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Exploring the Arts District in Downtown Dallas

Once regarded as a bustling business center with cowboy roots, modern Dallas is a sophisticated and dynamic destination with plenty of cultural, entertainment and dining opportunities. Located in the downtown Arts District, the luxurious Fairmont Dallas is the perfect base for exploring this vibrant city, close to all major art museums and performing arts centers. True to the spirit of the area, the hotel has its own Artist in Residence program, where a selected artist lives at the hotel for 90 days, interacts with guests and works in the lobby's glass gallery. At the end of the artist's stay, one of their pieces becomes part of the hotel's permanent exhibit. Alongside the Fairmont Dallas' impressive rooftop pool, an expansive, landscaped terrace houses honey beehives as well as an herb and vegetable garden. The produce from the garden is used in many of the modern American dishes prepared at the hotel's elegant and intimate Pyramid Restaurant & Bar, a recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

Art Museums
Located just a few blocks from the Fairmont Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art wows visitors with its collection of more than 23,000 pieces of African, Asian, American and European art, dating from 3,000 BC to the present day. Paintings, sculptures, prints and other artifacts represent masters from all cultures and movements. Impressionists and Post-Impressionists Monet, Renoir, and Cézanne, contemporaries Mondrian, Richter and Brancusi, and Americans Hopper, O'Keeffe and Pollock share the space with Nigerian terracottas and Pre-Columbian gold objects. The museum continues to expand, recently adding a collection of more than 700 pieces of modern jewelry created by international artists from the 1960s to 2000.

Renzo Piano and landscape architect Peter Walker designed the building and garden for the Nasher Sculpture Center, next to the Museum of Art. Their seamless integration of luminous indoor and outdoor spaces showcases more than 300 modern and contemporary sculptures. The collection of pieces, including works by Giacometti, Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Calder and more, has been shown in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Guggenheim in New York and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. After all of its travels, the Nashers ultimately decided to permanently house the collection in Dallas. The glass façades of the pavilions provide unobstructed views of the garden, while its glass roof features a perforated aluminum screen to manage sun and light in the galleries. In the garden, rows of oaks, cedar-elms and holly hedges create natural display spaces. Overlooking the garden, the Nasher Café by Wolfgang Puck offers a seasonal menu for lunch. 

Kitty-corner from the Nasher, the 50-story postmodern Trammell Crow Center is home to the Crow Collection of Asian Art, one of the few museums in the country exclusively dedicated to Asian art. The gallery on the first floor displays Japanese works including crystal spheres and screen paintings, while the second floor houses a Chinese jade and snuff bottle collection. The highlights of the third gallery's Indian and Southeast Asian pieces are the Mughal wall and two gazebos traditionally used in Indian gardens to relax and meditate. A glass structure connecting galleries II and III overlooks the Seated Daoist Deity fountain. The Lotus Shop is well stocked with Asian housewares, jewelry and gifts. The museum also hosts wellness lectures and yoga and meditation classes.

Performing Arts
The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is the first concert hall designed by famed architect I. M. Pei. A circular wall of glass and metal surrounds the lobby, allowing light to pour over the staircase and create shadows from the curves and angles of the foyer. Inside, the wood-paneled concert hall has a warm and intimate feel, with state-of-the-art touches including acoustical curtains, reverberation chamber doors and an overhead adjustable canopy resulting in optimal sound quality. The Lay Family Concert Organ, with its towering 4,535 pipes, stands behind the stage and provides a stunning backdrop for concerts performed by the world-class Dallas Symphony Orchestra and visiting artists.

Nearby, the grid-like canopy and abstract red shape protruding from the roof of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Sammons Park make their own architectural statement. The building was conceived as a multi-venue space for opera, musicals, theater and dance, with classic, contemporary and experimental pieces. It houses Winspear Opera House, where Dallas Opera and Texas Ballet Theater perform and Wyly Theatre, which sees performances by Dallas Theater Center, Dallas Black Dance Theater and Anita Martinez Ballet Folklórico. The center has also an outdoor performing area with lawn seating. The closeness of the diverse groups under one roof promotes interaction and collaboration among disciplines.

Also in the Arts District
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is another architecturally innovative building in the Arts District. The museum, designed by Pritzker winner Thom Mayne in collaboration with landscaper Talley Associates, houses 11 permanent exhibition halls dedicated to nature and science. The building is a perfect combination of engineering and sustainability. The geometrical structure is surrounded by a variety of Texan landscapes and integrates a rock roofscape with native Texan grasses. The museum incorporates several sustainable features such as rainwater collection for non-potable uses and irrigation, skylights to bring natural light to the inside of the building, and solar panels for water heating. An exterior escalator encased in glass on one side of the building is a striking visual element.

Across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art, Klyde Warren Park is a public gathering place for outdoor events and activities. Built over Woodall Rogers Freeway, the 5.2-acre green space connects the Arts District with other neighborhoods and is actively used during the day and at night. The urban park has a trail for jogging and hosts yoga and Pilates classes on its extensive lawn, which also serves as seating for the performance pavilion. Food trucks can be found her during the day, offering everything from barbeque to sushi and ice cream sandwiches. A children's park, fenced dog park, fountain plaza, games area and botanical garden complete the space.

After exploring the Arts District, visitors can choose from a variety of unique dining spots to recount the day's events over dinner. For a more upscale eating experience, chef Stephan Pyle’s restaurant Stampede 66 features modern Texas cuisine. Dishes are shareable and have Chef Pyles' characteristic big flavors.

Adela Aguilar is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. All her articles draw from her own experiences traveling around the world and reflect her passion for visual and performing arts, and food and wine.

Photo credits: 
Dallas downtown - Arts district by Kanonsky

Dallas skyline at sunset by MIHAL ANDRITOIU


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