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MANAGING THE ARTS DISTRICT: WHO’S ON FIRST?

By D Magazine |

The Dallas Arts District will be going through some interesting changes during the next several months, and it would behoove the public to pay close attention to what is going on and who the players are.

The reason for keeping a close watch is that once again (a la DART), Dallas is trying to forge ahead with something that has no precedent. The city must figure out how it’s going to manage its private/public arts venture, the purpose of which continues to be as difficult to grasp as a hot steering wheel in August.

What has emerged to date are three groups that are supposed to fill three distinct needs of the Arts District. And the highly regarded Dr. Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Arts District coordinator, is supposed to keep the peace among them.

The first group is the Arts District Management Association (ADMA), which is composed of people who own property or otherwise have a vested interest in the district. And although the members have had only a few meetings and are still working on the bylaws, it looks as though they’ll be responsible for such things as maintenance contracts, security, property assessment and fee collections. Those items are currently being taken care of by individual entities in the district, such as the Dallas Museum of Art.

Dallas developer Vincent A. Carrozza is ADMA chairman. Other members include Harlan Crow of the Trammell Crow Co., Gabriel Barbier of Triland International, Robert Venuti of Metropolitan-Har-bord, Sydney J. Steiner of Harbord Enterprises, James A. Damm of the Dallas Independent School District, the Rev. Ronald Henderson of St. Paul United Methodist Church, David Furlow of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Richard C Levin of the Dallas Symphony Association, Harriet Miers of the Dallas Bar Association, Henry Gilchrist of CBD Enterprises and mayoral appointees Patricia Meadows and Eleanor Conrad. Ex officio members are Jim Cloar, president of the Central Business District Association (CBDA); Jerry Allen, the city’s arts coordinator; and Montgomery.

The second organization- the money-making body-is the Arts District Foundation, chaired by Philip Seib. Seib is a journalism professor at SMU and a former assistant director of the old Dallas Museum of Fine Art. Seib says that the foundation’s goal is to raise a substantial endowment fund from which money can be used to Finance special projects in the district. For example, he says, the foundation is bringing an exhibit to Dallas from the Smithsonian Institution that includes some of the country’s most significant artifacts, such as the first cotton gin. The exhibit will be underwritten by the Trammell Crow Co. and will be shown free to the public around January 15. It will be displayed in the lobby of the new LTV Tower, across the street from the Museum of Art.

“This is the sort of thing that is not esoteric, but it is an exhibit that is educational and, we hope, very instrumental in bringing people into the district,” Seib says.

Other foundation members are museum director Harry Parker, James O. Gray of Arts Magnet High School, Jackie Caswell of the Dallas County Community College District, Melissa McNeil of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Tom Smith of the Dallas County Heritage Society and arts volunteer Judy Nix. Another spot is reserved for the new general manager of the Dallas Theater Center (who had not been named at press time). Cloar, Montgomery and Allen are ex officio members.

The third group is the Arts District Friends. Headed by Nix, it’s intended to represent the public or anyone who is interested in the growth of the Arts District. Nix says that a membership drive will start in January, and dues will be about $5 a year for students and about $25 a year for others.

Board members are Harry Robinson, director of the Museum of African-American Life and Culture; Clair Cha-ney, president of the 500 Inc.; Jeremy Halbrecht of The Dallas Morning News; community volunteer Judy Stubbs; arts patron Idelle Rabin; businesswoman Nora Linoras; and Seib. Ex officio members are Cloar, CBDA programs director Paula Peters and Montgomery.

One criticism of the three groups has been that no city officials sit on any of the boards, so, theoretically, no one is accountable to the voters who approved the Arts District plan in the first place. Another is that so much attention has been given to the district that public arts places such as Fair Park are being ignored.

Several of the members of the three organizations say they’re working on improving public representation. Seib says that the foundation he heads hopes to be a catalyst for arts functions throughout the city, and Nix says that the Friends group hopes to work with the newly formed Friends of Fair Park to make sure the Dallas landmark continues to be successful.

One of the first indications of just how well those intentions are perceived will be the turnout and contributions at a November 9 gala to help establish the endowment fund for the foundation. City Council woman Annette Strauss and businesswoman Caroline Hunt Schoellkopf have formed an Arts District committee to organize and sell tickets to the event, which will be held at LTV Tower.

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