Ronnie Jessie, programs administrator for the Dallas Public Library, oversees library programming systemwide. That includes bringing in local and outside authors, performers, and artists for presentations at the city library, as well as overseeing its used book store, BookEnds.
Jessie hopes to share those artistic assets with the park, as well as to donate some of the new and gently used children’s books from the store to the lending library. “I see the sharing of resources on both ends,” he says. “The downtown library makes up the fabric of education downtown, and I see the park and library working together to use the resources here at the library by expanding that into the park.”
Another university, the University of Texas at Dallas, will also participate in park programming, with its award-winning chess team. The team has won nine Pan American competitions, one of the largest chess tournaments in the United States, and has been named this year’s Chess College of the Year by the United States Chess Federation.
For the park’s grand opening on Oct. 27, visitors were scheduled to have a chance to challenge two UTD Grandmasters, who will play 25 games simultaneously, from noon to 4 p.m. That same day, UTD will show off its robotic chess set constructed by mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science students last year.
After the opening, team members are scheduled to practice in the park every Saturday from 1-5 p.m. at least until December 1.
No doubt, collaboration will be key to a successful flow of activity at the park.
Nancy Schaeffer, education director for the Dallas Children’s Theater, was collaborating with other arts groups at an education committee meeting at the Dallas Museum of Art when the idea struck her to join in on the programming at Klyde Warren Park.
“This city can be challenging [for citizens], but there are many great opportunities out there,” Schaeffer says. “The more people that we can
get going to museums or theaters or concerts, it’s great for all of us. We all work together to share resources, and this is just a great fit—very natural for us.”
Now in her 29th season with the DCT, Schaeffer is accustomed to providing programming to the public. Her team will offer dramatic activities and workshops at the park for children of all ages, on the third Saturday of each month. The workshops will be hands-on, relying heavily on audience participation. From time to time, the DCT also will perform stories and plays, such as The True Story of Three Little Pigs or The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley. It’s also in continuing discussions about offering a teen program in improvisation.
“It’s going to be quite a learning experience for us. After a year, the programming will look different, there will be new things,” Schaeffer says. “It’s great to have the attitude that, ‘We’ll see how it goes.’ That’s theater; you adapt.”
MOVIES, KNITTING, KICKBALL
Park organizers have pursued programming partnerships that are symbiotic and equitable—partners who could offer something that would draw visitors, and for whom the park fulfills a need.
“It’s a mutual recognition that there was a great partnership to be had here,” says Lee Papert, president and CEO of the Dallas Film Society. The society has been in talks with park staff for the last two years about potential programming options. “There are things that we offer, and we need unique places to offer them,” Papert says. “The deck park provides that.”
The film society’s mission is to celebrate film, honor filmmakers, educate students, and promote the City of Dallas as a place for film. Klyde Warren Park is an opportune place for them to put that mission into practice.
A movie series is under development, and details of the arrangement are still being considered. But outdoor movies seem to be on everyone’s wish list.
“One of the natural things we do is outdoor movie screenings, so that makes sense,” Papert says. “Who doesn’t enjoy sitting outside and watching a movie on a nice spring or fall night?”
But the film society isn’t just about outdoor movies. Since 2007, the DFS has presented the Dallas International Film Festival annually. Next year, the DFS will hold some of the more family-friendly festival events at Klyde Warren Park. Papert also intends to hold part of DFS’s annual educational series there. The education program exposes between 400 and 500 high school and college students to the business side of filmmaking including screenwriting, storyboarding, and marketing.
“We’re bringing education and high school kids to the park,” Papert says. “We’re excited about the partnership, and look forward to exploring the possibilities. I hope and foresee that this will be a mutually beneficial arrangmeent for the citizens of Dallas, and for the whole community.”
Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, an award-winning Dallas Independent School District public magnet school located in the Dallas Arts District, will be lending its own high schoolers to the park.
Students from the school’s performing arts classes will perform in some of the main-stage shows, as well as appear in “sidewalk performances” similar to those seen in New York City.
Students from the school’s visual arts classes will use the park’s natural setting as a backdrop for their art, and as a place to showcase their work.
