case for Fine Arts Chamber Players' Basically Beethoven Festival, which was every Sunday in July at City Performance Hall [and the tickets were free]? That's the big challenge--all these institutions are excellent at what they do and somewhat competitive for the same donors and audiences and realizing we have far more to gain through collaboration than through competition. How can we be strategic about our priorities for the neighborhood? 

What exactly does your job entail? Internally, among Arts District dues-paying shareholders we function like a Homeowner's Association--making sure everybody gets along and everybody's needs are met. Externally, we function like a Chamber of Commerce and I'm kind of a one-woman marketing department and speaker's bureau, talking to community organizations like the Junior League and the Rotary Club about what's happening in the neighborhood. On a grander scale, we are looking at the next 20 to 30 years of the District because we're coming to the culmination of a 40-year cycle and we're try to adopt the policies and systems and principles that are going to help the existing institutions flourish while adding capacity for retail and residential amenities and all the while staying focused on people and what makes it hospitable to them and welcoming and exciting and entertaining and engaging. 

What is coming up and what are your hopes for the Arts District? One of the big things we are looking forward to is the Soluna Festival coming in May 2015. It is going to be a district-wide, indoor-outdoor, daytime and nighttime, performing and visual arts festival throughout the month of May, culminating Memorial Day Weekend. It's being led by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra but all of the neighboring institutions are partners in programming, which is something we've been ready for and envisioning a long time throughout the construction of the venues and now we're essentially complete enough to have that programmatic offering. I think just more new work and more collaborative and multi-disciplinary work and really continuing to create a climate that is welcoming and strengthening to both emerging and established artists. We're training up the very best at Booker T. and sending them off to Juliard but also through becoming a kind of boutique conference destination.

The word is getting out to the creative, professional communities that we have the best facilities and excellent transportation and a wonderful cost of living and a really high quality of life for working artists. I've talked to folks like Will Power, who has a world premier musical coming up this fall at the Dallas Theater Center; he's their playwright-in-residence. He's lived his entire life in New York and San Francisco and that meant a lot of debt and now he's on his way to becoming debt-free and still world-premiering work that's going to go from here to who knows where as a result of just having a really flourishing economy for working artists and becoming a destination city.

We're seeing that this is a place where artists are moving due to the professional, high-caliber of talent and also the collaboration among artists rather than competition where they really are helping each other out, forming co-ops and exhibiting together and strengthening each other's work. That's another thing I'd like to see, and I think we are already starting to see it, but strengthening the bridges between the Arts District and the neighboring creative communities: Deep Ellum, Fair Park and Design District. All of these organic, naturally occurring cultural districts, even the Cedars where I live and so many artists including Shane Pennington, who co-founded Aurora, has his studio and how do we strengthen the ties between the Arts District and all these other creative neighborhoods. We can do that through programs that can be performing but also street art like the Sour Grapes guys are doing, more locally-produced and local artists like Oral Fixation. Creativity is not just what's driving theater, symphony, opera and visual art but it's also the solution through education to all of our other problems.

I'm not getting a graduate degree but I feel like I'm learning all the time. It's like I'm getting a masters in life experience.

By Elaine Liner for the 2014 People Issue Under artistic director Kevin Moriarty, Dallas Theater Center has been acting like a big-time regional playhouse again. In his seven years on the job, Moriarty, 47, has launched several musicals that have gone on to become modest Broadway successes, including cheerleader comedy Lysistrata Jones (starring DTC company member Liz Mikel); a near-operatic version of Edna Ferber's Giant (co-produced with the Public Theater); and the charming Fly by Night, just closing out a run this month at New York's Playwrights Horizons. Remarkably, he's done it without sending his theater into debt. This season at DTC finishes with a healthy budget surplus.

Moriarty's thing is to mix old and new (shows and audiences), musicals with straight plays, classics by "the dead guys" with world premieres by fresh new talents. He's instituted pay-what-you-can nights and after-show talkbacks. He mingles with opening night crowds, always dressed in a crisp shirt and tie, preppy blazer over Diesel jeans and one of his many pairs of Nike sneakers, chosen to match his tie.

