“Communities Connecting” Painting | Mayor Mike Rawlings

Title: “Communities Connecting” Acrylic on canvas | 49” x 45” Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick | 2013

Title: “Communities Connecting”
Acrylic on canvas | 49” x 45”
Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick | 2013

The month of April just ended and began with a bold proclamation from our Mayor, Mike Rawlings. He declared the week of April 7 – 14 as “Dallas Arts Week.” Mayor Rawlings moderated a panel discussion with leaders in the visual, film and performing arts about ways in which the city can attract and keep aspiring and established artists + creative thinkers. The dialogue fittingly took place in the City Performance Hall, located in the Dallas Arts District which is the largest contiguous arts district on the country, with a campus of 68 acres.

Also of cultural significance this month was a program called “Architecture 360.” Every day for 30 days, the Dallas Center for Architecture (DCFA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) organized or hosted 30 events about the built-environment.  April has been a wonderful celebration of great architecture and design in Dallas. Tonight closed “Architecture 360” and the month with a Grand Finale celebration on our new deck park, Klyde Warren Park, which has become our town green and meeting place.

“Communities Connecting,” a painting I recently finished, reflects the multiple intersections that interesting communities like Dallas foster over time to be culturally vibrant and attractive to creative thinkers and doers.

Detail of textures in painting, “Communities Connecting”

Detail of textures in painting, “Communities Connecting”

To the month of May and making more neural networks between people, ideas and place….Meg

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Sunday in the Park

This weekend was the grand opening of Klyde Warren Park. A visionary concept for forty years and under construction for the past three years, this 5.2 acre engineering feat spans over Woodall Rodgers Freeway and creates a walk-friendly green link between the Dallas Arts District and Uptown neighborhoods.

I went today – participated in events, ate lots of food, and watched a mass of people enjoy the weather and performances by talented students from Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet School.

The Dallas Center for Architecture hosted a game table upon which children collectively built a Dr. Seuss-worth city. Each started with a 4” x 6” plot of land, materials and their imagination. Here’s some of their work.

Others chose to learn knitting from the Shabby Sheep (2112 Boll Street) staff.

Master knitters covered tree trunks with their intricate handiwork.

Lots of parents strolled around with their kids.

Dogs and owners were in no rush.

This was the start of free yoga and tai chi classes in the park.

Thinking of Stephen Sondheim’s Sundays in the Park with George, there probably were many Georges present today. Georges Seurat would have been proud of the single-minded focus of many Dallasites who made this weekend’s opening a reality.

If you are interested in how Klyde Warren Park was championed, designed and built, visit an excellent exhibition on this subject at the Dallas Center for Architecture – runs through November 9th. The building is located on 1909 Woodall Rodgers, across from the northern edge of the park. Look for a blue-and-white lettered sign, “The Five Star Institute,” towards the top.

 

Hope to see you in the park. It’s fun to imagine you’re walking above a busy, noisy freeway completely oblivious to it being there, if you didn’t know otherwise.

Enjoy your week,

Meg

The Dallas Arts Community – It’s Pretty Fantastic

Looking back on last week, it reminds me once again that Dallas has matured into an interesting city with both breadth and depth in the arts – enriched by  a wonderful community of museums, galleries, philanthropists, developers, educators, artists and overlapping circles of networkers all of whom are open to sharing their talents. Here’s a snapshot….

MONDAY NIGHT – A MOVIE

Monday night was a déjà-vu event for two of my friends who are artists and aficionados of well-done independent or documentary films about artists.  Anita Horton recently wrote her weekly blog about the film gatherings she and others organized in the late 1990’s. She really missed these viewings. Coincidentally, another friend Elle Shuster, a jewelry designer and photographer, decided to organize a film group on Monday night. She wanted to see Spike Jonze’s The Fall again, and sent a viewing invitation which I extended (with permission) to Anita. More friends were made – the creative circle expands.