These are creative ways to bring art directly to the people of Dallas. “People in the metro area have the idea that the arts are only for the wealthy or the elite. But the park really opens it up to everyone,” says Tracie Fraley, principal of the school. “It starts a dialogue around the arts and around education that is really special to our city. After all, how often do you get to interact with the artist?”
That speaks to the overall goal for the Dallas Arts District, in general, and the Klyde Warren Park, in particular: to create barrier-free programming where no- or low-cost options are available. Building the strength of the neighborhood—knitting together Uptown with downtown—is good for the citizens, as well as for the businesses that will utilize the space.
Consider Ronda Van Dyk, who opened The Shabby Sheep in Uptown in 2005. Van Dyk will host knitting classes and circles at Klyde Warren Park, which she calls her neighborhood park. As excited as she is for the exposure her small knitting business will receive from its park partnership, she’s even more excited about the direct impact she’ll have on the people who attend her sessions.
“There are a lot of people out there that are knitting on their own, so this gives us an opportunity to make it more of a community,” Van Dyk says. “An opportunity where people with a common interest can get together and share it. Or, we can pull people in from the community who haven’t had much experience in it.”
Following her store’s model, Van Dyk will offer weekly “knit-togethers” at the park, as well as specialty classes, charity knitting, and a celebration of National Knit in Public Day.
Says Van Dyk: “We just want to spread the joy of knitting all over the place.”
Another of the park’s business partners is the Studio 22 dance studio. Just three years old, Studio 22 has already made a name for itself. It’s the studio of choice for Dallas-based Dancing With the Stars contestants Mark Cuban and Michael Irvin.
Through its partnership with Klyde Warren Park, Studio 22 owners Michelle Hafle and Sergey Korshunov will bring those same dances to the general public.
“We love to introduce partner dancing and its benefits to people,” Hafle says. “A lot of people may see Dancing with the Stars and think that it’s not something they can do. But it is something they can do.”
The team will start by offering one-hour ballroom dance classes, once a week for one month, beginning Oct. 29. Plans are to offer a different style of dance each week. Studio 22 also hopes to provide large-scale performances. Ballroom dancing, Hafle says, builds communities, strengthens relationships, and improves overall health.
Ballroom dance is “something people can incorporate into their lives,” she says. “This is a great community to be involved with. Dallas is a great social city and this is a great activity to fit Dallas’s lifestyle.”
The T. Boone Pickens YMCA might agree. It’s been catering to the active lifestyle of Dallas residents for many years. One of its most successful community programs is its adult kickball league at the Main Street Garden park. Because of that, volunteers with the downtown YMCA asked to get involved with the programming at Klyde Warren Park.
“We are all about healthy living, social responsibility, and youth development,” says Paul Conklin, associate executive director for the T. Boone Pickens YMCA. “I can say that the park embodies this with their vision and leadership.”
The focus of the YMCA programs at the park will be fitness and well-being. They’ll be split into two categories: health and wellness, and leagues. The health and wellness component will include on-going classes like Zumba, a Mommy and Me boot camp, and nutrition education. Leagues will include table tennis, badminton, and croquet.
“Our goal at the YMCA is to strengthen the foundation of the community,” Conklin says. “We see this as a chance to live our work outside of the building known as the Y. We hope to achieve getting people to move and enjoy activities outside.”
The Dallas Regional Chamber also will seize the opportunity to bring some of its own networking and education programs outside. The group was scheduled to kick off its monthly “Meet the Leader” meet and greet this fall. The event is an opportunity for park visitors—from high schoolers and college students to active members of the business community—to hear key business leaders speak on important business topics, and then to interact and commingle with them in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
“It’s a new way to connect professionals and the community,” says Amy Ramos, managing director of communications for the chamber, adding that the relationship between the two is mutually advantageous. “It’s showing that downtown is vital to the business community, not just to work, but to come to relax. It’s only going to draw businesses downtown, because it improves the quality of life for employees. It’s a wonderful asset.”
A HIGH BAR
Drawing visitors, professionals, and businesses to downtown to connect with one another and to build critical mass for the district is what it’s all about. And Klyde Warren Park, it seems, is setting the bar high for parks all across the country.
“Dallas is rising on people’s radar,” says Lill. “People come, and they are amazed by all the things offered here. There’s a lot to be proud of, but the real pride is being able to more tightly knit the core together.”