DTC's 2014-'15 season launches September 11 with Rocky Horror (in-the-round at the Wyly Theatre), followed by Driving Miss Daisy starring Oscar nominee June Squibb. Early next year comes Stagger Lee, a huge new musical by playwright-in-residence Will Power. Moriarty will direct Moliere's School for Wives and Euripides' Medea, staging the latter in tiny Down Center Stage at DTC's original home, Kalita Humphreys Theater.

There's a little back story to his choice of that 2,500-year-old Greek tragedy. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, young Moriarty taught public school in Minnesota. For his first play, he chose Medea, which he got by the principal by describing it as being about "a strong woman who has a lot of children," not mentioning that she murders them. Two hundred dollars' worth of fake blood later, the show was a hit with kids and parents. Moriarty says he was hooked on directing, particularly plays using "spectacle and large gestures."

That describes this summer's mainstage offering, Les Misérables (June 27 through August 17 at the Wyly). The French Revolution will be fought in song and dance by an ethnically diverse cast, a move that could shake up some of DTC's more conservative patrons. Oh, the stories from the box office about reactions to some of Moriarty's bold colorblind casting.

"Dear God in heaven, not to be boring in the theater is the hardest thing," Kevin Moriarty said seven years ago when he came to DTC from Rhode Island's Trinity Rep. "Better they stand up and storm out than they fall asleep."

That meshes with the philosophy of DTC founder Paul Baker, with whom Moriarty spent time before Baker's death in 2009 at age 98. Like Baker, and before him Margo Jones, credited as the pioneer of the regional "little theater" movement in her acting space, still in use at Fair Park, Moriarty believes in theater that speaks to and arises from its surrounding community, even if it offends some people.

Every spring, Moriarty meets one-on-one with local theater critics, outlining plans for the next season. This year was the first time he talked like a veteran instead of the new kid trying to prove himself. He's signed another contract to stay at DTC a few more years, but seems now to be thinking legacy instead of long-term employment. "We're now at a point where, when I leave, the things I care about will continue," he said. "Whoever the next artistic director is will be embraced by the board and the theater community of Dallas."

And what three qualities are required to be a good artistic director of a theater like DTC? "First, a genuine, passionate belief that theater has the power to inspire a city to come together and join in a dialogue," Moriarty answered via email. "Second, the tireless support of a broad base of citizens from throughout the community. And third: comfortable and stylish sneakers."

By Erin Alexis Goldman

Nasher Sculpture Center's Jeremy Strick In March 2009, Jeremy Strick became the Director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, after working for nine years as the Director of the Museum of Modern Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. Though he is relatively new to Dallas, he has been familiar with the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection for over 27 years. When the internationally touring exhibition of the Collection, organized by the DMA came to Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art, Strick was an assistant curator.

Since becoming the Nasher's Director, Strick has taken the museum to the next level. His innovative public projects and events such as the Sightings series of small-scale exhibitions; the 360: Artists, Critics, Curators monthly lecture series; the Soundings music series; and most recently, the revolutionary Xchange program of public art, which celebrated the Center's 10th Anniversary, are only a few examples of Strick's ingenuity and dedication to continuing and elevating the Nasher's reputation.

After leaving California, why did you choose Dallas? What has your experience here been thus far? The Nasher represented an opportunity to help shape the institution at once very new and these truly amazing assets. It was a wonderful opportunity in itself. And then, it was in a wonderful city, Dallas, which had great ambitions with the intent to use those ambitions. It was a community that would be supportive in the kinds of programs that I hoped to initiate. And that's been the case. It's been an absolutely marvelous experience working with the Nasher Collection--working in the space of the museum, bringing new programs, bringing artists. This is the kind of place people love to work and love to show their work and the community has been hugely receptive and supportive. It's been fantastic.

