Hundreds of art supporters and political types, from Ross Perot to state Rep. Dan Branch, strolled through the AT&T Performing Arts Center this afternoon for a look at the city's newest outdoor stage at the just-finished Annette Strauss Square.
The amphitheater -- with a grassy grade leading down to its wide stage, and a wall facing Woodall Rodgers Freeway that (at least in theory) cuts down on traffic noise -- is the fourth of five new venues at the Performing Arts Center, leaving just the City Performance Hall under construction. Strauss Square's opening events include a daylong DanceAfrica festival on October 9 and an outdoor screening of Casablanca on October 16. On October 22, the opening night of the Dallas Opera's Don Giovanni, Strauss Square will host a free outdoor simulcast. Mayor Tom Leppert took the stage this afternoon to help the crowd appreciate the occasion: "What an amazing thing it will be to make Mozart available to anybody who wants it."
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Leppert and the rest who spoke this afternoon focused on former mayor Annette Strauss's dedication when money was tight and support for the arts ran thin. Today, as in the late '80s, Leppert said, the arts are "absolutely vital," and "regardless of the economic climate, we have to continue to invest in them."
AT&T PAC board member Howard Hallam recalled that Strauss "was a person who understood that economic cycles pass, but the arts are forever." Southern Methodist University President R. Gerald Turner remembered the sense of inevitability whenever Strauss approached asking for money to support an arts program. "No was not an acceptable answer, it only required you to listen longer," Turner said. "Yes was a real time-saver."
Her husband Ted Strauss offered that today's ceremony made it clear that "Dallas has not forgotten Annette, and our family appreciates it." Strauss recalled it was 1998, the year his wife died, when her successor Ron Kirk told him his wife's name would be on the amphitheater. "Annette didn't know it then, because she was already too sick. She would've been so proud, and I think, now, she does know."
Jump for more photos of the venue and today's event.