Reaction to the Report: Arts Advocate Douglas Martin

I read the Front Row article and then the Report, complimented Noah, and then referred him to a new movie I just watched called Cool School about Walter Hopps, Irving Blum, Dennis Hopper and some other ambitious artists who created Los Angeles’ modern art scene from scratch back in the 1950’s.  The Report mirrors several key elements in the movie’s principals’ plan and vision.

I am neither an artist nor a scholar.  I am, however, very active in the local arts community, volunteering and sitting on committees and boards with the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Contemporary, KERA, KXT, TITAS, Crow Collection of Asian Art, UTD’s Artist in Residency Program: CentralTrak, and most recently, the Emergency Artist Support League (EASL).  I’m also an Ambassador to the Arts District.  I spoke at Town Hall meetings when called upon to help save the Office of Cultural Affairs.  I have a scheduled meeting with my City Councilmember next week to discuss the Public Art Program.  I attend an average of at least 20 gallery openings a month on top of attending institutional events.  I am out there.

And I buy local art–lots of it.  Now, I’m not a rich man and don’t have a big house with lots of wall space (there’s currently 15 un-hung pieces laying around my living room right now),  but, even with my recent unemployment from my real job in healthcare administration, I’ve still been buying more art.  I get to know the artists and regular encourage them and give them feedback.  Several I call friends.  I can’t remember where I fit it in Christina’s heartfelt “state of the arts” piece on GlassTire, but I’m sure I’m accurately depicted in her breakdown of gallery visitors as she’s crazy smart and passionate and it showed in her piece.  I am regularly introduced by gallerists and artists alike as an art collector, as an art advocate, and sometimes just “THE art guy”.

The reason I preface my reaction to the Report is that, as active as I am in the arts community, when I read Noah’s article and then the Report, I was surprised I’d never heard of CreativeTime.  I figured Noah, who I don’t see that much, got SMU to help some Yankees in NYC to do the sophomoric study and left the question of who else locally was contacted ignored.  I basically was just satisfied the Report was done and made public and didn’t care much more. When I saw Sarah Jane mention my friend Leilah Grothe as the Project’s local coordinator, I thought, lately the only time I see Leilah is at her gallery which is out of my price point the majority of the time, so maybe she wasn’t aware how active I am in the community and that’s why I wasn’t contacted by the Project or invited to one of these dinners or happy hours.  I’m not at all insulted that I wasn’t  approached, just a little more curious as to the sources used to create the report.

Now I’m not sure why the report took a year to be done or how the $25,000 was spent by SMU, but it wasn’t taxpayer money, so I dismissed how overly simplistic the Report turned out to be.  After reading the community (read: not the general public) responses, I thought I’d chime in.

Yes, I too was disappointed there was no ranking of importance of their key elements for an arts community thrive.  That coupled with a very generic and obvious bulleted list of recommendations, made the whole Report read like a high school report that was given a polite B for effort.  For $25,000, I would have liked some quantitative data and some indication that some research was done outside of chatting with Dallas folk.  A better example would be the 113-page research study done by  the small Canadian city of Kelowna ( on the impact of increasing funding of its arts district. Without going into detail listing the intangible benefits, their proposed increase of just $2 million would have an economic impact of over $18 million in net domestic income and and support nearly 700 new jobs. This is a city of only 165,000 people.  Dallas ranks 9th in population, but the Project quantified nothing and no goals seemed to be set and, a year and $25,000 prize money later, only net an 11-page Report whose content was reduced further by unnecessary (albeit beautiful) photos.

I’m looking forward to the April 9th related conference.  Let’s see what else is accomplished besides this magazine’s dialogue.

Photo: Hal Samples


  • An important prospective is lost in conducting the study the way they did: Most people only go to a gallery during an opening reception or other event because, odds are, they won’t be approached and have to directly (even awkwardly) communicate with the gallery staff. When galleries coordinate their opening receptions, gallery directors and their staff, only get feedback (both tangible and intangible) from the visitors to their own gallery because they cannot leave to attend other galleries openings. I’ve been to as many as 10 openings in one day and can easily tell you what “worked” on any given evening because I know which openings attracted which collectors, artists, scholars, writers, etc.because I saw them in person or saw them publish photos or comments or reviews on Facebook or elsewhere. So asking gallery owners what they think about the art scene inevitably results in skewed opinions about what works because they lack essential information to give a accurate answer: what else is happening outside of their own gallery. They would have to go to other galleries, see their art and ask them how many people came and what sold, if anything, but still they wouldn’t have a complete picture….