What are your final thoughts on the Nasher Xchange? Are there plans to hold more public art projects in the future? We were thrilled by the response from the Nasher Xchange. It was a project that the community really seemed to embrace. And in some ways, it's ongoing. We have the ongoing Rick Lowe's translation project at Vickery Meadow (Lowe was recently named the recipient for the MacArthur genius grant) and the Ugo Rondinone pier at Fish Trap Lake that we built this summer, which is now a permanent site. We feel the Xchange had a wonderful response and ongoing roots. We are working on other projects that will go on outside of the museum as well as partnerships with organizations throughout the community. This is something that over the years I expect to see more of.

After 10 years, what's next for the Nasher? We are really looking to extend our impact nationally and internationally. This fall [we] have our first national trading exhibition--the Thomas Heatherwick retrospective--we organized for it to travel to Los Angeles, New York as well as other museums across the country. We are working on other projects that will travel along with developing partnerships nationally and internationally. So that's one element: outside Dallas. Inside Dallas, we were extremely inspired by the success of the exchange and want in the future to do other projects outside of the museum.

Obviously, the Nasher name is on your institution - what role does generosity play in continuing to build the Arts District? I think we see philanthropy written on many of the institutions across the Arts District. Whether it's the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Wyly Theatre, the Winspear Opera House, the Meyerson Symphony Center and so forth--a lot of attention is paid to those great gifts where people name buildings. I think there is another level of philanthropy, which is also extremely important: the ongoing commitment of the individual foundations and corporations that are sustaining the institutions in the Arts District and outside of it. Whether it's participation as members or support for exhibitions and educational programs or ongoing support for maintenance for capital projects--it's critical that support not be limited to the major gift that named the institution, but continue to nurture and support that institution. You see evidence of that as well throughout the Arts District.

What has it been like to garner the attention in regard to the Museum Tower? Wherever I go in the world, just about the first question people ask me is about the Museum Tower. And sadly the Museum Tower has gained an international reputation as the preeminent symbol of irresponsible architecture. I would much rather talk first about the Nasher's collections or programs, what shows we're doing, what are educational goals are achieving. The Museum Tower has been such a distraction from that but I'm also grateful for the support we've received locally, nationally and internationally. People have been shocked by what's been done to the Nasher and are hopeful that the ownership of the Tower will do the right thing and fix their building.

Which young artists or galleries are you paying attention to in Dallas? One of the things I'm really excited about is the change that's been evident in, even in my short time in Dallas, is the increasing presence, activity and energy in the artist community. And you see a number of artists sort of taking it upon themselves to organize exhibitions of their work, of their friends and colleagues to showcase work of Dallas artists and to also bring in some of their friends outside of Dallas into the scene. It's become more active, more self-organized and I think that's really worth praising. There are numerous examples. Obviously, Francisco Moreno, Arthur Peña, Michelle Rawlings. But many others are also participating. I think it's a very positive development--one that I hope will continue.

By Erin Alexis Goldman

Amy Hoflund, Executive Director of Crow Collection of Asian Art There's a reason Amy Hofland is the longest tenured director in the Dallas Arts District: passion and vision. When the Crow Collection of Asian Art opened its doors in 1998, Hofland spent four years as the museum's director of education before being named the Executive Director of the preeminent museum dedicated to the works of China, Japan, Korea, India and Southeast Asia in the southern United States in 2002. She saw the Collection could be more than simply an art museum. Under her leadership, she has implemented numerous programs that have transformed the museum into a community center as well.

In 2008 Hofland branded the Crow Collection as the first "wellness museum" in the United States through the museum's collaboration with best-selling author, speaker & integrative medicine thought-leader Dr. Andrew Weil; bringing Asian wellness disciplines including Yoga, Ta Chi, Meditation and Yogiños Yoga for Youth almost daily in the galleries. On top of that, her dedication to maintaining the highest quality exhibitions led her to recruit acclaimed Asian art scholar, author and former Co-Director and Senior Curator of the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, Dr. Caron Smith, to serve as full-time curator of the Crow Collection that same year.

