It’s Bluebonnet Time

You don’t have to travel to Texas Hill Country to find bluebonnets. Roadways and Zion Cemetery (800x599)parks near Dallas offer plenty of springtime blooms including fields of bluebonnets! The Facebook page, Bluebonnet Love, is a great resource for finding bluebonnets in your area. My go-to places for local bluebonnets couldn’t be more different: one is a park on the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus and the other is an old pioneer cemetery.

In the Heart of the City

The best Dallas wildflower viewing may just be at SMU and the George W. Bush Presidential Center. A 15-acre urban park planted with native prairie grasses and wildflowers forms a semi-circle around the back of the Presidential Center. Not only will you find bluebonnets, but also dusty pink carpets of evening primrose, brilliant reds and yellows of firewheel, and magenta wine cup. Benches scattered around the garden make for an ideal spot to stop and enjoy the magnificent spring display.

The park is open sunrise to sunset. There is a fee for touring the Presidential Center, but entry to the attached park is free. The George W. Bush Presidential Center is at 2943 SMU Blvd, Dallas. For more information, contact the center at (214) 200-4300 or visit their website.

Half Forgotten Zion Cemetery

A hillside covered in bluebonnets is stunning. And that’s what you’ll see at Zion Cemetery – a hillside awash in blue. At the height of the season, this sleepy little cemetery becomes a parking lot with hundreds vying for that perfect snapshot of the kids in the flowers. I’ve even seen an industrious photographer lug a Victorian chaise lounge onto the hillside to capture just the right photo!

Alas, the pastures that once surrounded the cemetery are gone, making way for new housing developments. Still, this is a safe, off-the-road location to take a family photo in the flowers. Zion Cemetery is located on Farm to Market (FM) 423 between Eldorado Parkway and State Highway 380i in Little Elm.

Kimbell Art Museum — European Collection

Matisse L'Asie at the Kimbell Art Museum

Matisse L’Asie at the Kimbell Art Museum

Now is a wonderful time to visit the Kimbell Art Museum. There are no traveling exhibits to distract you from the Kimbell’s permanent collection.

European who’s who

My family and I spent a rainy afternoon touring Europe, or at least its art history. What the Kimbell lacks in quantity, it makes up for in the breadth of its European collection. From the birth of the Italian Renaissance with Fra Angelico’s painting of Saint James to the modernistic L’Asie of Henri Matisse, the Kimbell collection samples four hundred years of European art. Having recently completed an art history class, I have a new found appreciation of the museum. Name a key European artist, and you’re likely to find their work represented. There are Renaissance works by Donatello, Bellini, a young Michelangelo, and Titian. There is even a painting by the prolific Rembrandt (Bust of a Young Jew).

Rembrandt's Bust of a Young Jew at the Kimbell Art Museum

Rembrandt’s Bust of a Young Jew at the Kimbell Art Museum

It’s great fun to roam the three galleries in the Louis Kahn building and see such a wide range of works. There are portraits by Reynolds and Raeburn; Baroque paintings from Rubens; an amazing Turner (Glaucus and Scylla); and an entire range of pre- and post-Impressionists.

The gallery arrangement allows you to view the evolution of European artistic styles.

Guided tours

Guided tours of the museum’s permanent collection are offered Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Like many museums, you can download an app for your smart phone for your own audio guide of the museum’s works. Look at the placard for each piece of art for its ‘tour stop’ on the app.

Kimbell audio tours for adults and families

Kimbell audio tours for adults and families

You’ll find a three-digit number for the adult guide, and a two-digit number for the family description. Even if you are an adult, try the family tour – it gives you a more dynamic description of the artwork.

It’s all free.

Aside from visiting exhibitions, admission to the Kimbell is free. The museum provides programs for families such as its Pictures and Pages (storybooks with simple art projects for children ages 4 – 6); Kids Drop-in Studio (art project for children under 12); and Studio Five 90 (art for teens and adults). The programs are offered throughout the year – check the Kimbell Art Museum calendar for specific times and dates.

