With 2015 swiftly approaching, it's easy to look back on what could've been better in Dallas art, theater, dance, and music this year. You're probably doing the same thing in your own life and then creating those tricky resolutions for the new year. I want to work out more and finally clean out my closet. I also have resolutions for my writing: don't worry about being liked, find more interesting people to cover, go to Ft. Worth more, tell better jokes.
And for the past three years I've thought about Dallas and its tricky relationship with art. In fact, I wrote a similar list to this forTheaterJones.com two years ago. A wish list of things that could be better. Back then, I focused on theater. Lately, I've found myself immersed in visual art and a little bit of music, only to find many of the problems mirrored. Some things haven't changed in two years; some things I've changed my mind about. Either way, we've still got plenty of work to do. Here are my ideas.
No more talk about "keeping artists here." Let's be better hosts. Anytime you're talking about "keeping" anyone anywhere it sounds desperate and creepy. Don't host another panel discussion about what's missing; don't create 2-year closed lists for artists; and we need to stop rewarding artists just because they're local. If we don't evolve, change, embrace and let go of the art and the artists who grow up or come through or stay or leave Dallas at their own pace, then we're not respecting art, which can only be meaningful with a rich collection of experiences, whether that be here or elsewhere. Let's be a city that respects art and artists from all over, somewhere that has a good reputation for hosting artists. Let's be a city that shows up for art exhibitions, concerts, and theater when new companies, performers or artists come through.
Let's be more cross-disciplinary curious. You know what could really improve the "art scene" in Dallas? If visual artists showed up at the theater, and actors showed up at the galleries, and musicians showed up at dance performances. Oh, and chefs could show up at all of it. If you're reading this blog, you can't offer me the excuse that you "don't know when they're happening." Bookmark this blog and go see stuff, explore, learn, collaborate, grow.
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More adventurous programming from the bigger companies No more Driving Miss Daisy and no more attempts to bring in young audiences with old music (and a free drink!). New stuff is happening all over the country. If you want to make Dallas exciting and a better city for the arts, bring more of it here. Stop playing it safe and hoping the young people will magically show up. Don't be afraid of the audiences you don't have.
Stop being so afraid of criticism, whether it's constructive, thoughtful, or even mean Across disciplines this year, artists and chefs have shown an aversion to any kind of critical thought. Meanwhile, for the past few years publications across Dallas have been stepping up their criticism game, which means that we're taking the city more seriously (or on a less idealistic note, publications are seeing earning potential, which means that readers and advertisers care about the arts). Stop banning critics from your restaurants, or icing out voices that don't "get your work" or "are just trying to be mean." (Trust me, no one is making enough money in journalism to stick with it for some kind of sadistic pleasure.) It's easy to praise Mark Lamster for his strong voice and sharp opinions because he's usually critiquing buildings, which don't get their feelings hurt that easily, but I can't tell you how many times I've been called "a bitch" this year for a mild opinion about an art exhibition or a storytelling show -- not "wrong," or "misguided," but "a bitch." Start explaining yourself better, first to yourself and your patrons, and then to the critics. And don't be afraid to live in a world that doesn't think you are a genius - the rest of us do it every day.
Forget the company; more pop-up performances and exhibitions When I wrote a wish list for the theater scene in 2013, I pushed for greater value placed on upstart companies. I think I was wrong about that. Not that audiences or venues shouldn't value the young company, but that young people should be more bold and produce more work without trying to start their own company. Take over more spaces (a la Shakespeare in the Bar, or Dead White Zombies), write shows on the fly, pull together an art show on a shoe string budget, and just make art. That's what I want to support in 2015: adventurous young people pulling together shows and exhibitions on a whim. (Wouldn't it be really cool if a bunch of dancers or young musicians did something exciting and crazy next year?)
We still need higher rates of diversity in the Dallas arts And more leaders like Vicki Meek and David Lozano to show us what that looks like.