French fries and ketchup. Fred and Ginger. East Dallas and the arts. Some things just go together.
Culture is an integral part of any big city, and Dallas is no exception. Here we find one of the litmus tests of culture — the arts — around just about every corner. From the Morton H. Myerson Symphony Center to street-corner musicians. From the Dallas Museum of Art to larger-than-life murals painted on downtown buildings.
Of course, in any given town, artists, musicians, actors and other arts professionals have to live somewhere, and a number of them seem to have gravitated to East Dallas .
The Advocate asked some leaders at Dallas arts organizations who live in our neighborhood to reflect upon what attracted them to this area. Here are their responses:
LeAnn Binford and Kim J. Campbell
From the scent of sycamore trees on damp mornings to colorful crape myrtles in summer, from the virtuoso morning song of the mockingbird to fireflies dancing at dusk, the Lakewood area offers its own art as a backdrop to our lives. Even the name, Lakewood , has a mellifluous sound.
No other Dallas community can offer a skyline that includes the Lakewood Theater, a history replete with ghosts and White Rock Lake ’s inner-city wildlife refuge. We don’t want to live in a cookie-cutter neighborhood where block after block looks the same, and where the stores and restaurants are duplicates of those on every other freeway in the Metroplex.
We revel in our 10-minute commutes to the Fair Park Bandshell and the Myerson Symphony Center ; other arts venues in Uptown and Deep Ellum are only minutes away. After all, commuting is not a very creative way to spend time and, since we don’t spend all of our time in our cars, we actually know (and like!) our neighbors.
Perhaps this sense of neighborhood is the most important part of life in Lakewood and East Dallas . Neighborhood associations in this area take as their mission the improvement of the present and future in the context of the past. The heritage in Lakewood is real, as is our neighbor across the street, who remembers watching our house being built back in 1934.
Lakewood is not about social climbing, but instead a wonderful blend of diversity of age, income, race, ethnicity and even eccentricities, an environment in which creativity can flourish.
Finally, like great art, Lakewood is a classic, a place that evolves, endures and never goes out of style.
That’s why we’re wannabe “Lakewood lifers.”
Kim J. Campbell is the Founder/Executive Director of the Dallas Wind Symphony, and LeAnn Binford serves as Director of Education for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Kim and LeAnn share their East Dallas cottage with six cats: Snickelfritz, Skeezix, Paddy, Pete, Tillie and Tootsie.
One night several months ago, I heard the sound of jazz across the alley from our back yard. The group was good, which wasn’t necessarily a surprise since so many musicians live in our neighborhood. Being a drummer, I am always looking to meet other musicians, and I thought to myself that I should be sure to introduce myself to my neighbor the next time I saw him in his yard.
As it turns out, when we met, we learned that we had actually been introduced at the Balcony Club a few years ago, and we quickly realized we have many musician friends and East Dallas neighbors in common. Since then, we’ve played on two gigs together and look forward to many more.
This is just one of the reasons I love living in East Dallas. Music is always in the air, from the Tejano music of a barbecue party two doors down and the jingling La Princesa vendor rolling down the street on a hot summer afternoon, to the early morning bass ‘thump’ booming from teenagers’ car stereos on their way to Woodrow.
Living in East Dallas is a colorful, musical, authentically Dallas experience. Our historic old neighborhoods foster a friendly sense of community reminiscent of the Old South, yet we enjoy the modern, culturally diverse urban sensibility of living minutes from the heart of a major metropolitan city. From the craftsman homes of
Junius Heights and warehouse lofts of Deep Ellum to the Tudors of the M Streets and Hollywood/Santa Monica, our neighborhoods and homes are personal extensions of self-expression in and of themselves.
Certainly, I’ll admit that the convenience of getting home quickly after a late-night show on Greenville Avenue or the luxury of sleeping through one more snooze alarm in the morning before heading downtown is appealing. But I believe the fact that artists and arts professionals choose East Dallas has more to do with our special sense of community, our great libraries, parks and cultural offerings for our children, and our well-known reputation for tolerance and acceptance, where people of different cultures and backgrounds live in harmony.
That’s why music fills the air in East Dallas for me, and why I’m happy to call it home.
