Guest blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Dallas Public Art Committee.
The crowd of 45,000 who came to Spotlight Sunday in the Arts District should be home now writing thank you notes to the donors who made the gifts of the Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theatre possible after eight years of planning. The red-glass band enveloping the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House is like a broad smile embracing Dallas. The shiny silver Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre is a grown-up toy begging to be tinkered with. Instruction manual included.
Even if you’re not an opera fan, you will be mesmerized by the Winspear’s 318- strand retractable chandelier, the stage curtain designed by Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca and the comfort of the 2,200 grey and brown, over-sized chairs, each with personalized air conditioning. (Look on the floor under your seat.)
The Opera House seduces us with comfort and consistency, while the Wyly intrigues us with edgy discomfort and inconsistency. It is a magician with tricks up its sleeve. The seats and stage disappear. The outside turns inside. The floor raises and lowers. Every experience is a new experience.
Architects Norman Foster and Spencer de Gray of the Winspear (right) and Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus of the Wyly all applauded the generosity and involvement of the donors who commissioned the buildings. Only $18 million of the $354 million dollar project (which includes the Michael Desvigne-designed gardens and Annette Strauss Park) were donated by the city. The remainder was donated by private families and corporations, most notably AT&T, whose gift renamed the center the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
While grown-ups waited patiently in long lines to tour the buildings on Sunday, children waded in the reflecting pool. Tired but intrepid tourists found the steps midst the greenery of the 10-acre Elaine D. and Charles A Sammons Park a good place to rest while listening to the sounds of Nestor Torres, whose music encouraged strangers to pick a partner and salsa. Those who kept walking were wide-eyed, not believing how many people filled the Arts District from the Dallas Museum of Art to One Arts Plaza.
The scene was a dream. A vision fulfilled. So now that we have the gifts, wrapped in silver and red, the best thank you notes would be not with paper and pen, but with our attendance.