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private money for public gain

DONORS AND DEVELOPERS ARE DOING THEIR PART TO MAKE THE ARTS DISTRICT A DESTINATION FOR THE WORLD.
By D Magazine |

THE PRIVATE contributions to the Arts District would not be so surprising if the value and importance of them were not so staggering. Grand gestures of philanthropy and continued support of the Dallas arts scene have led to the world-class Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Raymond Nasher Sculpture Garden.

The recently announced Margaret and Trammell Crow Collection of Asian Art can now be added to the list. The collection of masterpieces in ceramic, bronze, painting, lacquer, crystal, bone, and wood is rooted in Asian art of the past three centuries and will be housed in a sequence of three large galleries. The collection also includes one of the largest groups of Ming and Qing jade sculptures in the world to be displayed in a new, two-story Jade Pavilion. Because members of the Crow family want their gift of art to be free to the public, they have created the Crow Family Foundation to support the operations and programs of the collection.

Although they are necessary components, the Arts District envisioned for Dallas is much more than dollars and donations. The cultural center of Dallas can only thrive with people and activity. Currently, people attend specific events at the Meyerson or DMA and then go home. The Arts District that Dallas wants and needs will have those same people linger and stroll from venue to venue. People will wander and amble. They’ll absorb. And they’ll spend money.

So far, the Crows are the only ones to have developed a significant commercial venture in the Arts District, but others are quickly realizing the potential of the north side of downtown. The Hall Financial Group is researching plans for a mixed-use space containing retail, offices, and condominiums. Conceptual drawings by architect David Schwarz depict two towers (with room for a third) and a grand plaza between them, keeping the area open and pedestrian-friendly.

Switzerland-based SPG has indicated a strong desire to develop in the Arts District, though (he particulars of exactly what and exactly where are still being discussed.

Dallas architect Graham Greene, mastermind behind the fitches Building, has put the tract of land between the proposed Nasher Sculpture Garden and the Meyerson under contract for a multi-use development.

Such commercial endeavors are new to the Arts District, but philanthropy is not.

The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is owned by the city and managed by the city, but to a large degree it was built with private money. Public money paid a total of $38.3 million after a bond issue, interest, and money for signage. Private funds raised the other $60 million, $46 million during the Cornerstone Campaign from 1982-1985 and an additional S14 million in the late ’80s to cover enhancemerits and additional costs.

The Dallas Symphony Association continues to rely on private donors, earning about 50 percent of its $18 million budget operating costs through ticket sales, subscriptions, and special programs and the other 50 percent in contributions. The current campaign to raise $55 million by the year 2000 is more than halfway there after only four years.

The Dallas Museum of Art has also been the beneficiary of private donations, in the form of both artwork and money. To cite just a few examples, in 1984, the Wendy Reves gift included numerous, valuable works of art displayed in a wing that was built with private money. In 1989, the Nancy Hamon gift of $20 million in cash in addition to $35 million in other contributions added a new entrance to the museum.

And. of course, there is the Nastier Sculpture Garden. Paid and cared for by the Nasher Foundation, the garden will draw visitors from across the country’ and creates a momentum in the arts community that is already being felt.

As with the Meyerson, public money is seed money. And it reaps big dividends.

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