TRAVEL HERE: DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART A FEAST FOR THE EYES
My mom loves the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. While I admire her devotion to that institution, gardening is not my passion. I found another way to connect with my hometown: The Dallas Museum of Art.
Memories of The Dallas Museum of Fine Art
We moved to Dallas in 1966 and the following summer, Mom signed me up for watercolor classes at The Dallas Museum of Fine Art. In those days, the museum was housed in one of the Art Deco architectural wonders at Fair Park. The class was downstairs in the basement and so were my watercolor skills. I was not going to grow up to be a painter, but before the class was over, I’d fallen for the museum – and hard. I loved strolling through the galleries and memorizing the pictures.
I remember the museum’s exciting milestones, the first African Mask exhibition and the acquisition of ancient South American gold. Perhaps most distinctly I remember how proud Dallas was when our museum was designated as a stop on the tour of Pompeiian artifacts. Along with everyone else in town and many out-of-town visitors, I stood under green and white awnings in the hot Texas summer to see the wonders of a city caught in time by lava.
Moving Downtown and Dropping the Fine
Then the DMA moved to its present site, anchoring what would become The Dallas Arts District, but looking nothing like its current configuration. I was a frequent visitor, but I was also busy going away to college, spreading my wings in a job away from home and other life events. One day, I found myself back in Dallas and ready to put down roots separate from my parents. An article in the Dallas Morning News told me about something new at the DMA, the PM League. Touted as an organization for Young Professionals and designed to support the museum with evening and weekend volunteers, the PM League was a perfect fit.
The DMA became my second home. It seemed I was there every time the doors opened. I manned the visitor’s desk on Thursday nights. I was there for gallery talks, exhibit openings and PM League events. I served on the PM League Board as the director for special events, which meant I recruited and managed volunteers. And I met my husband one evening up in the restaurant at something we called Six O’Clock Views.
The museum collection was growing all the time, but when Wendy Reves chose the DMA to house her La Pausa Collection and the Bybees deposited their Colonial furniture, things really took off. The museum itself, which had been evolving architecturally, morphed into a swan. I’ve heard people complain about the way the museum is organized, but I like it. All of my favorite museums require a map and some fortitude. Been to the Louvre or the Chicago Institute of Art lately?
My Museum Today
Though I’ve dialed back on my number of visits, the museum still plays an important role in my life. I make time to go to each new exhibit. I love the lectures and special events. The DMA’s Seventeen Seventeen Restaurant is one of my favorite dining venues. I’ve upgraded my membership to the Friend Level to have special access to the Decorative Arts program. I love Jazz in the Atrium, Late Night at the DMA and Jazz Under the Stars. I attend as many Arts & Letters Live lectures as my pocketbook will afford. Some of my favorite possessions came from the gift shop.
Most of my visits to the DMA have a particular purpose. I park in the underground garage (for free), ride the elevators up to the museum, and then hightail it to a particular gallery or theater. On my last visit we heard a recital of modern operatic songs matched to works from the DMA’s collection. On another recent evening, I galloped up the steps to hear some friends read their recently published poetry. Next year, my nephew has a wedding planned there.
However, my favorite visits are still all about the art. occasionally, I will take the time to wander through the permanent collection and visit my old favorites. I met many of them when I was twelve. I love the Chihully in the Atrium, the Icebergs and the Reves Collection. The Decorative Arts wing boasts pieces of Wagon Wheel Frankoma Ware, just like my mom has in her cabinets. But none of these pieces holds a candle to Wyeth’s old man with the shoes, Linder’s Rock Rock or Faustulus carrying the twins carrying Romulus and Remus in a bright blue cloak, because these are the works that carved themselves onto my heart as I carried my cold pressed watercolor paper and sable brushes down to the basement of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts many, many years ago.
Recently, the museum honored me with a “Meet a Member” spotlight in their quarterly members magazine. They asked me why someone should join as a member. I said the DMA is the brightest star in the Dallas firmament. If you visit Dallas, you should make sure the DMA is on your itinerary. If you live here, you should join – NOW! What’s your favorite thing at your favorite Museum?