 

TUESDAY NIGHT – A LECTURE

I’ve had this particular Tuesday Evenings at the Modern on my calendar for months. In case you can’t tell from my previous blogs, I am a big Lucien Freud fan and have been to the Modern many times to see his portraits. Well, last Tuesday several friends and I carpooled over to Fort Worth to hear Martin Gayford, the British critic, writer, curator and subject of painting, “The Man in a Blue Scarf” (see image above).

Gayford traveled 60 miles from his home to Freud’s studio one to three times a week for six months. Freud, being attuned to slight variations in color and a stickler for consistency, required that the same pink shirt, blue scarf and other clothing be worn for each sitting. Gayford owned two blue scarves which looked the same to his eyes; but on arriving at the studio one night, Freud knew the blue was off, and asked if Gayford had worn the wrong scarf. He had.

I whole-heartedly recommend the next talk at the Tuesday Evenings at the Modern where the artist Bruce Nauman, a pioneer in many multi-media disciplines, will speak on November 13th at 7:00 PM. It’s free – get your ticket when the front desk opens at 5 PM.

And, notice the large (you can’t miss it) sculpture at the main entrance. The artist is Brooklyn-based KAWS and the piece is called “Companion (Passing Through).”

WEDNESDAY NIGHT – ANOTHER MOVIE

The Dallas Center for Architecture (DCFA), located on 1909 Woodall Rodgers near the Northwest corner of the soon-to-be opened Klyde Warren Park, hosted another Wednesday Film Series. Women in the Dirt: Landscape Architects Shaping our World won Best Feature Documentary in the 2011 Columbia Gorge International Film Festival. The paths of seven professional women, who are the grand dames in the field of landscape architecture and trendsetters in California, were traced. After the movie, Greg Brown, DCFA’s energetic Program Director, facilitated an engaging discussion.

 

THURSDAY NIGHT – NASHER’S AVANT-GARDE SOCIETY PARTY

One of my favorite special interest groups is the Avant-Garde Society (AGS) at the Nasher Sculpture Center. The AGS mission is to provide opportunities to learn more about modern and contemporary sculpture and architecture in a welcoming and informal environment. Thursday was the second year for Art Y’All, the annual members’ party, which has – as the name implies – a Texas two-step, fun vibe. Once again, photographer Steve Wrubel was the entertaining auctioneer, selling three sculptures to raise funds for the AGS and innovative Sightings exhibitions. Curator Jed Morse asked three well-known, local artist couples to collaborate and make a sculpture to be auctioned. Couples from left to right in the image above: A big thank you to Tom Orr and Frances Bagley, Benito Huerta and Janet Chaffee and Terri Thornton and Cam Schoepp for their three pieces of art that warranted the evening’s competitive bidding.

For anyone who wants to join this group, the next event is December 5th at The Mason Bar for the annual Holiday Happy Hour. January 12th is an exclusive tour of the Art Warehouse owned by art collectors Rachofsky and Faulconers. And, on March 2nd, we’ll take a day trip to see collections and studios in the Big Easy City, New Orleans. Click here for membership information.

SATURDAY A MIXED BAG 

I’m a DCFA docent who’s trained in the history and architecture of the Dallas Arts District. On Saturday, I gave a special tour to three visitors from Denver who were a delight and very knowledgeable which is not surprising given the guests were Curtis Fentress, founder of Fentress Architects which won the AIA’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, the CEO Agatha Kessler and CFO Colin Lewis who had previously worked for the City of Denver and on the growth of their Arts District. Mr. Fentress knew the Wyly Theater well because he was a member on the AIA Jury that conferred the 2011 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture on this innovative theater.

The four of us walked back to the Nasher where they continued with an audio tour; and I had lunch before a lecture in the Nasher’s 360 Speakers Series.

Dr. Catherine Croft, Adjunct Assistant Curator at the Nasher, presented the themes in her recently released book, An Audience of Artists: Dada, Neo-Dada, and the Emergence of Abstract Expressionism. She posed questions: Was Dada a movement or an attitude? Can an artist looking at and responding to another artist’s work create original art?