Carl Hamm is director of annual programs at the Dallas Museum of Art and a drummer-at-large. He and wife Marcelyn have lived in the area for eight years, most recently in /Hollywood/Santa Monica , with their cats, Wylie and Mabel. They will welcome their first child in January.
When I started working at the Dallas Museum of Art in 1994, I wasn’t acquainted with many members of the museum staff. As I came to know my museum colleagues, I was surprised to learn how many of them lived in some part of East Dallas — Lakewood, Hollywood Heights , M Streets: They seemed to be everywhere.
In pondering that phenomenon, a few commonalities stand out. We all appreciate beauty, and with the surrounding trees, creeks, gentle hills and White Rock Lake , this is a truly beautiful environment.
East Dallas is also convenient to downtown, and the DMA is located in the downtown Dallas Arts District, so that’s a given.
But there must be something more.
There is a sense of community in East Dallas . From neighborhood associations, to volunteers coming together to clean White Rock Lake, to raising money at the Hollywood Heights Home Tour, people seem to be willing to pitch in and work together for the common good. That’s certainly true at the Dallas Museum of Art, where we have to work together to get projects accomplished. An exhibition isn’t put on by one person or even one department. It’s a real joint effort.
Art enriches Dallas in too many ways to count. The Dallas Museum of Art has a comprehensive, encyclopedic collection representing a spectrum of time periods, geographic areas and cultures capable of stimulating and enriching anyone of any age or level of knowledge about art. The museum is committed to creating opportunities for people to experience art in a fresh and exciting way every time they visit, whether through a new acquisition, a special exhibition, a lecture about a work of art or an art project at one of our many Family Days.
From kindergarten through high school, students from Dallas and the surrounding area encounter challenging and exciting ideas intended to help them engage with art, shake up their world and view things from a new perspective.
There is plenty to impact the grown-ups, too. From scholarly symposia to fascinating lectures about characters such as Andy Warhol or Jackson Pollock, to exquisite photography by critically acclaimed artist Thomas Struth, the DMA consistently strives to pique intellectual curiosity: to inform, to challenge, to inspire and, sometimes, even to change us with its power, humor, symbols and beauty.
There is something at the DMA for every member of the East Dallas family to enjoy together or separately. And as Martha would say, that’s a good thing.
Ellen Key is public relations manager for the Dallas Museum of Art. She’s lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, raising two children. She currently lives with her cat, Prospero.
The role of the arts in our lives and communities is one reflection of the maturation of the city. Art is not mere “window dressing,” but a true barometer of cultural commitment and an essential ingredient in the quality and texture of daily life.
It is extraordinarily exciting to experience the transformation of a desolate downtown parking lot into the Nasher Sculpture Garden , as a result of the enormous generosity of the Nasher Family Foundation. The Nasher Garden will serve, we hope, as a catalyst in the rebirth of downtown Dallas .
The vitality of an urban environment demands other factors, including public green spaces, a public transportation network, restaurants, shops and services. Good, honest, contemporary architecture should be juxtaposed with well-preserved historic structures.
Some of these changes are on the way. The Nasher Project is the result of remarkable private philanthropy. We can only hope that our city be blessed with similar acts of philanthropic engagement. Civic responsibility embraces a broad range of activities: supporting bond issues for civic improvements, accepting higher taxes to make improvements possible, volunteering at the non-profit organization of your choice, renewing or upgrading your memberships, bringing a friend.
This is admittedly an unabashedly personal statement of my belief in the power of art and architecture, of thoughtful planning and of civic engagement. What does this all have to do with life in Lakewood ?
Perhaps the reason that people involved in the arts are drawn to this neighborhood is that it embodies many of the elements I have been discussing. A creative partnership between public and private sectors is evident, for instance, in White Rock Lake and its park lands, fully open to public use, as well as the beautiful Arboretum with its elegantly designed gardens. The neighborhood (green and varied in its topography) embraces private dwellings of architectural integrity, ranging in date from the ’20s, the ’50s, on through today. There is still mercifully little of the overblown pomposity that plagues other areas of the city. Its intimate scale makes
Lakewood Center an inviting nexus in the neighborhood, accessible and relaxed.
