From the Orchestra Library

Big Time in Big D

Posted in The Arts,The Business by kschnack on October 15, 2009

Big doings going on down here in the Dallas Arts District this week.  The new Dallas Center for the Performing Arts (now named the AT&T Performing Arts Center) has finally opened, and numerous special events are taking place in the different performance spaces.  It’s a pretty exciting time to be living and working here, especially in the arts.

Thirty years in the making, the center is the culmination of the vision of city cultural leaders who poured their energy and money into creating a state-of-the-art (pun intended) district for art, architecture, music, opera, theater, ballet, and the education of future artists.  First,  the Dallas Museum of Art moved to downtown from its old Fair Park location twenty-five years ago.  Then the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center opened in 1989, and in 2003 the Nasher Sculpture Center was completed.  With the addition of the $350 million ATTPAC (yep, acronym already in full use) and the recent expansion of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, the district is being touted as the largest performing arts center in the country.  From west to east, in a 65-acre section of north downtown, you can start with paintings, walk to the sculpture garden, come to the Meyerson for a symphony concert, continue to the Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theater, eventually go to an outdoor concert at the Annette Strauss Artist Square or an event at the 750-seat City Performance Hall, and end up at One Arts Plaza for dinner and drinks, or, if you’ve bought one of the new condos, turn in for the night.  Take that, Lincoln Center!

Well, I know Texas Walks and Talks Big, often to the state’s own detriment in my opinion, but in this case they may have just gotten it right.  Early reports from pre-opening rehearsals say the Winspear acoustics are like none other and are, quite simply, fabulous.  We’ll find out soon, with two opera galas and the opening of Othello all within the next week.  The new hall is only feet outside the east door of the Meyerson, and I had the lucky privilege this evening of getting a tour of the backstage and pit, plus walking around the new plaza that links all the venues together.  (Orchestra librarians don’t often get very many perks, but sometimes we are in exactly the right part of the business to participate in something incredibly special.  With a pass around my neck labeled “TALENT” I’ll have backstage access throughout the opening events.  No comments, please, about The Talent.)  It really is quite spectacular to see it all come together since we’ve been watching the construction for the past two years.  I know my colleagues, friends, and one very important family member who will be working there are savoring this truly once-in-a-lifetime event.

The edifices that humankind erects to celebrate religion, art, education and culture all over the world are such unbelievable accomplishments.  It’s only now, in my middle age, that I’ve really begun to understand and value the long, slow arc of such a process.  Watching this district develop over the past 20 years has given me new appreciation for the work, commitment and faith that goes into creating something this big and bold, and for the people who made it happen.  Many of those early planners are no longer with us to experience the fruits of their labor, but that was the point for them — to leave it behind and know they helped achieve something great for later generations.

So, today, for the first time since I came to Dallas in 1990, I was able to step out of the concert hall, walk a few feet next door to watch dancers rehearse for the opera’s opening gala in the new house, go back outside and see a performance with strings and percussion on an outdoor stage, look across a plaza to a theater opening night, and re-enter the Meyerson for our rehearsal with the full orchestra and chorus of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 which the DSO will perform as part of the weekend’s activities.  Despite my gentle teasing of Lincoln Center-ites, I felt the same sense of immersion that I do when in New York, walking across the plaza between Avery Fisher Hall and The Met, or around to the stage entrances and across the street to Juilliard and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. I was surrounded by these new houses of human artistic expression, and the artists and audiences already sharing the space and creating the living organism that is that expression.  An arts district alive, and filled with possibility and promise for years and years to come.  How cool is that?

Hats off to the people who had the ability and tenacity to bring their vision to reality.  It’s very inspiring.  You should come to visit and see all of this.  You’ll be astonished.,28804,1920701_1920683_1920671,00.html