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2012 Year in Review: Dallas Arts and Culture

The Museum Tower glares down.

I reread all our blog posts from the last year so that you don’t have to. Jokes aside, 2012 was good to us. I present to you the year that was, in Dallas arts and culture. (Items are numbered, but in no particular order.)

1. Ben Fountain was nominated for a National Book Award for Billy Lynn’s Long Haltime Walk. But then, he was robbed.

2. The hotly anticipated ABC television series, GCB, finally arrived. Based on Kim Gatlin’s Highland Park-inspired book, Good Christian Bitches, the show inspired a flurry of controversy over its title as well as some speculation about who’s who in Gatlin’s thinly veiled HP doppelganger, Hillside Park. And then the TV show slipped away, canceled after one season–fortunately this came after we forced the very funny Laura Kostelny to watch and recap every single episode.

3. We, as a nation, officially returned to Southfork Ranch with the premiere of TNT’s Dallas. We got one full season with the late, great Larry Hagman reprising his role as J.R. Ewing before he died of throat cancer in Dallas on November 23. By then, he’d filmed six of the 15 episodes we can look forward to in season two.

4. The Dallas Museum of Art welcomed new director Maxwell Anderson (and his beautiful wife) in February, proving that Peter Simek is a soothsayer and sparking rumors of change (such as a return to free admission). In late November, the DMA did in fact announce free general admission, effective January 21, 2013.

5. We added a bunch of new architectural and urban additions to our landscape. In order: the Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas City Performance Hall (completing the planned Arts District venues), Klyde Warren Park, and the Perot Museum. None came without challenges, supporters, and detractors.

6. The Museum Tower Controversy. Tim Rogers wrote the cover story for the May issue about a little problem the Nasher Sculpture Center first discovered back in September. The Renzo Piano-designed museum was awash with light, thanks to the focused reflection of the sun off the neighboring, newly constructed, Dallas Police and Fire Pension System-owned Museum Tower, a $200 million condo project that’s now having trouble selling units.  The situation has only gotten uglier as the Nasher and Museum Tower have struggledand failed–to agree on a solution. The New York Times has weighed in; so too has the Observer‘s Jim Schutze, who probably types this stuff while wearing a Bane mask.

7. We still don’t know what to do about Fair Park. Surrounded by a sea of concrete (47 acres of surface parking lots) and with two of Dallas’ most violent neighborhoods just to the south, the area is unused most of the year, waiting for the State Fair to start up again. However, Fair Park harbors hopes of becoming a summer attraction.

Nammi owners Garry Torres and Teena Nguyen.

8. Veletta Lill leaves the Arts District, stepping down from her post as the district’s founding executive director. Her legacy? Food trucks. As someone who works nearby in this veritable restaurant wasteland, I’m grateful.

9. Dallas theaters (and thespians) take New York. Lysistrata Jones, a musical comedy that originated at the Dallas Theater Center with the name Give It Up, carried DTC company member Liz Mikel all way to Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theater. The Dallas Theater Center also loaned acting company member Cedric Neal to Broadway’s Tony-winning production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, plus gave us the musical Giant, a sprawling co-production with the Public Theater based on Edna Ferber’s novel that recently began its own Broadway run. It also prompted some speculation about whether the theater has eclipsed Houston’s Alley Theatre as the most important in Texas. Dallas actor Brian Gonzales understudied the Tony winner for best actor, James Corden, in the Broadway production of One Man, Two Guvnors. Meanwhile, Project X (the side project of Shakespeare Dallas’ Raphael Perry) took their production of Erik Ehn’s Diamond Dick: The Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 to the historic La MaMa Theater as part of a larger festival.

10. Arts organizations play nice. The Dallas Opera and Dallas Theater Center co-produced the chamber opera The Lighthouse in March. In November, five of Dallas’ major performing arts organizations–the Dallas Opera, the Dallas Symphony, the Dallas Theater Center, and Dallas Summer Musicals–announced a new collaboration supported by AT&T that combines their back-office operations. The initial collaboration cites sharing of healthcare and benefits, ticketing and box office, scheduling and capacity, artistic collaboration and facility management.

Bonus: Tim won a National Magazine Award for his profile of Barrett Brown, then the unofficial spokesperson for Anonymous, and promptly managed to disrupt the solemnity of the award ceremony with an wheels-off acceptance speech. Here’s what he meant to say.