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Friday Morning Roundup
by Stephen Becker 9 Oct 2009

HOW WE STACK UP: Travel + Leisure Magazine recently polled its readers about their favorite destinations in a variety of categories, including food, shopping, hotels, etc. But the category we’re interested in is culture, and according to the readers, we don’t have much of it. Dallas ranked 25th out of the 30 cities included in […]


HOW WE STACK UP: Travel + Leisure Magazine recently polled its readers about their favorite destinations in a variety of categories, including food, shopping, hotels, etc. But the category we’re interested in is culture, and according to the readers, we don’t have much of it. Dallas ranked 25th out of the 30 cities included in the survey (so take THAT! Honolulu, Phoenix, Orlando, Miami and Las Vegas!). In a couple of sub-categories, Dallas ranks 22nd in classical music, 27th in theater and 24th in museums/galleries. Normally I would say that these rankings don’t mean jack, but in this case, I wonder. One of the big selling points of the Arts District is that people are going to come to Dallas specifically for it. If that’s going to happen, it sounds like the city needs to work on its national image.

A MAGAZINE SPEAKS: Another day, another heavy hitter weighs in on the Arts District. Compared with the LA Times review from earlier this week, Newsweek seems pretty impressed. “Dallas has managed to avoid the grandiose errors of its New York forebear with a pedestrian-friendly layout, generous public spaces, and architecture that begs for your attention,” Cathleen McGuigan says in likening the area to Lincoln Center. And it’s interesting to keep an eye out for the Lincoln Center comparisons. From the beginning, all of the marketing materials coming from the performing arts center have done their best to make that Lincoln Center comparison, and it appears that the message is getting through. Just about every review you read of the Arts District mentions its New York counterpart. Embedding that link in people’s minds will go a long way in improving those rankings above.

OH, AND BY THE WAY: We’re doing our bit for Dallas’ cultural image — and for anyone who wants to keep up with everything going on in the Arts District. Check out our new site dedicated to the Dallas Arts District. You can access it anytime from Art&Seek’s ‘front page.’ Over on the right is the button for it.

MUSIC BITS: Denton’s Bowling for Soup will release its 10th album next week. Hunter Hauk checks in with singer Jaret Reddick for a preview (quickdfw.com) … In the off chance you’ve already made your New Years Eve plans, you might want to change ’em. The Toadies have announced they are playing that night at Trees (dfw.com) … Robert Wilonsky comes across some most interesting news: Police drummer Stewart Copeland is writing a concerto based on the music of Bali for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Interested. (Unfair Park) … The new Smile Smile video will have you smiling (twice) (DC9 at Night).

  • Tim Hardin

    The ranking is worse than you note: for a couple of reasons.

    First, because the ranking includes the Metroplex. It already includes things like the Kimbell Museum & the Cliburn Foundation in FW, so you can’t try to make some kind of special case for a trip to DFW.

    Second, many of the other rankings that relate to culture, are even worse than the overall cultural ranking: including DFW as a cultural getaway (28), diversity (30), live music/concerts & bands (28), ethnic food (30). Almost the entire list of quality of life/visitor experience items, except for cleanliness, safety, peace & quiet & weather, are lower than the overall cultural ranking.

    So DFW is seen as a location for a bland vacation of high-end shopping. Hoo-hah!

  • Karey Murphy

    I definitely think that Dallas needs to work its national “arts” image. While it may be gaining ground with the art insiders, it would be great to see normal, everyday arts enthusiasts seek out Dallas as a destination. The city is moving in the right direction, but as you referenced in the Travel & Leisure poll, there is still a long way to go.

    • Stephen: To your point in How We Stack Up, you’re finally addressing what many of us in the arts community have been saying.

      Yes, it’s wonderful that we have such beautiful facilities, but until we can breathe real life into it all and augment these “Pritzker Prize-winning! Pritzker Prize-winning!” storefronts, and their mostly imported inventory, with an atmosphere of organic, homegrown culture, nobody’s going to buy it. Why should they, when they can find the same big-box culture in another city (maybe even No.s 26 through 30)?

      Consequently, not only will we not attract those Travel + Leisure respondents, we’ll also not draw the large employers we seem to want, those that Richard Florida describes in The Rise of the Creative Class, who are relocating to the “cultural meccas” and “great cities for art” in order to find the brainpower they need to survive.

      One missing link is an important element he calls The Bohemian Factor. He says Austin’s got it. But brother, we don’t. Yet.

      Christina Rees is writing about a more specific issue, our lack of real cultural criticism in the mainstream media, in her most recent article on Glasstire.com, but this statement still applies: “The arts—’The Arts’—is a massive revenue stream in cities that value the culture it builds within and the culture it imports.” http://glasstire.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3651

      It’s not that we shouldn’t be developing and promoting the Arts District. It’s just that that’s not all there is to it. How can we get this across to the real estate developers, business leaders and chamber of commerce types who appear to be making most of the decisions about this stuff?

  • Stephen Becker

    One other thing to consider about the rankings is: I think we have a little bit of a chicken and the egg problem here. People have not traditionally traveled from out of state to Dallas for vacations. Let’s face it: we don’t have the national history of the East Coast, the beaches and Disney of the southeast, or the natural attractions of the West. So in polls like this, I don’t think that people are actually placing Dallas at 25. What I think is happening is, people are just picking the other cities because they have actually been there, and Dallas just gets stuck at the end for lack of being chosen. What we should be asking ourselves is: why are cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and St. Louis higher on the list. They don’t have those natural attractions, and Dallas is just as accessible (if not more so) than they are. I don’t have the answer to that question, but I think we should focus first on matching up with cities that share similar traits as us. New York, D.C., etc. can wait.