State of the Arts at the DMA: A Recap

Last night was the second installment of the State of the Arts lecture series at the Dallas Museum of Art, a four-part series of conversations between local artists and art administrators, hosted by KERA’s Jeff Whittington. What is ingenious about the series is that it pairs guests from different spectrums of the arts scene and asks them the same questions. Part 2 featured Charles Santos, executive director of TITAS, which programs dance and music performances at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and jazz musician Arlington Jones. Some choice quotes from the discussion and a few thoughts can be found after the jump.

From the very quotable Charles Santos:

“If you only book shows that make money, it is a death sentence.”

“If you make decisions by committee, it is a death sentence.”

“Money has become a big factor [because of the recession]. We work hard not to succumb to that pressure. We want to be more than Cats and Riverdance.”

Responding to questions from Whittington and the audience about the involvement of local artists and local art programming at the PAC, Santos urged patience. “We have been open for 8 weeks,” he said. “You have to look at the 5 year picture. You can’t take a look at the personality [of an arts organization] without looking at the bigger picture. . . . We’re all in the year of firsts. We are all buckling down and just trying not to get on each other’s nerves. But we’re on the precipice of something great.”

Santos said what makes him most excited about the PAC is the potential for future collaboration. “We’ve only been open since October. Now we are really starting to talk about concepts of what we can do together. It just takes time.”

One idea Santos put on the table was for the city to choose a theme, such as French culture, and set a date far enough in the future where museums, theater groups, literary groups, dance groups, and music groups could schedule their programming to allow for a cross-genre arts festival that focuses on a single theme.

What excited me about Thursday’s program was the inclusion of Arlington Jones. It is my impression that the local jazz scene, even more so than the art, theater, pop or classical music scenes, is less than engaged in everything going on at the PAC. We don’t have enough jazz venues in Dallas, and yet there is this huge untapped resource called the University of North Texas just a few miles up the road. For years, on Monday nights at the Amsterdam Bar, saxophonist Shelly Carroll has played ringmaster to a revolving cast of these local musicians, but it always surprised me that more of this sort of thing isn’t happening.

The topic wasn’t breached until the open Q&A session, when one audience member asked if there will be jazz programming at the PAC besides the Jazz Roots Series (which features national touring acts). The charming, polite, and ever optimistic Jones said he remained hopeful that the PAC will offer more opportunities for jazz performance (“I see it as an opportunity — anything that offers more opportunity for live music is good. More is always good.”), but admitted he would like to see more opportunities for “sitting, listening audiences” for jazz in Dallas. Jones, though, remained positive on his experience as a working musician in Dallas: “I love living here. I think Dallas has this laid back side — there’s not a lot of traffic. I love the southern comfort, the family atmosphere,” adding that its centrality makes it easy to get to places like New York and Los Angeles.

Here’s info on the next two parts in the series:

January 28: Artists Frances Bagley and Tom Orr; Kim Campbell, founder and executive director of the Dallas Wind Symphony

February 11: Kevin Moriarty, artistic director of the Dallas theater Center; Graeme Jenkins, Music director of the Dallas Opera

2 comments on “State of the Arts at the DMA: A Recap

  1. Still waiting for D’s announcement that Peter Simek is heading up the arts initiative coverage for the magazine. Also wondering why my partner’s same inquiry was not approved for posting.