The Modern Art Museum

We're fortunate to have such a robust lineup of artists and curators speaking in our local museums, but last year's run of Tuesdays at the Modern raised that conversation up a step. In honor of its 10th anniversary acquisitions, the culture hub brought in the biggest names in contemporary art for these intimate, free events. We took a Dallas-to-Fort Worth arts pilgrimage to hear experimental guru Bruce Nauman discuss his story and process. We trucked over to Cowtown again to hear the humble and humorous Jenny Holtzer rap about her public art legacy and did it again for cult icons Trenton Doyle Hancock and Barry McGee. It was like ART21 exploded to materialize in three dimensional space. It was the arts equivalent of seeing rock stars eating in public. It was a nerdebration. It was that good.

While Jaap van Zweden has things handled over at the big-market symphony, taking our musicians around the world to garner international acclaim, there was still a gap in the more experimental small-orchestra sector. Enter scene: Dallas Chamber Symphony. Conductor Richard McKay led the group through its inaugural 2012-13 season at the Dallas Performance Hall, and we sat thrilled, listening as they blended both new and old. There was a youthfulness brought to these offerings, merging more standard, popular works like Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, Mozart's "Overture to the Marriage of Figaro" and selections by Schumann and Brahms with live scores to two silent films and solo piano performances. This type of creative energy is what Dallas needs if it wants to court a new generation of classical music fans. And by the look of DCS's upcoming season, which has not one but two nods to Buster Keaton in the lineup, Dallas Chamber Symphony is just the right group to do it.

State Fair of Texas

We're State Fair addicts. Corn dog junkies. And few of us have the self-control to wait an entire year to ride through that psychedelic haunted house — you know the one. This year those desires were sated at Summer Adventures at Fair Park, a blisteringly hot miniature version of the big fair. Yes, it's helpful to be extremely young at Summer Adventures, since kids view unlimited rides as worth a little heat stroke. Still, there's something really cool about roaming Summer Adventures on a Wednesday afternoon. Maybe it's because there's nobody there, leaving you to feel like you've survived the zombie apocalypse. Perhaps it's the joy of zero lines allowing you front row at every ride, always. Or maybe it's just the slower pace and quality bro-down time with the carnies. Whatever, it worked. And we got properly fair-fried off-season corn dogs out of it, which is what we dream about on any given night.

Oil and Cotton

We're not sure how art wizards Shannon Driscoll and Kayli House Cusick do it all. Every day is a new collection of innovative programming, and we're talking really awesome stuff like youth zine camp, memory jugs with Bruce Lee Webb, natural dying classes using native plants or even DIY cocktail tinctures. In their "spare time" this year, they upped the ante and organized the Read-Rite Market — an all-day celebration of text, literature and the art and preservation techniques it fosters. (Seriously, those gals must be tired, but they'd never show it.) It's interesting, this space. Its core mission is to promote arts education and community building, but philosophically it has branched into something bigger. Oil and Cotton has become a hub of idea exchange, a salon for art and a spot where creative passion can find both a home and collaborators. Looking ahead in the boom of Dallas' art scene, we suspect the biggest things to come will be hatched right here.

Pan African Connection Bookstore

It's really packed in here. Sculptures, collectables, home goods, clothing and mountains of other treasures are stacked throughout the lower level of Pan-African's two-story compound. You want to buy it all, even without knowing its legacy. The philosophical value of these items fills the head of Akwete Tyehimba, the shop's matriarch and sage. Go ahead, ask her about that giant crane statue. She'll smile and recant a moral-rich tale that ends with the mighty bird filling his belly then gathering the strength to soar through the air. She'll explain the African history behind the masks, checkerboards and other rare artifacts. She'll even guide you through the monthly classes and workshops, which unite an entire community with educational programming. But you might need Tyehimba most in the upstairs reading room, where books and videos are methodically organized. And that's where you'll lose hours, poring through texts from people who know much, much more than you.

As Dallas' art scene grows into itself we'll see a lot of youthful blunders. Still, little can be said in defense of the Dallas Contemporary's Internet misstep, when donated works were sold on the DC's eBay account without the artists' consent. Not only was the act disrespectful to the artists, many of whom wouldn't dare sell their work in that way — for any amount — but when the items went online and flipped for a fraction of their worth, the pieces' financial values were tarnished. Worse still was the shell game of blame, as those in top positions quickly accused the lowest-level employees for the error. Only after direct correspondence surfaced revealing director Peter Doroshenko gave the call to sell the work on eBay was a personal apology made at a higher level.

While we know the investment for the Nasher's citywide public art project stretches into the multi-millions, the return's potential is limitless. Dallas art is at an interesting tipping point where arts institutions, artists, others in the creative swarm and city officials have all decided that we are, in fact, doing this thing. The problem with that is that the general public is less motivated because the arts haven't been an active part of their lives until now. Art has been something families would have to plan a day around and pay for, like going to the zoo. Well, that's over. The Nasher's knocked down the zoo walls and sent out 10 specially commissioned pieces of public art by locally and internationally recognized talent into the Dallas wild. From October 19 to February 16, the Nasher presents the largest public art offering ever presented by a museum, anywhere. That means you'll inevitably run into art. You'll see it, Instagram it, tweet it and Facebook it. You'll tag a friend in front of it and by doing so, you'll put art in front of your entire social network. This trickles out. Others seek the piece of art they saw on your feed and soon, art becomes a citywide scavenger hunt in which individuals hunt and interact with artwork outside of the walls of a formal institution. Those acts stick with us. They increase community arts awareness and spur curiosity. The Nasher's Xchange program will be integral to closing the gap between audience demand and art supply.

Dallas Comedy House
Kaspars Skels

The DCH is so much nicer than it needs to be. The marquee-bulb-studded facade on Commerce Street houses a world of cheap beers, arguably the best-decorated bathrooms in all of Deep Ellum and a whole host of free open mics and real cheap weekend comedy shows. Drop by Tuesday for the open mics or Wednesday for the equally free improv nights and watch a host of sweaty, nervous would-be comics test out their fledgling material. Sometimes it turns into Snarky Early 20s White Guys Making Dumb Jokes About Their Dicks Night, but not nearly as often as you'd think.

Dang, girl! This flirty little clothing label has swept up top designer wins at all the big contests, and for good reason. We love her commitment to fabric sculpture and her intuitive look at what makes for an interesting shape. Dang is architectural in her approach and ladylike in her execution, an extraordinary combination that leaves women dressed in sophisticated — but not stuffy — attire. Her line brings a refinement level to textile work that's rarely seen in larger markets, so the fact that she's from around these parts is certainly worthy of praise. Looking ahead into her fall/winter line, in which leather and silk blend puckerlessly, it's clear Dang's momentum isn't slowing anytime soon.

The career of one of Dallas' favorite news anchors took an ignominious turn last May, when she was arrested for DWI and summarily canned from NBC 5. She made a heartfelt apology and lived on in her always hilarious, borderline-racy Twitter presence. Then, as we suspected she would, she soon made it back on air, this time as part of WFAA's Good Morning Texas, doing a segment called "Starting Over," an occasionally tear-duct stimulating series on people who have to change directions in life because of unforeseen circumstances. She's still delightfully deranged on Twitter. Keep your head up, Jane.

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