The State of the Arts series at the Dallas Museum of Art only has a couple more events as it closes its second year. The series is a content partnership between KERA’s Art & Seek and the Dallas Museum of Art. I sat down with Jeff Whittington to get some insight into the series.
What is State of the Arts?
State of the Arts is not your typical lecture series. We bring together two people in the arts world with different backgrounds. The idea is to try and create something conversational and unexpected. We bring together artists, musicians, and arts administrators, many of whom have never met each other, and end up with these amazing stories as a result. One of my favorites was last September with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Jaap Van Zweden and artist Trenton Doyle Hancock. They are both two completely different people, but were really interested in meeting each other. Jaap told a story of how he first started playing music, he was inspired by some traveling musicians that he saw and expressed an interest in playing violin to his parents, but his parent’s didn’t want to invest too much in case it was just a whim. So Jaap’s first violin was rented. You find out things in this series that you wouldn’t otherwise if you heard these individuals speak at a traditional lecture event, such as the fact that Trenton Doyle Hancock plays the drums every single day.
Jeff Whittington, Jaap van Zweden and Trenton Doyle Hancock
How did the State of the Arts series get started?
State of the Arts was started in 2009 as a response to the upcoming opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in October 2009. The Dallas Museum of Art had an exhibition, All The World’s A Stage, to celebrate the opening, and wanted to create a lecture series that would discuss where the Dallas arts are headed now that the AT&T PAC was opening. We wanted to include fine arts, theater, opera, creative arts administrators and more. Our first event featured Veletta Forsythe Lill, Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District, and Ann Williams, Founder and Artistic Director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, both women who have been intricately involved in the Dallas arts scene for many years.
A lot of the first season was focused on programming: How do you plan, respond to the audience and program? This season has focused more on how audiences respond to art.
What is your favorite past conversation?
Each conversation has been completely unique. One of our events was with Charles Santos, Executive Director of TITAS and a former dancer, and Arlington Jones, a musician. These two individuals had never met before, and it was absolutely fascinating to hear them discuss the creative process and how they each respond to audience reactions in their own art forms. One of our earlier ones included visual artists Tom Orr and Frances Bagley, who designed the set for the Dallas Opera’s 50th Anniversary production of Nabucco, and Kim Campbell, a musician and Executive Director of the Dallas Wind Symphony. They discussed how they approach preparation and presentation for their respective art forms. I think my favorite was the one with Jaap Van Zweden, he had this amazing idea of creating artwork as performance and performance as artwork. How much does the audience have to understand to appreciate the art form? Jaap had a theory, a way he approached his work, to just let it all go once you get onstage. The countless hours, the problems encountered, the stress, just let it all go.
Why is this different from other lecture series?
My goal as a moderator is to get the two guests talking to each other, and ultimately to get people talking about the arts and what’s happening in the arts in North Texas. The result is a series of amazing moments. This is not so much a lecture series, but more a series of conversations that are intended to bring together artists and those passionate about the arts, engage the audience and challenge the way we see the arts by presenting the arts from various points of view.
Our upcoming conversation on January 13 includes Annette Lawrence, an artist featured in the Big New Field: Artists in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium Art Program exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, Brian K. Trubey, an architect with HKS Sports Entertainment Group who worked on Cowboy’s Stadium and Charles Wylie, Dallas Museum of Art curator and member of the Dallas Cowboys Stadium Art Council. Here, we will explore the role of public art. Public art creates challenges, you have control to an extent, but there are many factors you can’t control, which can be a really great thing and a bit unnerving all at the same time. The art at the Cowboy’s Stadium raises a lot of questions. We will explore the original idea, the process and the result. To date, Cowboy’s Stadium has had 1 million people attend events, 1 million people attend tours, and 3 million total visitors. How does the art affect them? Do they understand the art? Do they even need to understand the art to be affected?
Who would you recommend to attend this series?
I feel that these conversations are important to anyone who cares about the arts and preserving arts and culture in the North Texas community. The themes we are tackling are essentially the same across all areas of the arts. The speakers are top leaders in the arts, from performing artists and curators to arts administrators, having thought-provoking conversations about the arts. Why is this kind of conversation important today? Because there are fewer and fewer places where art is discussed in a public forum like this. I am paraphrasing Gene Jones, but she once stated that “Sports and art are alike… they’re a respite from the routine and the hard work that we do everyday”, and that’s why they are so important in our culture.
You can learn more about State of the Arts at DallasMuseumofArt.org. Admission to State of the Arts is included in general admission to the Dallas Museum of Art