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.


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.


McKinney Art Studio Tour (MAST)

McKinney has made a name for itself as an art community in North Texas.  McKinney’s Second Saturday Art walks are well established with late night, gallery openings and musical entertainment throughout the old downtown area.

You don’t need to wait until evening to get your dose of creativity in November. MastThe McKinney Art Studio Tour (MAST) coincides with Second Saturday weekend on November 14 and 15. An annual event, MAST showcases local artists’ studios and galleries.

MAST allows the community a glimpse into the life of artists living in McKinney neighborhoods.  This year’s studio list includes photographers, potters, painters, and print makers giving tour participants an eclectic sampling of local talent.  If you like what you see, many artists will have work available for sale.

MAST not only gives the public a chance to meet artists, it also provides a forum for local artists to network.  The MAST focus is on community – introducing neighbors to each other.  Whether you are an artist, art lover, or just curious, MAST affords tour participants a rare opportunity to see studios not normally open to the public.  You’ll be surprised by the depth and breadth of artistic expression in McKinney.  Both individual studios and studios offering classes will be open for tour.  The MAST website gives detailed information on each participant and map with studio locations.


Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch – things don’t get much quirkier than a farmer’s field with 10 car butts sticking in the air.Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch History

Well into its middle age, the 40 year-old art installation has morphed from avant-garde oddity to iconic roadside attraction. Ant Farm, the trio of Chip Lord, Doug Michels, and Hudson Marquez, created their strange art installation by burying Cadillac at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The cars look like an unfinished picket fence.

What inspired Ant Farm? The description for the “Cadillac Ranch 1974-1994” video suggests the art installation represents, “….comically subversive homage to the rise and fall of the tail-fin as an icon of postwar American consumer excess.”

Stanley Marsh 3, the wealthy patron who shelled out the cash for Cadillac Ranch, said in an Amarillo Globe News interview that the Cadillac symbolized a time, “…when we all thought we could hit the road, get a blonde, break the bank in Las Vegas, and be a movie star.”

Whether meant to be provocative or just fun, Cadillac Ranch continues to draw thousands each year.

Public Art Installation

Today’s Cadillac Ranch looks very different from the 1974 Ant Farm installation. To start with, Cadillac Ranch is at an entirely different location. It’s still in a farmer’s field, just two miles away from its original site. The installation had to be moved in 1997 as west Amarillo grew and developed.

Forty years of weathering has not been kind to the Cadillac. Bits of Cadillac (like a trunk lid) are missing from some cars. And, oh my, the colors. Each Cadillac benefits from hundreds of graffiti artists who pay homage to the site. The layers of paint look like a crazy sort of bondo on the autos. In fact, some cars likely have more paint than metal left.

Oddly, I found the effect of so many colors and graffiti artists enhances Cadillac Ranch’s appearance. The stunningly bright colors against the azure blue skyline makes for stunning photographs. Trash left behind by the installation’s visitors is the only detractor of this odd art piece.

When you go.

You can access Cadillac Ranch off Interstate 40 in Amarillo. Take the south frontage road between exits 60 and 62A. There are ample places to park on the road apron. Entry is through a metal fence. Bring spray paint (the brighter the colors, the better) if you want to try your hand at a little graffiti art. There are often half-used cans of paint also available. If you visit, please pick up and dispose of your trash.