After Catherine’s presentation, I talked with Karen Weiner, gallery owner of The Reading Room, who had been a panelist at The MAC on Thursday night. Complementary themes were discussed by her panel titled, “The Anxiety of Influence,” a term coined by literary critic Harold Bloom. The panel explored Bloom’s tenet of creativity: Since we are all influenced by something, this phenomena can cause self doubt in a poet (or artist) about the possibility of making any truly original works of art.

“The Anxiety of Influence” was part of “Spin Off: A Series of Panel Discussions” sponsored City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. The MAC (McKinney Avenue Contemporary) | 3120 McKinney Avenue

The last stop before heading home on Saturday afternoon was with Connie Chantilis, mosaic artist and owner of Two Sisters Catering, and her studio which was open to the public as part of the annual White Rock Lake Studio Tour. Her Little Forest Hills’ studio complex sits behind her custom-designed, eco-friendly contemporary home.

Enjoy your week…I’ll be back in two weeks on October 28th.

Meg

Cause for Celebration – Dallas City Performance Hall

Projections on the walls in the lobby entrance of the DCPH logo.
The logo reflects the building’s roofline which resembles an undulating wave.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Another architectural gem opened in the Dallas Arts District.  The gem is the Dallas City Performance Hall (DCPH). A ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday morning began a weekend-long celebration with 40 events. The concept for the new building was to provide first-rate space in the Arts District to mid-size and emerging performing arts groups who do not own their own facility. This need exists across multiple disciplines – a stage for dance, theater, music or chorale performances, as well as lectures and special events.

On Friday evening, we had the opportunity to hear individuals from the brain trust who joined forces and produced a thoughtful, high quality entry into the Arts District. Here are the professionals on the panel:

  • Leigh Breslau (now partner with Trahan Architects), Design architect, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill | Chicago office
  • Brian George, Architect of Record, Corgan Associates | Dallas office
  • Jack Hagler, Theater and Lighting design, Schuler and Shook | Dallas, TX.
  • Mark Holden, Acoustics, Jaffee Holden | Norwalk, CT.

From the panel, we learned that 70 arts organizations were interviewed to understand their specific requirements. From this feedback, the team collaborated with the City of Dallas and each other to accommodate multiple, sometimes conflicting, performing arts needs.  I observed that the panelist, who have worked together since 2004 on this project, genuinely respect and like each other.

The result is a 750 seat hall – 550 on the lower level and 200 in mezzanine. It’s proof that on a tight, 100% publicly funded budget of $40.5 million an exquisitely designed and engineered structure can be built.

When discussing the unique requirements of the DCPH, Mr. Breslau said that the design was inspired by his admiration of Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center (down the street on Flora) and his mentor Louis Kahn’s Kimball Museum in Fort Worth. What he adopted was the layout of a series of linear pavilions. Eventually the DCPH will have three side-by-side rectangles with waving ribbon rooflines. Interaction with the urban setting, said Mr. Breslau, was the reason there is a front two-story glass lobby and minimal setback from Flora Street.  “We wanted a city or village for the arts. The patron in the glass lobby becomes one of the actors on stage.”

Phase One of Dallas Center for Performing Arts (DCPH) – west side profile.
60,000 sf on 100,000 sf site where two more pavilions will flank this one, completing the DCPH performing arts campus.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Acoustician Mr. Holden shared with us the complexity of addressing the varying sound types, e.g. amplified and acoustic vibrations, inside the hall.  While outside and overhead, the flight path from Love Field had to go unnoticed to the audiences. He said that “out of necessity, this was most flexible hall his firm has designed.” When you enter, notice the cast-in-place concrete walls with the random patterns of “boards simulating wood.” The textured pattern was an intentional part of the sound reverberation calculations. Also, notice the walls and where the acoustic panels, which resemble “roman shades,” have been lowered or raised. To manipulate sound, 13 double-baffled wool panels can be mechanically and individually adjusted (see photos below).