Not only is the Crow Collection well on the outside in its numerous programs offered to the public, but also well on the inside. For Hofland, it is vital that she and her staff practice what they preach. The staff is richly steeped in wellness--providing organic snacks, health and fitness programs and monthly staff hikes. And Hofland's dedication, passion and vision extend beyond her staff and the Crow. She was a driving force in support of the formation of the Dallas Arts District organization, and is a founding board member for the group that serves as an advocate for the venues and organizations in the Dallas Arts District. No matter how well her projects are doing, Hofland is constantly striving for more.

How has the museum grown and developed throughout its inception? It's so interesting to watch the evolution of not only the Crow Collection but also the Dallas Arts District. One of the metaphors I like to use is an unfolding lotus. I think when the family opened the museum, they were so focused on the permanent collection and sharing the cultures of Asia in almost a quiet, understated way and learned very quickly that what audiences wanted was change and they want to learn new things. So we just started an exhibition program between1999 and 2000 and it really changed the way the museum was accessible to people. Rather than the sort of static, quiet place that people found, we started reaching out into the community.

We were a staff of three in our first two years and if you look at us today, we're a staff of 18 full-time people. It really has changed the model and what the role is of the museum. I think we've gone from a very quiet, interior art museum to a community center and wellness center and service space--anywhere from quiet reflection experiences to huge Chinese New Year festivals.

The Crow has changed a lot and we've had a lot of fun experimenting along the way and have made very deep and meaningful friendships with the Asian community. I hope we've become, which we always wanted to become a home downtown for the Asian-Americans and Westerners wanting to learn about Asia. I think we've really turned on the lights, so to speak, at the museum and we have more to unfold in this changing lotus.

What was the inspiration behind adding wellness programs alongside the collection itself? That has been one of the most rewarding surprises for me is this interest in wellness, especially at the Crow Collection. Historically, we've always had wellness. We started teaching yoga in the year 2000. For 15 years, we've been practicing this hybrid thing with yoga in the gallery space with works of art, which is a very meaningful way to learn about the practice of yoga. But I also hear people say wonderful things like: "When I come into the Crow, I feel like I've entered an oasis." Or "It's such a quiet place for reflection." We started to hear people say that they were coming out of their offices and down to the Crow Center just to have a quiet space. And there's something to that. In this world of hectic lives and chaos and technology and stress, there's still a quiet place--a place of refuge. I think that's part of wellness. And as our study of wellness grew through partnerships with the Wellness Advisory Board and a great partner at Baylor Hospital, we realized there's a need. So our wellness classes are very popular--we offer classes seven days a week.

During your tenure as director, what are you most proud of implementing? Why? In 2008 and again in 2018, we will present Texas Collects Asia. It was a project three years in the making to celebrate our 10th anniversary and we are already starting to prepare for our 20th. The reason I love it is it reveals why Texas collects Asia in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and even today. There's just a beautiful curiosity in Texans and a word I use in a complimentary way, which is audacity. Collecting Asian art in those times was not the norm and so Texans who were learning about India and learning about China in the '60s and '70s were really out there. They were taking risks. What we learned in the 2008 exhibition is there was a very special relationship between Texas and Asia and I love how the Crows kind of paved the way for that. We are now looking for partners for 2018 and those will make our presentation of Texas Collects for our 20th year even stronger.

What is your opinion of the District currently and what are your hopes for its future? I have a lot of personal pride in how we've grown as a neighborhood and I'm thrilled for Catherine Cuellar for her leadership as well as Veletta Lill, both have been inspiring colleagues to work with. I'm proud of the fact that we are becoming better planners and really thinking about the neighborhood as a whole. Stepping outside personal agendas and needs of our own institutions and looking at the larger success of the very interesting district like no other in the world with its beautiful mixture of religious institutions, school, performing and visual arts. As full as a neighborhood it is, we still have a ways to go but I think we have the right leaders who have attracted new artistic direction and new visionaries who I'm truly honored to work with.

100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon

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