Dining at the Kimbell

My family always combines a trip to the Kimbell with a stop at the Buffet Restaurant. It is a wonderful place for lunch, uniquely offering a selection of soups, sandwiches, salads, quiche and dessert. You don’t have to pick just one item. Lunch is priced by plate size — small plates are $10 and large are $12. You can have soup, sandwich, quiche, and salad – all of it – the quantity is determined by your selected plate size.

When you go. The Kimbell is at 3333 Camp Bowie Blouvard, Fort Worth. The museum is closed Mondays. Onsite parking is free.

Tip. Download the Kimbell app before you go and don’t forget to bring your earphones.

 

Fair Park Art Deco

Fair Park 4 (800x600)Fair Park is one of Dallas’ most beautiful locations and also one of its most overlooked. If you are like most Dallas residents, you visit Fair Park only once a year during the Texas State Fair. Yet this 227-acre park is open year round. On a sunny day, I find the art and architectural at Fair Park simply breathtaking.

Art Deco Nirvana

The site of the 1936 Texas Centennial and World’s Fair, Fair Park retains many of its historical Art Deco buildings. The park purports to have the largest collection of Art Deco buildings, art, and sculpture – I believe them.

The Esplanade

The area surrounding the Esplanade showcase stunning Art Deco examples. Massive Fair Park 2 (800x600)porticos at the Automobile Building and Centennial Hall frame six statues. Each statue represents a nation who, at one time, controlled Texas. Designed by Carlo Ciampaglia (Centennial Hall) and Pierre Bourdelle (Automobile Building), the statues bear the classical look of Greek goddesses. Fair Park 3 (800x600)Reliefs on Centennial Hall continue the mythological theme and mix seamlessly with the modernistic murals of industry at the Automobile Building. Recently recreated fountain statues of The Tenor and The Contralto, add another exciting note to the whole Art Deco immersion.

Fair Park cell phone tour

You won’t find much in the way of descriptive placards around any of this fabulous art and architecture. Thankfully, there is a self-guided, cell phone tour available to provide details about art and artists. To access the tour, dial (214) 736-2913 and then follow the phone instructions.

Worth the look

While at Fair Park, be sure to visit the Hall of State and the African American Museum. Both attractions are free.

When you go.

Fair Park is at 1200 Second Avenue, in Dallas. Gate 3 provides parking closest to the Esplanade. Entry to Fair Park (and parking) is free except during the State Fair. You can also get to Fair Park using DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) – take the green line to the Fair Park station.

 

 

Hall of State at Fair Park

Hall of State 1 (800x600)The Hall of State at Fair Park is a one-stop primer in Texas history. This opulent showcase of Texas pride opened its doors to the public during the 1936 Texas Centennial. Years later, the Hall of State continues to educate visitors. Today, the Dallas Historical Society manages the museum.

Hall of Heroes

Like most of the buildings at Fair Park, the Hall of State is classic Art Deco, inside and out. Designed by Donald Barthelme, the building is shaped in an inverted ‘T’ – appropriate for a building that commemorates 400 years of Texas history. Every statue, carving, and mural in the Hall of State depicts some aspect of state (and pre-statehood) history and culture.

The towering, gilded statue, Tejas Warrior greets visitors at the building’s grand entrance. The blue, mosaic tiling behind the statue represents our state flower, the bluebonnet. Step inside the building to meet Texas fore fathers in the Hall of Heroes. Stephen Austin and Sam Houston are among the six, life-sized bronze statues.

The Great Hall

From the Hall of Heroes, you enter the Great Hall. I love this room. I’m always amazed at the detail packed all into a single space. Dominating the back wall, the brilliant gold medallion, divided into six pie-shaped reliefs, symbolizes the six nations (France, Mexico, Spanish, Confederacy, Texas Republic, and United States) who have claimed this area. Remarkably detailed murals cover the left and right walls, telling our history in a series of painted scenes.Hall of State 2 (800x600) The murals cover every aspect of Texas history from the 1500 arrival of Europeans to images of higher education and state industries. On the floor, you’ll find mosaics of Texas animals, like the jackrabbit and horned lizard. Even the ceiling in the Great Hall is chocked full of symbolism – designed by George Davidson to represent Aztec motifs of roadrunner, armadillo, and rattlesnake. You can simply spend hours finding new tidbits of history and symbolism throughout the room.