Concrete walls and wool acoustic panels
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Inside view of adjustable wool acoustic panels
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

In a blog post last year, I highlighted work by the local artist Shane Pennington. Much to my delight he is the first artist commissioned by the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs to make public art for the DCPH. Specifically, he was asked to make a digital painting for the theater’s stage curtain.

Staying true to his reputation as imaginative, technically savvy and out-of-the-box, his piece titled, Points of Life, is very cool (see image below). The medium is a programmable LED curtain – an electronic 57’ long grid made of 8” x 8” squares. Each square is like a colored pixel. All squares converge optically into animated images of walking figures. It’s comparable to the way Chuck Close paints his portraits, and how we experience and see his images.

“Points of Life” – 15 minute loop of urban pedestrians | Artist: Shane Pennington
(photo: Front Burner | D Magazine)

In an interview with Peter Simek for D Magazine, Pennington talks about his summer in Berlin and being inspired by people watching in the city’s central plaza, Alexanderplatz:

“I filmed about four hours of material, and brought it back to the states. Then I went through it and hand-selected each character. As you can imagine, there are probably thousands of people really walking through this landscape, so I hand-selected each one. There are over ten thousand images that I had to go through. Each frame of every person had to be cut out and inserted.

Sitting in the plaza, obviously there are certain differences, like their (sic: Germans’) little hot dog stands, but if you really sat back and took the time to just absorb it and just watch life, it is fairly in a beautiful message. We’re all similar. It transcends boundaries and countries and all that stuff. In a sense, that’s kind of the beautiful message of this (sic: Points of Life).

“Dropped ceiling” is part of the acoustics and design which gives space for materials to muffle any overhead sound.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Proof in the pudding (or actually hearing a performance):

I experienced the first live performance on Friday night which featured Sarah Jaffe, a soulful 20-year old North Texan singer and songwriter. I intentionally sat in the mezzanine, unexpectedly and happily surrounded by Jaffe’s fans. The sound was incredible – clear. My view from Row 11, Seat 11 – fantastic. The seat, covered with acoustically correct fabric – comfortable.

As a nice prelude to her performance, the warm-up band came from Dallas’ Arts Magnet school, conveniently located right across the street. Seven students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, joined on stage by Jaffe, sang delicate acoustic tunes.

As far back as the 1990’s, the DCPH was conceived as part of the grand plan for the Dallas Arts District – a special place for emerging and mid-size performing arts organizations. The opening this weekend was a big success for the Office of Cultural Affairs – a division of City of Dallas. Kudos to OCA for staying true to its mission: “Establish a cultural system that ensures all Dallas citizens and visitors have an opportunity to experience the finest in arts and culture.”

Be back next Sunday with more on art.

Enjoy, Meg

Concerned Dallas Citizens Unite

Eating lunch outdoors this Saturday at the Nasher Cafe, here’s my view. Picasso’s staring at a patch of reseeded dirt where there was once lush lawn.

Nasher Sculpture Garden on an overcast noon | August 25, 2012
Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) | Spanish
Head of Woman |1958
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Dallas has done so much over the twenty-five years I have lived here to elevate its cultural offerings and profile. The Dallas Arts District is a piece – a large piece – in the success of offering Dallas citizens and visitors visual and performing arts housed in note-worthy architecture. The District has grown to a 68-acre cultural and residential campus.

The Nasher Sculpture Center, which opened in 2003, is one of the District’s gems designed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Italian architect, Renzo Piano. His team took time to study and understand the peculiarities of the Texas climate, especially the brutal summer sun. An arched glass roof with a perforated aluminum screen in an egg-crate pattern directs the natural light into the galleries and anticipates the sun’s daily arc from southeast to southwest. (See image below.)

Close-up of “egg crate”
(photo: Nasher Sculpture Center)

Another architectural firm, Foster + Partners of London, spent one year analyzing the arc of the sun before finalizing its design of the Winspear Opera House which is a 2009 addition to the district. A two-acre, steel frame canopy hovers over the Winspear as a mechanism to successfully deflect the Texas sun, especially in the summer months, and lower the ambient temperature. (See image below.)