It is important to remember that the quality of life in East Dallas is not an accident, but the result of enlightened planning. Perhaps some of its most attractive and intelligent aspects may inspire the development of other areas of the city.
Dorothy Kosinski is Senior Curator of Painting and Sculptures at the Dallas Museum of Art. She moved to Lakewood from five years ago and lives with husband, Tom Krahenbühl, daughter Eleanor and two cats, Iris and Zephyr.
“Where do you live, Lee?”
“In East Dallas, on the east side of White Rock Lake .”
“Really – I’ve never been to that part of town. What’s it like?”
I hear that a lot. And I can’t say it surprises me. I grew up in Dallas and used to think a trip to Flagpole Hill was an hour’s drive — why would we want to go there? But, now — now that I live in the Lochwood neighborhood — I know the drive east is well worth the extra five minutes it might take to get there from downtown.
What makes that drive — and more importantly — the arrival home, so special? Is it the lush greenery? Is it the magnificent trees lining the streets and providing shade? Is it beautiful White Rock Lake and its scenic views? Is it hike, bike, and Rollerblade trails? Wonderful parks, and extensive greenbelt? Is it the atmosphere created by neighbors who stop and chat as they walk by? Who wave and say “hello?” Who protect your home when you’re not there? Who have block parties to celebrate an anniversary, a wedding, a holiday?
It’s all this and more.
Every morning I take Garland Road toward Gaston Avenue for my trip into downtown Dallas and my job with the Arts District Friends. And every day that drive brings a smile to my face. Barbec’s — one of Dallas ’ classic diners (with the best biscuits in town) — stands invitingly. Flowers bloom along the Arboretum entrance. The sun glistens off the smooth water of White Rock Lake . Folks fish from the dock as exercise enthusiasts walk, jog, bike, and skate along the trail. How can this tranquility not help prepare me to bring the arts to the citizens of Dallas?
I didn’t move to East Dallas because I worked in the arts. And I don’t work in the arts because I live in East Dallas . But I do know the joy that is living in East Dallas helps me to do my job well!
“Wow, Lee — I’ve never been to this part of town before. What a great neighborhood! It’s so peaceful and quiet — and the trees, my goodness — I had no idea.”
I hear that a lot as well.
Lee Papert is Executive Director of the Arts District Friends. He’s lived in Lochwood for more than nine years.
When I returned to Dallas in 1977, the first thing I did was get a job and find a place to rent.
My job, as it turned out, was setting up mics and projectors in huge hotels and the downtown convention center. Places I had nothing in common with, that seemed as strange to me as a foreign country, not the city that I had grown up in.
When I went looking for a four-plex that had a vacancy on Junius Street, I immediately felt at home. The neighborhood was noisy and in various states of disrepair. The place itself had high ceilings, white walls and sanded hardwood floors. In short, it had class. The landlord sealed the deal by treating me to a lunch of fried chicken livers at Bob Whites and I was an official resident.
Things have changed over the past 25 years and Lakewood has changed as well.
Lakewood is spiffier. It’s popular. It’s full of enormous cars in small driveways. But in many ways it is the same. That same collision course of urban life that unites historic Swiss Avenue with the MexMex Lounge, the wonderfully evocative faux Spanish villas of Lakewood Blvd. with the not-so-evocative faux Spanish villas of my Fox and Jacobs neighborhood.
What are the things that attract the arts community to the Lakewood area? We have trees and sun-dappled streets and homes that speak of endless possibilities and gossip. Lord knows, we have lots of gossip. These are the things that attract us.
But there are other things that attract us as well. We are close to downtown. Hell, people in North Dallas think we are downtown. And we have great grocery stores and tons of them. I lived in Oak Cliff for a year. I loved my house, I loved my neighborhood and the people. I hated the grocery stores.
In a city known for its teardowns and its vast ‘balonial’ track homes, Lakewood homes just keep hanging around. In fact, the four-plex on Junius that I originally moved to is still there. I find that reassuring.
Stone Savage is artistic director of Jazz Under the Stars at the Dallas Museum of Art. He plays bass in the Stone Savage Trio and also owns Stoney’s Wine and Beer. He lives in East Dallas with wife Diana, daughter Stella, dogs Nickie and Natalie, cat Callie and a fish, Sergeant.
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