For all the hoopla surrounding the AT&T PAC opening, there are a few things the Arts District doesn’t do well yet: fostering organic use, serving as a common urban space/park, interacting with the surrounding neighbourhoods (or lack thereof). But the district’s opening did prove that it is very good at playing the role of gathering place — a festival ground.
A month or so ago, TITAS executive director Charles Santos spoke to an audience at the DMA about his hope that the Dallas Arts District would foster more coordination and cooperation among Dallas’ arts groups and institutions, such as organizing multi-disciplinary festivals. Now, indirect encouragement comes from Down Under, where The Australian reports that that country’s love of arts festivals has helped foster the kind of innovation and risk taking that would distinguishÂ Dallas as a cultural center.
The big-city arts festivals are invitations for local patrons to try new and different tastes, and audiences take up the offer with enthusiasm. People attend shows they might never otherwise think of seeing, and strike up lively debates with strangers afterwards.
Festivals are where local and international companies get to flaunt their ambitions. Large-scale events or pushing-the-boundaries art are often called “festival shows,” because with the legitimising stamp of a festival they can attract audiences eager for the new, the controversial and the different.
Arts District boosters should take note and begin work on a potential niche for Dallas in the international arts scene.