The Arts Patron
Dallas was about a decade behind in its dedication to the arts when D-Art, a large local arts support group, was formed. It isn’t anymore. For the past two years, Patricia Meadows has been working hard to change that.
Meadows moved to Dallas as a young bride. Today, she looks back on her move with a wry smile. Until that point, her familiarity with Dallas was limited to two days a year: Texas-OU weekend. “To me,” she says, “Dallas was just one frantic weekend.”
Meadows did have an edge on most other Dallas newcomers, though: her new name. The Meadows family was then (as it is now) a leading civic force in Dallas. Meadows says that she had barely moved in when her in-laws whisked her into a number of civic organizations, giving her the chance to meet people. She enjoyed her work in Dallas, she says, but each organization was someone else’s cause-or what she calls their “hook.” She says she always thought she needed a hook of her own. She had always been interested in art; she had considered herself an artist for years. While her two children were still very young, she wedged in some work with the arts and, quite easily, she had found her hook.
At that time, there were a number of separate local arts groups, each with only a few pegboard showings in shopping malls But the main problem with Dallas arts, Meadows believed, was that it didn’t have a central location for its 2,000-odd artists to meet, work and exchange ideas. So she and a number of artists began looking for a home for these wandering artists. They surveyed abandoned grocery stores, movie theaters and filling stations. They finally stumbled upon a run-down, tired, old warehouse that was 24,000 square feet of mess. But to Meadows, it was beautiful.
She called representatives of D-Art and told them of her find and said that if they leased the building, she would give them one year of her life to help transform it into a workable studio.
That “year” has now stretched to more than two, and that shoddy building is clean, usable-but not terribly fancy-artists’ haven. Now, a number of arts groups in Dallas coordinate their needs for the building, and D-Art has become a facility that provides courses, lectures and exhibits practically non-stop. Meadows is another force that works practically non-stop: She is president of D-Art and modestly says that she’s also janitor and program director. She spends an average of 14 hours per day there, six days a week.
To Rex Morgan, chocolate is a work of art. But he’s no Willie Wonka; he’s serious about chocolate, and he’s fought long and hard to become Dallas’ only chocolatier.
While Morgan was vacationing in Europe in 1981, he met Ad Schepers, a chocolatier. The careful, artful creation of chocolate masterpieces intrigued him, so he told the elderly chocolatier of his desire to enter the business. But Schepers wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea, even though none of his own children wanted to carry on the seven-generation family tradition. When Morgan returned to the United States, he tried to get apprenticeships with three American chocolatiers, and despite negative responses, continually wrote to Schepers. The European chocolatier finally gave in, and Morgan says he’s not quite sure why he couldn’t get the idea out of his mind, but he couldn’t be happier that he stuck with it. He spent eight months in Holland, working closely with Schepers in his small shop. He returned to Dallas last June and immediately began searching for a place to open his own shop.
Sometime this month, Morgan will open Morgen Chocolates (the spelling of the name was changed to lend a European flair), one of the few authentic chocolatiers in the United States and the only one in Dallas. The shop is located in the renovated Brewery project in the west end of downtown, and the kitchen of the facility is walled in glass so that passers-by can watch the chocolate craftsman at work. To add a local touch, he’s even come up with an East Texas dewberry truffle. Although Morgan is originally from Pennsylvania, he says that Dallas is the perfect place to open up such a unique shop. “You could almost do anything that is new and tasteful, and here [Dallas] it will be celebrated,” he says.
School headmasters, like tax collectors, are stuck with bad -make that, terrible-reputations. And certainly, the mere mention of the name “David Hicks” elicited some sneers from a few skeptical St. Mark’s students-students who hadn’t yet met the educator, but had heard their parents talking about his reputation for pushing the basics. To parents, he sounded wonderful; to students, he may have sounded pretty gross.
But spend more than a few minutes with Hicks and you’ll dismiss all stereotypical images of the scowling, scolding headmaster with the furrowed brow and unfriendly yardstick. Hicks looks a little like Bobby Kennedy and has the manner of John-Boy Walton: He’s cordial, soft-spoken and pensive. After several months as headmaster at St. Mark’s, Hicks has become a friend of students and parents alike.
Before Hicks took over his position at the all-boys private school, he was headmaster of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Jackson, Mississippi. He says that St. Andrew’s (also a private school) was a lot like St. Mark’s, but it was about 20 years behind the other school. When Hicks arrived at St. Andrew’s five years ago, the school was struggling financially, and its academic program was outdated. By the time Hicks left, its budget had been balanced and an expansion of the facility was under way.
Hicks was wooed away from Mississippi by an executive headhunter who had been hired to conduct an exhaustive search for headmaster. More than 150 educators had applied for the job, and although Hicks and his family were content in Mississippi, when the search committee contacted him, he and his wife decided to at least consider the Dallas school. He says he was impressed with the advanced education available as well as with the well-endowed facilities. The only real challenges, he says, were to get the students to gain some experience outside of the sheltered private campus and to get the faculty and board members to “take some risks.”
Risk-taking is as much a part of Hicks as his soft-spoken demeanor. As a child, he lived with his large family in a comfortable Minnesota farm community where his father was the local minister. Hicks says that one morning when he was in grade school, his father announced that he had accepted a ministry in a very poor section of New Brunswick, Canada. He sold the family’s house, car and many of their belongings, and-despite the outrage of some friends and relatives who claimed that Rev. and Mrs. Hicks were spoiling their children’s chances for proper education-the Hickses took on their mission.
Hicks and his family proved everyone wrong. David went to high school at the Stony Brook School (an all-boys prep school). He began working in his early teens, then maintained jobs in cornfields, steel mills and grocers’ warehouses. He attended Princeton University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree. He then received a master’s degree from Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar. After Oxford, he attended the Avto Instituti (the University of Moscow). Every phase of his education was financed through full academic scholarships.
His first teaching position was at the Naval War College in 1973. He was 24 years old when he joined the staff-the youngest person ever to have taught at the institution. Three years later, he began teaching at Briarcliff College, an all-female college in Westchester County, New York, where he lectured on the humanities. During his two-year stint at the college, he was persuaded to enter the world of politics. He ran for Congress against powerful incumbent Dick Ottinger, and although he lost, he spent less than $50,000 on his campaign (a meager amount for a first-timer taking on a strong incumbent) and gained nearly 47 percent of the votes.
Supporters tried to persuade him to stick around for another try at the seat, but he turned his attention back to education. He was financed by the Whitehead Foundation to develop a new secondary school curriculum for a year, during which time he wrote his book, Norms & Nobility, a Treatise on Education, a philosophical and historical explanation of classical education with an outline for a modern curriculum.
The young headmaster’s background accounts for the goals he has set for himself and for St. Mark’s, some of which are fairly simple-such as giving the students more responsibility for governing the school as well as developing stronger math and science programs-others of which are more innovative. He wants more interaction between St.
Mark’s and public schools. He says he’s upset by the “cleavage” that exists between the private and public institutions, as well as by attitudes like, “We don’t need them and they don’t need us.” He says they need each other.
“We have tremendous resources here [at St. Mark’s] and educational credibility with community leaders,” he says. “I would like to see us put these resources at the disposal of the public school system.” Public schools, in turn, can offer St. Mark’s students a broader exposure to society and help them realize their “sense of community.” He says he can’t bear to watch students graduating from St. Mark’s with the goal of leading a comfortable life. For St. Mark’s students, he says, that’s a given. He hopes that his influence will help them alter their goals to “give back some of the blessings they have received.”