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Battle's Over. North Texas Wins.

by Maria Munoz-Blanco 8 Mar 2010 1:21 PM

Guest blogger Maria Muñoz-Blanco is Director of the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. After some 20 years as an avid listener of NPR, the last thing I expected was to hear All Things Considered cover the North Texas cultural scene as if we were some sort of Wrestlemania-for-the-Arts. The recent feature by Wade […]


Guest blogger Maria Muñoz-Blanco is Director of the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs.

After some 20 years as an avid listener of NPR, the last thing I expected was to hear All Things Considered cover the North Texas cultural scene as if we were some sort of Wrestlemania-for-the-Arts. The recent feature by Wade Goodwyn and John Burnett portrayed the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth as bitter cultural rivals, engaged in a tit-for-tat battle to determine which city reigns as the region’s cultural king of the hill.

Well, here in North Texas, it’s the entire region that reigns supreme (as Alton Brown would say). Our central cultural districts are rather impressive – be it Dallas’ Arts District or Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Fantastic architecture, glorious art collections, amazing performances. Check. Check. Check. Our community-based arts spaces, be it the Bath House Cultural Center in northeast Dallas, TeCo Theater’s Bishop Arts Theater Center in Oak Cliff, or Rose Marine Theatre on Fort Worth’s northside, successfully engage their neighborhoods in year-round cultural activities. And let’s not forget that here in North Texas, culture doesn’t end at the boundaries of our two municipalities – there’s the Irving Arts Center, the Charles W. Eisemann Center in Richardson, the Mesquite Arts Center

I can’t figure out how Goodwyn and Burnett, perhaps trying to be funny and cute (NPR?), missed the extraordinary big picture of North Texas culture. Here we are, two fairly young cities, roughly 30 miles apart, and in a couple of generations our communities have managed to build a cultural infrastructure that supports arts and cultural events for people of all ages, tastes, pocketbooks…  Suggesting this was done just to have the biggest, the largest, the grandest, the whatever-est, is not a fair account of the seriousness and thoughtfulness with which arts and civic leaders have undertaken the development of our cultural facilities. Or the vision and enthusiasm with which our artists endeavor to create new work and make art happen in our communities. (Yes, Robert Smith, art happens in North Texas all the time!)

And so, from my quaint office in the historic Majestic Theatre, and from the region that is home to the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Bass Hall, Fair Park, the Kimbell Art Museum, some final words about the art scene in Dallas and Fort Worth: we’re too busy making and enjoying too much great art to worry about who has the biggest, the largest, the grandest …

  • This “competition” exists only in the imaginations of these airhead Village journos, and provides as good an example as I am likely to find for the reason why I’ve never much cared for NPR–smug, self-consciously cutesy, contrarian for no good reason except for contrarianism’s sake. But thanks to the miracle of internet radio, I can now get the BBC 24/7. Deutsche Welle and Radio Canada, too. So who needs NPR?

  • Wow, I missed that report. I would have raised my eyebrows at it, too.

    As an actress, director and development director for a major, small-professional-theatre in Fort Worth, I often find myself collaborating not just with fellow Tarrant County artists but with folks from all over the North Central Texas area. I have never sensed a rivalry, not from the Fort Worth side of things in any case…

    My big wish for DFW ARTS is a better public transportation system to help artists and audiences alike get around to all the great venues available to them. Without a doubt, this region has some of the best arts organizations in the country. Strangely, that seems to be a secret to a lot of its own residents.

    Proper public transportation paired with a greater dedication to arts education and appreciation in schools would go far in making our home an arts destination. That can’t happen until our own community learns what it has in its own backyard.