 

Winspear Opera House in Dallas Arts District | 2009
Architect: Foster + Partners led by Spencer du Grey (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

  
A recent addition still under construction and adjacent to the Nasher is Museum Tower, a 42-story residential building. Unfortunately, the design by Los Angeles architect Scott Johnson was not as sensitive to the climate and its impact on the surroundings as the other two architects’ previously mentioned. Clad in convex glass panels, the building is a giant column that magnifies and reflects sunlight onto its neighbors. (See image below.)
Museum Tower diverts sunlight into Nasher’s sculpture garden. Thus, the patches of dirt and brown grass at the Nasher this Saturday.
On a personal note: I find the building itself quite beautiful and elegant, but wish the surfaces accommodated the neighborhood and the James Turrell installation at the Nasher had not been ruined.

Museum Tower seen from Nasher (photo: Brandon Thibodeaux, The New York Times)

 
But, it is not only the Nasher that is hit. The impact is 360 degree.  I have concerns about:
  • The trees and plant life in the soon-to-be open Klyde Warren Park
  • Reflections into nearby buildings, like the Dallas Museum of Art, One Arts Plaza, Hunt Oil Tower
  • This conflict, which has received national and international press, setting back the hard-earned gains in Dallas’ reputation as an increasingly cultural place to live
  • Harming the reasons people will buy a home in Museum Tower. (Note: I want the project be a success for the Arts District, City of Dallas, its investors and the developers.)
  • Museum Tower becoming a scapegoat for any future sun damage in the area, regardless of the real cause.

There many bright minds – hopefully all are well-intended people – working on possible solutions and vetting possibilities. In my opinion, the sooner a workable solution is implemented, the better for everyone involved.

Having a personal long-term view of Dallas as a great place to live, I hope this messy, time-consuming, expensive conflict ignites a larger conversation about urban planning, communities and neighborhoods.

Why not have a thorough design review board in the City of Dallas? Why not have interested neighbors and citizens take time to review proposed buildings for any impact on their homes or institutions? In other places I have lived (granted smaller towns), a design that raised concerns and eyebrows, whether it be reflectivity or height, could be rejected by the town’s zoning commission. Why not here in Dallas?

Along the lines of a constructive dialogue, there will be a panel discussion on Saturday, September 8th at 2:30 pm at the Dallas Museum of Art.  KERA’s Krys Boyd will moderate Aesthetics and the City with panelists Veletta Lill, Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District, and Vel Hawes, a Dallas architect who served as Raymond Nasher’s representative for the design and construction of the Nasher Sculpture Center. (Updated on 9/1/2012: The panel has been postponed.)

Show your support as a citizen concerned with finding and implementing a workable solution before more damage is done to the Arts District by clicking on the petition, Stop the Glare. I have signed it because I believe this is a 360 degree issue that needs to be addressed.

I’ll be taking long weekend for Labor Day…be back on Sunday, September 9th.

Enjoy,

Meg

Worth A Trip While It Lasts – Art Sponsored by TEDxSMU

Artist: Shane Pennington. Commissioned by TEDxSMU and Dallas Artist District. Materials: Belgium ice | stone selected to commemorate a boyhood friend. (Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Dallas-based artist Shane Pennington is the guy who brought the Dallas Arts District AURORA this fall. He is once again exercising his creative talents. Shane has installed a new site-specific show, “Transcendence.” This commission is a Japanese Rock garden waiting to happen as a single stone frozen in an ice block – in the shape of a body or cube – will eventually fall into place on the Zen-like raked granite once the ice has melted.

Artist: Shane Pennington. Commissioned by TEDxSMU and Dallas Artist District. Materials: Belgium ice | stone hand-selected to represent the heart. Made in Belgium, the source of purest block ice, this creation took 6 months to form. (Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

It is well worth a visit – across from the Wyly Theater at the intersection of Leonard and Flora.