TRAVEL HERE: SERENE OASIS AWAITS ACROSS BOEDECKER FROM NORTHPARK
When you think about attractions in Dallas you’ve got a lot to choose from. Theme parks, museums, shopping – you name it, but you may not have even heard of the Museum of Biblical Arts (MBA). Many locals haven’t and even among those who have, there’s a good chance they haven’t visited. Let me encourage you to change that.
Oh, Has That Place Re-opened?
The Museum of Biblical Arts used to be a little better well known. When I moved to Dallas in the late sixties, it was all the rage. NorthPark, which is right across the street, was still brand spanking new and the only other museums in town were out at Fair Park. The Dallas Arts District might have been in someone’s dreams, but there was no hint of it on our horizon. The Biblical Arts museum featured a large mural of the Miracle of Pentecost. You went into a gallery, the room went dark and a sort of light show picked out parts of the painting as the story of Pentecost was narrated.
I remember hearing all kinds of rumors about the painting. I heard the building it was painted in used to be part of the cemetery next door, which I believe is actually true, but I also heard rumors of wild parties, addiction, affairs and extortion which I doubt had any basis in fact. Whatever the reality, the experience of seeing the painting was exciting and over the years the museum surrounding the painting grew into a lovely building featuring a replica of Christ’s tomb.
Then in 2005 there was a fire. I was out in California at the time, so I don’t know much about it first-hand. I know it burned up the Pentecost painting. It seems the rest of the museum was open for a while after that, but I could be wrong. Then they announced the museum would be upgraded. I do know the museum was closed for renovation for a long time. More rumors abounded. The fire had been a case of arson to force a remodel. Somebody had embezzled everything. Fighting among the board. Probably none of that actually happened, but the construction of the new building seemed to take forever and the longer it took, the more the dis-information grew.
The museum re-opened in 2010, but while it was closed it disappeared from Dallas’ consciousness. Occasionally, I’d hear someone ask about that building across from NorthPark, but over time the answers deteriorated from remarks about the old museum, to guesses that it might have been some kind of church. In case you were wondering, the museum is back and it’s pretty darned good!
Free Sculpture Garden is Tip of the Iceberg
Your first trip to the MBA could be short and free! On the north side of the museum (which is on the west side of NorthPark) is a beautiful sculpture garden called the Via Dolorosa, featuring the compelling sculptures of Gib Singleton. According to your religious affiliation or lack thereof, you might be more familiar with terms like “The Way of the Cross” or “Stations of the Cross” than you are Via Dolorosa. The literal translation from the Latin is “Way of Sorrows” and it memorializes the events of the Crucifixion.
I knew the Stations of the Cross were a liturgical tradition memorialized in churches across the world. I’ve seen evidence of it in everything from elaborate murals to stained glass windows to wooden plaques painted with Roman numerals. An MBA brochure informed me St. Francis of Assisi began the tradition in the 13th century.
Gib Singleton’s style for the sculpture is called Emotional Realism, which the Oxford Dictionary tells me is “a representational quality in a narrative that is felt to be ‘true-to-life’. I’d say it was more like sculptural impressionism. The sculptures are obviously representational, but they aren’t smooth marble and gleaming metal. They are bronze, but ruggedly cast.
The north side of the museum building is a replica of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, so the sculpture garden stands in a dramatic setting. The Texas heat is doing a number on the gardening efforts, but it is a beautiful space and it’s surprising to find it across the street from one of the nation’s premiere shopping. The garden and it’s sculptures are open to the public for free.
On you next trip to NorthPark, you could drop by for a few moments for meditation or art appreciation, but be warned, you might be inspired to visit the museum, so perhaps you should allow more time. come back next week and I’ll tell you what you’ll see inside.