Art Works Blog

Postcard from Dallas and Santa Fe

Washington, DC

By Rocco Landesman


Frederic Edwin Church's 1861 painting "The Icebergs" was one of the artworks on view during my tour of the Dallas Museum of Art with Bonnie Pitman and the Fullers. Photo courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

I was just in Dallas, Texas, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. We started in Dallas with a tour of what is essentially the new arts district there. We toured the AT&T Performing Arts Center with Mark Nerenhausen, who?s the president and CEO there. The arts district is an amazingly bold architectural district, too; the buildings there are very thrilling to see. And it?s a whole arts district that?s been put up very rapidly in the last couple of years. It?s probably been 25 years in the planning, but it seemed to have gone up very quickly. I also went to the Dallas Museum of Art where the museum?s director, Bonnie Pitman, gave us a tour. They?re one of our Blue Star Museums, and it was great to see the exhibits with Linda Fuller and her daughter Callie. Linda?s husband is on active duty with the National Guard, and it?s terrific that they can take advantage of this program.

Dallas is a kind of poster child for how arts transform communities and places. You see a kind of collaboration that goes on in the arts community in Dallas that?s not typical. These organizations all talk to each other, they interact, and they work together. Later that night I had dinner at the home of Rusty and Deedie Rose---Deedie used to be on our National Council. They brought together a lot of the arts leaders in the community and the people who run Dallas?s various arts organizations. We talked about points of intersection between the arts community in Dallas and the NEA, and it was a productive meeting. The lesson I took away from Dallas is that I think that the essential element in progress in the arts is collaboration, is the organizations and the civic leaders working together. And I think you really saw that in Dallas.

Santa Fe was great, too. We were there as the guests of Senator Tom Udall and his wife Jill Cooper Udall. Again we met with a lot of the arts organizations there. And we went to the international biennial they have there, which is called SITE Santa Fe. Sarah Lewis and Daniel Belasco were the curators, and it was thrilling to see what they?re doing. I also met Mickey and Jeanne Klein who are great collectors and arts patrons in Santa Fe, and I had a great time meeting them. One of the wonerful things about this job is that you get to meet new, very interesting people---people who are really passionate about the arts and really get it. I feel like we?re making new friends on each one of these trips.

The McCune Foundation is the big arts funder in New Mexico, and I met with Owen Lopez, their executive director, and got a bit of insight into how the arts scene works there. New Mexico is a very poor state; it ranks near the bottom in terms of per capita income. Owen?s very focused on economic development, and a part of that is using the arts for economic development and for improving neighborhoods. And he really understands that narrative and that story. And it was great to see that they had already been doing that kind of work. He?s been walking the walk, and we?ve just started to talk the talk. It?s instructive to see what they?re doing all throughout the state of New Mexico. They really do view arts as an agent of change and of economic development, there?s no question.

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