City Performance Hall Would Love Some More Arts Groups to Make Reservations

Categories: Arts, City Hall
insidethecityperformancehall.jpg
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
What the performance space inside the City Performance Hall is supposed to look like when completed
Back in June, Schutze laid out his case against the under-construction City Performance Hall in the Arts District, which is set to open in September 2012 and serve as a home for six tiers' worth of small- to mid-sized arts orgs in need of fancier digs. Today the council's newly resurrected Arts, Culture & Libraries Committee will tour the construction site; good thing they picked such a nice day for it. We're tagging along, in part because Maria Munoz-Blanco, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, is conducting the tour, along with one of the building's architects from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. And during her tour, Munoz-Blanco will tell the council that as of the October 1 request deadline, the OCA has received requests for 57 rental dates between opening day 2012 and August 2013 -- or, about half of what they'd hoped for at this point.

Says a memo Assistant City Attorney Joey Zapata sent to council last week:
Reservations from smaller groups typically come in closer to the event date, so we expect additional reservations as the opening date nears. Additionally, OCA staff is currently discussing test run events with several arts organizations; these will be at no cost to the arts group and will serve to test the facility systems and operational procedures. Staff will survey the 70 organizations that participated in the master planning process to assess their continued interest in the facility.
I asked Munoz-Blanco this morning about that lower-than-expected number of requests, and she said, sure, absolutely, "I would have liked to have seen more by this point." But, she insisted, "one of our challenges, I am guessing, is that without the building open and without people able to see it, some of our potential rentals are waiting to see how it turns out."

That's especially true, she says, for music groups who aren't willing to commit till they hear how the building sounds. While there are dates on hold for Lone Star Wind Orchestra, Turtle Creek Chorale, Orchestra of New Spain and Metropolitan Winds, she tells Unfair Park today, "while acoustics is science, there's a bit of art in it too, and they're waiting to see how the acoustics play." When I asked who's waiting, she said she didn't want to mention any specific organizations' names.

Munoz-Blanco says another reason bookings haven't been as fast and furious as expected is that it's going to take time for smaller arts groups to ramp up their productions to fill the bigger space, which will have a 750-capacity theater split into two levels.

"If they've been performing in a 100-seat or church space, your production space will be different, and they will have to grow in the building," she says. "The Dallas Opera didn't start big. They have grown into what they are now. The question is: Do you continue to grow the cultural community, and if you do, this is how you do it. Some groups are more ready than others, so we'll see how that evolves. There's an expectation that just because they have had a need for the building all along they'll jump into it, but it'll take a while for some groups. Others are ready to go, and it'll be interesting to see how they work together.

"The capacity's 750, but it feels intimate because of the two levels. And it could work at 500 for some of the smaller groups. It should be a nice building to really engage a lot of local groups and see them grow long term. It has amazing potential for the arts community."
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18 comments
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Guest
Guest

"The Dallas Opera didn't start big. They have grown into what they are now."

Actually, the Dallas Opera always performed in the Music Hall from day one.  THat facility seats over three and a half thousand.  They have actually moved into a smaller facility that seats only twenty-two hundred.

VonErich
VonErich

Looks like this would make a fine replacement for our dearly departed Sportatorium --- for wrasslin' matches and such.

Rangers100
Rangers100

The building looks really cool. Like the Winspear and the Wyly. Can't wait to see it and see how it fills out the Arts District. Downtown is a great place to live right now. So many cool places opening in 2012.

Guest
Guest

Can we rent it for the same price as the Sixth Floor Museum is getting Dealey Plaza for?

Ed D.
Ed D.

$110/week? That would be a bargain.

pbluett
pbluett

It would be great if there was more support for ballet in N. Texas.  This year has seen many fine local companies struggling.

Bob
Bob

The City Performance Hall was intended for the smaller performing arts groups that could not economically utilize larger spaces such as the Music Hall at Fair Park, the Winspear, the Wyly, the Majestic, and the Kalita Humphreys, all of them owned by the City.  So what is the logic in opening a building with one performing space the same size as the Wyly and the Kalita Humphreys, while deferring ('til when?) the two 200-seat theaters promised?

It appears that the City built the City Performance Hall exactly backwards--we should have built out the smaller spaces now, and deferred the additional (and redundant) larger hall for the future.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Gotta disagree, it's a Jim Crow version of the Arts, the big funders who are members of the Dallas Country Club in the Park Cities don't want to have to associate with the dark skinned rabble. Unless they're either domestics or parking attendants.

Building looks cheep and ugly, it's like a parking garage with windows.

Larry
Larry

A lot of arts district backers have no idea why they built the City Performance Hall. Yeah, yeah, we need a separate place for destitute arts organizations, right? But there is already an oversupply of stage space down there and this will just make it worse. To mix things up, they should have used this land to build something like the Nature and Science Museum, which would be much better placed here rather than down on Field Street. Anytime Dallas decides to stick its nose in to anything, they find a way to do the wrong thing. 

Lee
Lee

The City Performance Hall was the direct result of loudly voiced concerns from smaller arts groups that they were being excluded from the Arts District as it was being designed. After a lot of discussion, the group decision was that a venue of this size would be suitable. None of these organizations could economically utilize the Meyerson, the Winspear or the Wyly.

Guest
Guest

Isn't the building supposed to have two 200 seat theaters, too, at some point?

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

So does that mean the building  is unfinished with two empy spaces for future venues?

The city doesn't have the money to maintain it's existing buildings much less build additional performances spaces.

Bob
Bob

The smaller venues are the ones that are needed now, not the redundant 700 seat theater. 

Lee
Lee

The current building is the first phase, with smaller venues to come as needed and as affordable.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Putting the Perot Museum here would completely negate the idea of an "arts district." I know I would certainly get a chuckle from people after I tell them that we have the largest collection of arts venues and, oh yeah, this amazing science museum.

The Nature & Science Museum is clearly where it is because of Hillwood and Victory Park, but its close proximity to the Dallas World Aquarium may have accidentally created a "museum district" that will complement the arts district on the eastern side of Ross Ave.

Lee
Lee

The Perot Museum is also realtively close to the Dallas Holocaust Museum and the Old Red Museum, expanding your "museum district".

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