Several options have been proposed regarding the location of the White Rock Lake Museum, but none of them are satisfactory to all stakeholders.
Since the museum was told Feb. 22 that it had to leave its spot in the Bath House Cultural Center, where it has been since its founding in 2004, neighbors, White Rock Lake advocates, the Friends of the Bath House, the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, the Office of Arts & Culture and others have been debating where the museum should go.
Stakeholders presented their cases at the March 8 meeting of the White Rock Lake Task Force. In addition to the task force members in-person, around 30 people showed up. Most of them were there to discuss the museum, though there were about 10 other items on the agenda.
As we reported last week, the Office of Arts & Culture proposed that the museum be split and moved to the Lochwood Library and the White Rock Hills Library. Jennifer Scripps, the director of the Office of Arts & Culture, told us that the libraries aren’t the only option for the museum, but her office thinks it’s a good opportunity.
Representatives from Scripps’ office were not involved in the task force meeting discussion.
But the White Rock Lake Museum says the panels were designed as a cohesive display and won’t work if they’re split between two locations.
Dallas Park and Recreation Director John Jenkins suggests two potential locations for the museum: the building off E. Northwest Highway near Flag Pole Hill where Recreation Services is housed and the Muchert U.S. Army Reserve Center, near the Northeast Patrol Division of the Dallas Police Department. Jenkins proposed that the museum be part of a new welcome center, where park rangers could be stationed and help lead tours of the museum and the lake.
“I think we do have a solution here,” Jenkins says.
But Krista de la Harpe, the president of the White Rock Lake Museum board, says moving to the Recreation Services building, or any other historical building, will require planning and funds to upgrade the lighting, plumbing and other electrical systems — like air conditioning — to facilitate the museum and its visitors.
De la Harpe says she has visited Sunset Bay, where District 9 Park Board member Maria Hasbany and District 9 City Council member Paula Blackmon had recommended. But de la Harpe says that location isn’t suitable for a museum because of its historic structure and features.
The White Rock Lake Museum, which recently put together a list of exhibits it hopes to display, formulated a four-part statement on its position regarding the location for the exhibits. First, the board prefers to stay at the Bath House. But if that’s not possible, then the new location needs to be sufficient to hold the museum-quality panels; it needs to be staffed with someone who can unlock and lock doors, turn on and off the lights and monitor the exhibit during operating hours; and the museum should not be forced to leave its current space before a plan has been developed.
De la Harpe’s question is why there is a push to move out the museum, which occupies just over 400 square feet, in the first place.
Kurt Kretsinger, the original president of the White Rock Lake Museum, spoke in support of keeping the museum at the Bath House.
“Anyone who’s been to the Bath House — you go to the plays, you have an intermission, and what do you do? You go see beautiful gallery exhibits, and you go learn a little history,” Kretsinger says. “It would just be such a loss.”
The Office of Arts & Culture and the Friends of the Bath House support the museum’s exit from its spot to make room for other programming they say will help fulfill the goals outlined in the City’s 2018 Cultural Plan.
Teresa Bond, who is on the board of Friends of the Bath House, told The Advocate last week that the Bath House is limited by the museum in terms of what it can do as a cultural center. With 38,000 people now visiting the Bath House each year, Bond says they need the space to facilitate more programming and staff members. When the Bath House was renovated a few years ago, storage space was lost; it’s needed for things like extra office supplies and lighting, items used by the friends group for events and artwork that’s held for artists until they can pick it up.
“We have appreciated the museum. It’s not saying that we don’t like the museum or we don’t believe in it …,” Bond says. “But having it in the same place where people are coming in for arts programs, it’s probably better served in having it in other places.”
De la Harpe signed a lease in 2018, but Michael Jung, who’s also the secretary of the museum, says the City never signed it. The Office of Arts & Culture has an operating agreement with the Dallas Park & Recreation Department, which allows the office to manage the Bath House.
“If there’s no lease, what is the legal basis for the museum to be there?” Bond asks.
The museum has until March 25 to respond to the suggestion to move the exhibits to the libraries.
Though meeting attendees didn’t come to an agreement about where the museum should be, everyone who spoke was in favor of preserving the museum somewhere.
“We want everyone to win in this,” Bond says.