"The Man Who Lived to Tell" describes 70-year-old storytelling master Rawlins Gilliland. A former sales director for Neiman Marcus, now a KERA radio commentator, this Dallas native spent the past year regaling audiences with three shows full of stirring, soul-searing stories from his rich and varied life. In a series of standing-room-only nights at Sons of Hermann Hall and the Kessler Theater, Gilliland shared brushes with death, encounters with great minds and adventures from a lifetime of what he describes as "simply showing up." He says his most recent show was his last, but we refuse to believe that. When and where Gilliland shows up next, we'll be there.

rawlinsgilliland.com

When East Dallas street photographer Richard Sharum announced that he would install a series of enormous photographic prints on the outside walls of buildings throughout downtown Dallas, he described it as a "war" with the city. It was his way of giving City Hall the bird, he says, for not doing enough for marginalized populations. Sharum, founder of the real estate photography biz Shoot2Sell, put his epic-sized photos of homeless people and Latinos in prominent, impossible-to-ignore spots to force viewers to stop and see the faces of his subjects. His public gallery of gorgeous portraits honored people too many in Dallas would prefer remain invisible.

Oil and Cotton

Since opening in 2010, this "creative exchange" in Oak Cliff has become a haven for art makers and crafters. Pick up materials for a new project here, or take affordable hands-on classes with local artists and creatives. Founded by art conservator Shannon Driscoll and piano teacher Kayli House Cusick, Oil & Cotton has become one of the neighborhood's most beloved small businesses. Current classes include lessons in watercolor, macramé, calligraphy, leatherwork, enameling and tapestry weaving. If there's an art to making people more artistic, they've mastered it.

Originally intended as a one-night auction and party to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, Art Conspiracy kept going and is now one of the largest, rowdiest events for a good cause in this city. The organization has grown into a nonprofit community-wide charity that "conspires" to raise money and awareness for local arts programs and social causes. Last year the annual Art Con party (sponsored in part by Dallas Observer) benefited the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico. The benefit of the benefit is what a great get-down the party is, with a hot mix of artists, musicians, socialites and business titans moving and shaking for the right reasons.

artconspiracy.org

WordSpace, a nonprofit literary organization, has been a vital source for the Dallas literary scene for two decades. The new Pegasus Reading Series, arranged by WordSpace member and poet Sebastián Hasani Páramo, is a new forum where emerging and established writers and poets read new work. Happening monthly, in collaboration with galleries such as Kettle Art, the event includes an open mic after the featured readings, offering a safe space where words take wing.

wordspacedallas.com
Meadows Museum

Next to a tree-lined boulevard, fronted by sculptures by Henry Moore and Claes Oldenburg, the Meadows Museum on the Southern Methodist University campus houses one of the foremost collections of Spanish art outside The Prado in Spain. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, this small but impressive museum, funded by Dallas oilman and philanthropist Algur H. Meadows in 1965, houses works by Velasquez and masterpieces from the last 500 years of Spanish painting and portraiture.

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Years in development at Dallas Theater Center, February's world premiere of the musical Stagger Lee, written by DTC playwright-in-residence and Meadows Prize SMU writer Will Power, filled the Wyly Theatre with impressive talent — Cedric Neal (now living in London and starring in West End musicals there), M. Denise Lee, Traci Lee (Denise's daughter), Akron Watson, Major Attaway, Ricky Tripp, DTC company member Hassan El-Amin, power-belter Tiffany Mann, Saycon Sengbloh and Brandon Gill — in a near-epic retelling of factual and mythical black history. Power, who wrote book and lyrics, with music by Justin Ellington, says this is still a work-in-progress. But the lavishly designed and visually stunning production directed by Camille A. Brown, in its debut here, had a thrilling emotional pull. Its powerful take on "black lives matter" made for a wrenching commentary on what's happening in the real world.

It was around dusk one evening during Dallas' monsoon season last spring, and clumps of people were sprinting off the Continental Avenue bridge, just steps ahead of a wall of fat raindrops. The downpour was expected, but the lure of standing above the swollen Trinity River and watching downtown Dallas enveloped by inky clouds had been too striking to pass up. The bridge, which closed to traffic several year ago and reopened last spring as a pedestrian-only linear park, will never be as popular as Klyde Warren. It's too monotonous, with too much concrete and too little shade to have that type of pull. But it offers majestic views of downtown Dallas and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, a sorely needed pedestrian connection across the Trinity River and a welcome splash of whimsy (Dallas turned a car bridge into a park?!?), all without the danger of being flattened by cars.

Olivella's

Order a Neapolitan pizza of your choice and make sure to request that it stays in the oven till it's extra crispy. You'll be well on your way to enjoying the best pizza served in Dallas. The crust here has integrity and stands up to toppings without going limp. You can even fold one of the tiny slices and it will stand at attention. With three locations (the newest is in Victory Park), you shouldn't have to travel far for perfection. Just make sure you dine in; great pizza seldom travels well.

The Cock & Bull

Sometimes you go to a bar to hide. From your spouse. From your problems. From the glare of daylight itself. The murky atmosphere of the Cock and Bull, a cozy little red-walled bar in Lakewood, is as dark as a Raymond Chandler mystery. Some poorly lit bars skimp on cleaning, but you'll find no sticky surfaces here, my friend. Just killer drink specials ($2.50 well booze Thursday nights) and a lovely absence of lumens.

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