The Dallas Museum of Art Celebrates 25 Years in the Arts District

The Presentation of A Dream Come True: The Dallas Arts District Offers Visitors a Compelling Visual Perspective on the Formation of  the Nation’s Largest Urban Arts District

This fall, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) celebrates 25 years in the downtown Dallas Arts District and welcomes the newest member, Dallas’s new AT&T Performing Arts Center, a multi-venue center for opera, theater, music, dance, concerts, family programs and more. A Dream Come True: The Dallas Arts District, which opens on September 25 in the DMA’s first floor Concourse, displays archival images, ephemera, and media clips illustrating the establishment and growth of the DMA and the completion of the Dallas Arts District, which now becomes the largest urban arts district in the United States.

“As we celebrate the completion of the Dallas Arts District, the significant progress of the last 25 years reflects an impressive history of community involvement and investment,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “We would not be celebrating the ‘dream come true’ today without supporters who acknowledge the profound impact of the arts on individuals and on a community at large. The arts sustain the growth and vitality of the Dallas Arts District and they encourage the overall advancement and exuberance of the city of Dallas today and in the future.”

In the late 1970s, City of Dallas planners and a consortium of nonprofit management groups joined Museum leaders in creating a vision for downtown Dallas in the 68-acre, 19-block neighborhood that is the Dallas Arts District. In November of 1979, Dallas voters overwhelmingly approved $24.8 million for a new building, to which private donors added another $28 million, and the longtime dream of Harry S. Parker III, then the Museum’s Director and now its Director Emeritus, finally became reality. The successful bond election, publicized by the theme “A great city deserves a great art museum,” made Dallas the first city to pass a major public bond issue for a museum and allowed the Dallas Museum of Art to move from its residence in Fair Park to the newly established Arts District.

In 1984, the Dallas Museum of Art became the first cultural institution to move downtown, joining the Belo Mansion, Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, St. Paul United Methodist Church and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Over the next two decades, additional performing and visual arts organizations followed—including the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, and the Nasher Sculpture Center.

To provide visitors with a framework in which to place each Arts District “resident,” A Dream Come True includes architectural renderings, construction-in-progress still and video photography, footage of media interviews, and opening-day documentation. The growth of the Museum will be presented chronologically, along with an Arts District “time line” showing the arrival of the other cultural institutions, culminating with the October opening of Dallas new AT&T Performing Arts Center.

In addition to the archival highlights in A Dream Come True, some significant dates and celebrations over the last 25 years at the DMA and in the Arts District include:

  1. The Museum, previously a merger of the original Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Arts, changed the name to the Dallas Museum of Art, moved to the new Arts District, and the new building, designed by architectural pioneer Edward Larrabee Barnes, and officially opened to the public on January 29, 1984. The Museum’s Sculpture Garden, designed by Barnes and Daniel Kiley, opened to the public the previous fall of 1983, when the Museum staff first moved into the new building.
  2. The new decorative arts wing, built to house 1,400 objects from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, opened November 29, 1985.
  3. Nancy Hamon donated $20 million toward the construction of the new Museum wing. The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, designed by I. M. Pei, opened to the public.
  4. Construction began on the addition of the Nancy and Jake L. Hamon Building, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 23, 1991.
  5. The Nancy and Jake L. Hamon Building, a new addition of 140,000 square feet, opened to the public on September 26, 1993.
  6. The third floor of the Museum, featuring the arts of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, was completely refurbished and opened.
  7. The Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art opened to the public December 5, 1998.
  8. John R. (Jack) Lane became the director of the DMA. The Museum received an $11 million benefaction from an anonymous donor, the largest single gift in its history specifically for the advancement of programs.
  9. Construction began on the Nasher Sculpture Center, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) in collaboration with landscape architect Peter Walker & Partners (PWP) for the garden design.
  10. The DMA marked its 100th birthday on January 19, 2003, and celebrated by remaining open for 100 consecutive hours with 45,000 visitors in attendance. The Flora Street Entrance was redesigned by Gluckman Mayner Architects and groundbreaking took place May 9, 2003. The DMA Sculpture Garden celebrated its 20th anniversary and the Museum welcomed the Nasher Sculpture Center to the Arts District with an opening on October 19, 2003.
  11. Late Nights programming began with an all-night Late Night Kick-off Party January 23, 2004, and the Museum commemorated the 20th anniversary of moving to the Arts District. Edward Larrabee Barnes, architect for the current Museum’s location, died September 21, 2004. The contemporary gallery reopened in December after renovation by Gluckman Mayner Architects.
  12. On February 16, unprecedented gifts of private collections (Hoffman, Rachofsky, Rose, and a Monet from the McDermott collection) were announced and the Quadrant Galleries were named for donors Hanley, Stoffel, Lamont, and Rachofsky in November. The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 29. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts in November.
  13. On December 19, the DMA announced its highest attendance ever for a fiscal year (October 2006–September 2007) with 641,000 visitors.
  14. Bonnie Pitman became The Eugene McDermott Director on June 1 after the retirement of Director John R. Lane on May 31. The Center for Creative Connections opened with free admission for its first weekend on May 3-4, 2008. Arts District celebrations included the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art as well as the reopening of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (a DISD magnet school) in April after a major renovation and expansion. The DMA reached historical highs in attendance, over 766,000 visitors, thanks to the opening of a groundbreaking new education facility and an ambitious schedule of major exhibitions, in particular Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.
  15. January marked five years of successful Late Nights at the DMA. The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center marks its 20th anniversary in September. October will mark the highly anticipated opening of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. The center includes the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House and the Margaret McDermott Performance Hall, designed by Foster + Partners; the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by REX/OMA, Joshua Prince-Ramus (partner in charge) and Rem Koolhaas; Annette Strauss Artist Square, designed by Foster + Partners; City Performance Hall, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and constructed by the City of Dallas, that will open in 2012; and Performance Park, designed by Michel Desvigne.

A Dream Come True is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and curated by Jacqueline Allen, The Mildred R. and Frederick M. Mayer Director of Libraries and Imaging Services. Exhibition support is provided by American Airlines.

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs are its encyclopedic collections, which encompass more than 23,000 works and span 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Established in 1903, the Museum today welcomes more than 700,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings and dramatic and dance presentations.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.