WORDS BY NANCY COHEN ISRAEL
This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of VisitDallas The Magazine. To see the entire issue and read other features, click here.
In a city that thrives on superlatives, Dallas' devotion to the arts is reflected in the size and scope of its cultural landscape. The Dallas Arts District, for example, is the largest contiguous arts district in the United States. In recognition and celebration of all that it has to offer, the city proclaimed the entire month of April as Dallas Arts Month.
So it is that every spring, the area blossoms into a citywide celebration of the visual and performing arts. From the larger umbrella organizations that oversee much of the city's cultural programming such as the Office of Arts and Culture, to individual cultural organizations, the month features work reflective of this diverse community. It also attracts artists and engages audiences from around the world.
To quantify its impact, Jennifer Scripps, the City of Dallas' director of the Office of Arts and Culture (OAC), cites that last April, 770 events serving audiences of more than 122,000 arts patrons participated in Dallas Arts Month. Here are just a few of the highlights visitors and locals can expect this April.
Dallas Art Fair
The Dallas Art Fair made its debut in 2009 and inspired the inauguration of the city-sponsored Dallas Arts Week. In the intervening years, the Dallas Art Fair has become an increasingly important stop for galleries and collectors on the international art fair circuit. Held at the Fashion Industry Gallery from April 16–19, 2020, it welcomes about one hundred contemporary art galleries from around the world and attracts thousands of visitors over the four-day event. Panel discussions, lectures, off-site exhibitions and tours of some of the city's premier collections are other highlights of the fair.
For all of its international fanfare, the Dallas Art Fair also ensures the continuity of local institutions. Proceeds from the annual preview benefit are divided among the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), Nasher Sculpture Center and the Dallas Contemporary. Additionally, the Dallas Art Fair Foundation acquisition program raises funds to grow the contemporary art collection at the DMA.
"We use the fund to continue to build towards our collections plan, which is currently correcting blind spots while bolstering our strengths, with a special focus on women artists and artists from Latin America, East Asia and the African diaspora," said Anna Katherine Brodbeck, Hoffman Family senior curator of contemporary art at the DMA.
Before the fair opens to the public, Brodbeck and Agustín Arteaga, the DMA's Eugene McDermott director, walk through, accompanied by donors, to make their selections. "We are usually able to acquire seven or eight works at the fair through the fund each year, which is really a transformative contribution to our program," Brodbeck said.
The DMA capitalizes on the focused interest in contemporary art to attract audiences to its dynamic program. This year, the DMA is presenting For a Dreamer of Houses. Featuring several immersive experiences, Brodbeck describes it as "an ambitious exhibition of our permanent collection that takes dwellings as sites of shelter, alienation, fantasy, community, the uncanny, gender and the body as a point of departure."
At Nasher Sculpture Center, proceeds from the Dallas Art Fair are part of the engine that brings its innovative programming to life, including last fall's commissioned sound installation by French artist Anne Le Troter. The first weekend in April is a celebration of the Nasher Prize laureates and includes a symposium, lecture and panel discussion as well as the Nasher Prize Gala.
Dallas Arts District Block Party
Spanning 19 blocks across 68 acres, the Dallas Arts District is the beating heart for most of the city's cultural landmarks, home to the DMA, Nasher Sculpture Center and Crow Museum of Asian Art, as well as the?Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Winspear Opera House, Wyly Theater and Moody Performance Hall. As part of the April festivities, the Dallas Arts District annually hosts a free block party.
"The signature block parties create accessibility, collaboration and partnerships within and beyond Dallas Arts District's borders," explained Lily Cabatu Weiss, executive director of the Dallas Arts District. "The block party in April is titled Changing Perspectives. Its purpose is simply that - to change people's perspectives, shed intimidation and shed a spotlight on local, state and internationally renowned artists in celebration of Dallas Arts Month."
Organized under the auspices of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO), the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family SOLUNA International Music and Arts Festival explores the connections between classical music and contemporary culture.
From April 3–21, 2020, audiences will enjoy an array of performances by nationally and internationally renowned artists. The ultimate goal is to keep classical music relevant in today's world. The festival includes three pillar events: Passport to the Park, Music and the Brain and The Musicians View, all of which attract a culturally and intellectually diverse audience.
Among this year's highlights is the commissioned new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and multidisciplinary artist Du Yun. For this event, Du Yun and her band, OK miss, will perform in a Julian Crouch-directed concert.
According to Gillian Friedman Fox, director of contemporary and SOLUNA programs, "Du Yun assembled a band that exists between a rock band and a chamber ensemble. She is really breaking barriers between genres, which plays to SOLUNA's mission."
Since classical music is at the core of this festival, it also includes two concerts by Music Director Designate Fabio Luisi. Early in the festival, he will conduct The Book with Seven Seals, a rarely performed German oratorio by twentieth-century composer Franz Schmidt. The following week, Luisi leads the DSO in Brahms' Symphony No. 2.
The DSO is a trailblazer in addressing gender equity, and its concerted effort to promote the work of female conductors and composers continues through the SOLUNA Festival. Julia Wolff returns to direct this year's "A Musician's View" program. She is also directing the Texas premiere of Forbidden Love. Sixteen vocalists from local choral groups Verdigris Ensemble and Voices of Change will perform in this reimagined work. In addition, the festival will offer the world premiere of Dallas-based artist Carmen Menza's commissioned work, Negotiating Dialogues.
A Collaborative of Arts Groups
Local arts groups have a long tradition of working collaboratively. In early April, The Dallas Opera and Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT) will mark Igor Stravinsky's one hundreth birthday with the co-production of Pulcinella. DBDT choreographer and ballet master Sean J. Smith makes his Dallas Opera debut with this production. It will be paired with the La voix humaine, a dramatic one-woman show by Francis Poulenc with a libretto by Jean Cocteau. It will be performed by Patricia Racette.
Smaller organizations also participate in this cultural season. According to Scripps, "Each April, the (three) cultural centers across Dallas present the visual arts show, ART214, highlighting the city's incredible talent of local visual artists."
In addition, the OAC organizes the free event "Creative Conversation." The aim of this panel discussion, as Scripps describes it, is "to discuss current events touching on art, design, architecture, city planning and a host of other creative topics."
For jazz lovers, the month also brings D'JAM, a free event featuring a jazz open house at Moody Performance Hall on April 4, 2020.
"D'JAM is a consortium of about a dozen jazz presenters and jazz educators," said Joanna St. Angelo, executive director of the Sammons Center for the Arts. "We realized that a lot of people were unaware of the great jazz being produced here so we decided to come together to celebrate jazz and collectively promote our events as part of National Jazz Appreciation Month, which is celebrated in April each year as part of the Smithsonian's national initiative."
Film enthusiasts look forward to the Dallas International Film Festival, sponsored by Dallas Film. Founded in 2006, Dallas Film has screened over 2,000 films from more than 50 countries in its year-round programming. This year's festival, from April 16–23, 2020, will present an international array of narrative feature films, documentaries and shorts.
Curator Brodbeck best summarizes April in Dallas, saying, "Dallas Arts Month is one of the best times to visit the city. Dallas loves to host out-of-town visitors and we bring out our best to greet them. As a fairly recent transplant, I have been simply amazed by the strength of the local arts institutions and the energy of the arts community and patrons who are committed to learning, growing the arts scene and pushing the envelope of what's possible."
Learn more about Dallas Arts Month at dallasartsmonth.com.