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.


Botticelli to Braque at the Kimbell Museum

You have just ten more days to see the spectacular exhibit, Botticelli to Braque, at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.Botticelli to Braque

The exhibit is a mere 55 paintings – a traveling exhibit from the three National Galleries of Scotland. Doesn’t seem like much, until you go. From the Italian Renaissance to the Dutch masters and from English drawing rooms to art studios in Montmartre, these 55 paintings represent 400 years of European artists.

Sandro Botticelli’s “Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child” starts you on your journey through Europe. Further into the room you’ll find one of the largest surviving paintings by JohannesVermeer, “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary.” Next to the Vermeer is Rembrandt Van Rijin’s “Woman in Bed.”

If English pastoral scenes are more your cup of tea, there is the stunning “Vale of Debham” by John Constable. Scottish artists are included in the mix. My favorite is the poster child for the exhibit, Sir Henry Raeburn’s “Skating on Duddingston Loch.”

Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, and Edgar Degas represent the French Impressionists. I enjoyed the Degas. It wasn’t a ballet dancer, instead it was his portrait of art critic Diego Martelli. The exhibit also contains paintings from Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, and modern artists like Pablo Picasso.

Granted, the paintings within the Botticelli to Braque exhibit may not be the artists’ best-known work. Still, I’ve visited many a museum, and have never encountered such a magnificent sampling of so many fine artists.

When you go.

Botticelli to Braque closes on September 20. Tickets to the exhibit are $18 (free to Kimbell Museum members). Tickets to the exhibit are half-price on Tuesday and Friday after 5 p.m. Audio guides are $3. Entrance to the main Kimbell Museum is always free.

The Kimbell Art Museum is open Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; and closed on Mondays. The museum is located at 3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth. Parking is free in a lot across the street and in the new underground parking garage off Van Cliburn Way.

The museum’s Buffet Restaurant is a great place for lunch. It uniquely offers a selection of soups, salads, quiche, and dessert — the unique part — the cost is based on your plate size, not what you order.

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

If you are looking for the perfect family escape from the heat, try the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The PerotPerot Museum (480x640) takes science and makes it fun. Packed with five floors of adventure, discovery, and mystery; Perot is everything a science museum should be.


One of the features I particularly enjoy about Perot is how, whenever possible, the exhibits relate to life here in Texas. The Discovering Life hall boasts dioramas and information about Texas ecosystems, like the Blackland Prairie. Our own Edwards Trinity Aquifer illustrates water cycles, and the Shale Voyager (a 4-D theater experience) takes you into the heart of the Barnett Shale. Even the dinosaur exhibit highlights critters who once roamed our area. The Texas linkage helps kids understand the science on a more personal level.

Encouraging the next generation

In each exhibit hall, you’ll find monitors featuring scientists telling their story. Many of the scientists talk about a middle school class or science project that ignited their passion. It’s a fantastic way to inspire kids to think about a career as an astrophysicist or pedologist (that’s a soil scientist). Several of the featured scientists include women, subtle encouragement for girls to pursue STEM careers.

Call to action

Throughout the museum, placards challenge you to explore even further with projects you can do at home. Interested in astronomy? Check out SCOPE, a citizen scientist project where you classify stars based on the spectrum of light they emit. Concerned about climate change? As a citizen scientist, you can help monitor the budding and blooming of plants at Project BudBurst. There are over a dozen citizen scientist projects highlighted throughout the museum – what an awesome way for kids to participate in real scientific research!


Each exhibit hall combines information with hands-on activities. Make a rainbow, play the Prey/Predator video game, or experience an earthquake. Kids (and adults) don lab coats and goggles before conducting experiments on fruit flies in the Bio Lab. A real kid favorite is the Robot Arena where you can build and program robots.

More is less

My family found the Perot overwhelming. It is five floors. And it is packed with exciting activities — too many activities. Sensory overload set in for my family after exploring two floors of exhibits. Limiting your visit will improve your experience. If you have older kids, the top three floors work well. For little tots, the Moody Family Children’s museum is ideal. If your kids love video games, interactive activities in the Texas Instruments Innovation and Engineering hall will be a sure winner. My advice is not to try to see the entire museum in just one visit.

Samsung tablets

For all you techies, a digital visitors guide is available from Google Play. Bring your android phone or check out a Samsung tablet in the museum lobby. If borrowing a tablet, you’ll need to leave a personal id, like a driver’s license.

Museum admission discounts

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science does not have a free day, but Perot does have numerous discounted admission programs. They include free admission for military and military veterans, and educators. You must present documentation at time of purchase (see the Perot website for more details). During summer months (Monday through Friday), admission is $10 after 4 p.m.

When you go

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. Paid parking is available in nearby lots.Perot Frog (640x480) There is an outdoor children’s play area for little kids — though even adults may be tempted to play leapfrog in the frog park. An onsite Café is open daily serving pizza, burgers, and sandwiches.