If you are planning a visit to Dallas, Texas, and you thought all there was to Texas is cowboys, think again! Dallas (and its sister city, Fort Worth) is full of art and a vital center for art in the Southwest. With numerous museums and hundreds of temporary and permanent exhibitions, as well as innumerable art galleries, no matter what kind of art you are looking for -- from ancient Greece and Rome to yesterday's creations -- you are sure to find art that you like in Dallas!
Your first stop, of course, should be the museums, and Dallas has numerous world-class museums, and many of these museums have free admission at least one evening per week:
- Dallas Museum of Art -- the largest and oldest of the museums. The art museum has moved several times in the history of Dallas, and the new museum is stunning. The layout of the building leads you around from exhibit to exhibit, and you feel like there is a new piece of art for you to see around every corner, and in every nook and cranny. There is an interactive art area for the children, a restaurant with fairly decent food that is not terribly overpriced, and a gift shop that supports the museum. In addition to their permanent exhibits, the Dallas Museum of Art has temporary exhibits, film showings, lectures, concerts, classes, and many other activities for you and your family to enjoy. In addition, the Dallas Museum has begun offering free memberships, and yes, these memberships sometimes count as reciprocal memberships to other museums. Admission is now free, too.
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The Meadows Museum of Art -- a relatively new museum, the Meadows Museum of Art at Southern Methodist University specializes in Spanish art from the "Golden Age" of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, although more modern Spanish artists are also represented. The museum features temporary and permanent exhibitions, lectures, and social gatherings.
The Raymond H. Nasher Sculpture Center -- the Nasher Sculpture Center opened in 2003, and even before its opening had acquired an international reputation for its collection of modern sculpture. If you are a fan of sculpture you absolutely cannot miss this collection.
The MADI Museum -- housed in a building owned by a firm of attorneys, the MADI museum features joyful, exuberant works with bright colours and complex geometric features by modern artists from around the world, and has both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The MADI movement began in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1946 with the artist Carmelo Arden Quin, and has become an international pop culture movement.
The ArtCentre of Plano -- housed in the very first commercial establishment in Plano, which has been a general store, a meeting place for the International Order of Odd Fellows, a saloon and an undertaker's parlour, the ArtCentre of Plano features art exhibits, lectures, classes, demonstrations, and visits to working artists' studios.
The Latino Cultural Center -- In addition to its non-art museum, the Latino Cultural Center features temporary exhibitions of Latino visual art.
The Trammel C. and Margaret Crow Museum of Asian Art -- The museum has temporary collections of art from China, Japan, Korea, and all of Asia. There is free admission and free tours, still photography without flash is permitted, and there are numerous special events scheduled.
Dallas Contemporary -- Founded in 1978 by Patricia Meadows in order to promote local artists, Dallas Contemporary features area artists in exhibitions that are always free. Here you can see what local artists are working on right now!
McKinney Avenue Contemporary (MAC) -- founded in 1994, the McKinney Avenue Contemporary is free to the public except for performances. Contemporary art in all media, all genres, is featured in temporary exhibitions, theatre performances, lectures and readings.
Public art -- public art is everywhere, and I do mean everywhere! Walls, bridges, tunnels, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) stations, in the plazas of public buildings, sculptural installations on city-owned park benches; in fact, there's a public artwalk that covers 3.3 miles with thirty pieces of art over the route. More works are installed each year, more walls and other surfaces painted, and Dallas is vastly overlooked in this regard. Keep your camera handy as you visit, and enjoy the public art! Remember that some of the art is there with official approval, while other art is just an outpouring of creative expression that is not sanctioned, but oftentimes even nonsanctioned art of high quality is let alone.
Galleries -- There are numerous art galleries in Dallas, and admission to all of them is free. Check locally for names, locations, and hours, as art is a volatile business, and art galleries close, open, or relocate almost as often as restaurants do. You don't have to feel guilty about going in if you don't intend to buy anything; after all, an art gallery is just another store, and how many times have you walked into a store intending only to "look around"?
Public buildings -- In every public building in Dallas, whether it is a library, or almost anywhere except the DMV, you will find art -- on the walls, sculptural installations in open spaces, even in the layout of the tiles at the entrance at time. All you have to do in Dallas to find art to enjoy is to keep your eyes open and look around you!
A note for visitors: should you buy a museum membership? My view is that even if you plan to visit only three museums, a museum membership to one of them is a worthwhile investment. Most museums have reciprocal memberships that allow you to get discounts on food, gift shop items, and admissions. So by buying one membership, you will get a greatly reduced rate on that museum and all the other museums who accept that membership. Museum gift shops often stock inexpensive toys, and you can always send postcards from the shop (bought at a discount!) to your art loving friends at home!
In short, if you love art, Dallas, Texas is a wonderful destination to enjoy it, both in museums and in non-museum settings. So on your next trip to Dallas, plan to set aside some time to look around you and appreciate the city's commitment to visual arts!