East and West Texas

To the left of the Great Hall, are the East Texas room and G.B. Dealey Library (West Texas). You’ll find murals again in each room, this time above the entrances. The East room murals portray pre-and post-oil Texas. Beautiful, translucent photos by Polly Smith, a Texas photographer active in the 1930s, decorate the walls. Continue on to the library and you’ll discover a completely different motif, this time using brightly colored ceramic tiles on floor and walls.

Storage

Unfortunately, you currently can’t visit the North and South Texas rooms. The historical society lost their off-site warehouse, and now use these rooms for storage of artifacts and documents. Still, you can virtually visit the rooms via an awesome online tour of the Hall of State.

When you go

The Hall of State is in Fair Park at 3939 Grand Avenue, Dallas. Enter the park at Gate 3 for easiest access. Touring the building adds another dimension to our state, especially for children studying Texas history in school. On the second Tuesday of the month, March through September, the Dallas Historical Society hosts a  brown bag lecture series (appropriate for teens and adults). The Hall of State is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Entrance to the Hall of State is free, though donations are welcome.

 

Crow Collection of Asian Art

Crow Collection BuddhaWithin the Dallas area, several private collections have evolved into museums. The Crow Collection of Asian Art, located in the heart of the Dallas Arts District, is one such museum. This small, free museum is ideal for a Sunday afternoon visit.

You won’t find oil paintings here. What you will find is an eclectic mix of new and ancient Asian art.

Contemporary art

Current exhibits showcase modern Asian expression. Located in the downstairs gallery, Alexander Gorlizki’s Variable Dimensions creates a playful mix of Indian-inspired art. Gorlizki’s work ranges from vibrant textiles to whimsical sculpture.

In the upstairs gallery, you’ll find Inclusions by Jean Shin. Inclusions is also a mixed-medium exhibit with an intriguing tree sculpture made from silverware and a meditative video installation. Inclusions is on display through December, and Variable Dimensions runs through March 2016.

Ancient Asian art

While the modern exhibits are fun, I keep coming back to the Crow for its permanent Crow Collection Ganeshacollection of ancient Asian art. A stone Buddha head welcomes visitors to an upstairs display of jade pieces. The gallery of intricately carved stone sets the tone for a quiet, contemplative visit.  A window walkway connects the jade section to the west gallery. My family loves strolling through this corridor hung with a thousand cranes. Folklore links folding a thousand cranes to eternal good fortune. I’m always hopeful a little of that luck will rub off as we walk under the origami birds.

Crow Collection of Asian ArtThe west gallery houses the museum’s larger pieces, like the palace façade from northern India, a life-sized painted horse, and almost-life-sized elephant. Throughout the room you’ll find Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu artifacts.

Outdoor sculpture garden

You have to go outside to see the other half of the Crow Collection, namely the outdoor sculpture garden. There is an old Japanese temple bell from the Edo period, but most of the outdoor sculptures are contemporary. They are set within a carefully constructed Japanese-styled garden skillfully wrapped around the Trammel Crow Center office complex. It’s wonderful just to sit and relax at one of the many tables set up on a concrete patio.

More than art

The Crow takes the Asian experience beyond art. You’ll find Eastern wellness practices highlighted at the Crow. Well-suited for adults and teens, the Crow hosts Qigong Tuesday evening, Yoga Thursday evening, Tai Chi Saturday morning, and meditation Sunday afternoons. The Crow participates in the Dallas Arts District’s First Saturday, hosting a whole morning of family friendly activities the first Saturday of most months.

When you go. The museum and garden are free. The Crow Collection of Asian Art (2010 Flora Street, Dallas) is open Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Parking is available at paid lots and garages within the Dallas Arts District. Klyde Warren Park is a short walk from the Crow. The Nasher Sculpture Center and DMA are also nearby.