  • Scroll through the 30+ links on the left of this Art & Seek Blog page, a portion of the numerous sites covering the burgeoning arts scene expanding daily throughout the DFW metroplex. Nobody has time or interest for brawling! Sad to see that NPR in its need to “compete” with sensationalist cable news programming saw fit to resort to fabricating childish division where none exists. If All Things Considered had employed the talents of any of the wide array of qualified LOCAL journalists in crafting their feature, they might have presented a genuinely fascinating story exploring the community-building, mentor relationship and inclusiveness that exist here, where historical tradition and longstanding philanthropy practice fuels the energy and assures the success of emergent arts endeavors.The arts community from Dallas to Ft. Worth and points in between, with its diverse, respectful, enthused audiences, deserves better coverage than that from NPR. Submitted directly to All Things Considered, as well.

    • NPR’s Comments FAQ has the answer to why comments are closed for this story:

      Why are comments closed for a particular story?

      Comments on story pages are automatically shut down after five days; on blogs they close after 14 days. For the most part, we try our hardest not to close any comment thread before they close automatically. But sometimes, when things get too heated and a conversation has become uncivil, we’ll shut the thread down.

      The DFW Arts story ran March 1 — so presumably, that’s why the comments are no longer allowed and not, sigh, the wretched, predictable rivalry breaking out between comments from Houston and Dallas supporters.

  • Christie

    As a local actor who has dedicated her entire professional career to North Texas, I found the whole thing rather insulting and demeaning. AND just another way to perpetuate this myth about big loud shallow Texans that the rest of the country seems to want to believe.

  • Yes, Ms. Muñoz-Blanco, the reason NPR’s commentators produced this cliche-ridden and exploitative “report” is EXACTLY because they were “trying to be funny and cute.” Their interest was more in airing an entertaining bit than in reporting accurately what’s going on in Dallas. But I think we can learn something even from that.

    I think Peter Simek, editor of D Magazine’s FrontRow culture blog, mostly agrees with your reaction. He wrote, “… the problem with the piece wasn’t merely the national embarrassment. It was the resurgence of a perception of civic rivalry that doesn’t actually exist … this is a region, and its significance to the nation and the world rests in its regionalism.” http://bit.ly/9ApnJl

    On the other hand, I’m almost as embarrassed by our own self-aggrandizing efforts to promote whatever MAY BE going on here and believe we shoot ourselves in the foot when we brag about it. If “the extraordinary big picture of North Texas culture” is a reality, then we don’t need to sell it so hard; and if folks, whether here or elsewhere, don’t believe it, beating our own drum so earnestly isn’t going to convince them.

    Recently I sat in on a conference call with a large demographic research firm hired to advise a corporate marketing department on the correct strategy for communicating with a skeptical audience. Their research indicated that this past year’s economic and political news has made people more resistant to promotional messages than they’ve ever been. Nowadays, they’ll listen to a reasoned presentation of the facts but walk away from anything that sounds self serving.

    I realize the old-school, chamber-of-commerce style strategy is to talk big about what we have to offer. That seems to be second nature to Dallas leaders. But in a world where our messages mix with much more sophisticated ones, it comes off as empty boosterism. Let’s grow up.

  • Silly me, I read this post and commented BEFORE listening to the radio spot.

    NPR should be ashamed to have broadcast such an ignorant, demeaning and rude piece on the Dallas Fort Worth arts scene. Their research was extremely one-dimensional and stereo typical. Additionally, having a New Yorker call our arts quaint and to have a Dallasite suggest that Fort Worth all smells like cow dung is so offensive I can feel my blood beginning to boil.

    I make my living in Fort Worth. I can’t remember a time that I walked outside my house, my office or any other building in the area and smelled cow poo wafting through the air. I’m proud of my city and to have it so bizarrely represented by NPR is extremely disappointing.

    I’m also sorry that the story failed to mention our great stages: Stage West, Circle Theatre, Jubilee, Hip Pocket and Casa Manana, not to mention all the others in Dallas and the surrounding communities. Shame on them…

    One more thing: I was pretty disappointed to see that the comments forum on the original NPR story is now closed. What’s up with that?