In a time when Dallas-Fort Worth is an innovation hotspot luring mega companies, there are the entrepreneurial creators — the filmmakers, the designers, the musicians, the dancers, the artists, the architects — who are energizing the city in every realm.
From inventive dishes and chef collectives to sustainable architecture and boundary-pushing storefronts, the artistic talent is undeniable.
As a region, we are embracing and supporting this vitality. So much so, that North Texas has the third-largest arts economy according to Americans for the Arts’ “Arts & Economic Prosperity 5” study of the 2015 fiscal year. (We outpaced metro Washington.)
The study, which investigated the impact of nonprofit art and cultural industries, found that our region’s arts sector generates nearly $1.5 billion in economic activity and supports more than 52,000 jobs, totaling nearly $1.3 billion in salaries. Another significant study discovery: Dallas’ total arts and culture economic activity has increased by 277 percent since 2010.
While there are clear economic stimulators revving our growth — the Dallas Arts District, for one — there are the independent artists gaining momentum, too. Public art event AURORA, now in its fifth year, has increasingly delivered on its promise to re-imagine downtown Dallas as a canvas for large-scale light, video, and sound installations. Founded and expanded by Dallas artists Shane Pennington and Joshua King, it is now one of the largest outdoor exhibits in the U.S.
Then there are our region’s architects in the backdrop, sketching sustainable buildings and blending social and human needs in design, as “current societal trends have created a demand for high-quality social, urban spaces with open and inviting architecture that creates memorable experiences,” said Mike Arbour, president of JHP Architecture/Urban Design and the 2018 American Institute of Architects Dallas president.
“Dallas is an incredibly dynamic city, and it’s an exciting time to be here,” Arbour said. “The whole DFW area is transforming into a more walkable, equitable, and interesting place. Dallas architects have been instrumental in [the region’s] transformation and will continue to lead the way in designing more livable, healthier, and environmentally responsible buildings, both here and around the world.”
Real estate developers like Craig Hall, chairman and founder of Dallas-based HALL Group, also are leading the charge for designs that are not only innovative, but that cultivate an appreciation for art.
Hall is overseeing the construction of the HALL Arts Hotel & Residences in the Dallas Arts District, one of the priciest developments in the area in years. He plans for significant artworks to be displayed throughout the building, including photographs by locals selected through his juried competition “Through the Lens: Dallas Arts District.”
Hall also is in the midst of working with Frisco city officials and the Frisco Association for the Arts to bring a performing arts center to his HALL Park development in Frisco.
“Art increases quality of life, inspires creativity, and causes people to have memorable experiences, which are all things we want for those who work in or visit our developments,” Hall said.
We also are paving the way in the digital realm. At Southern Methodist University, for instance, faculty at SMU Guildhall (which was just ranked the No. 1 game design graduate school worldwide by the Princeton Review) are revolutionizing video game development programs. That trickles down to the students, who, under faculty mentorship, “work in interdisciplinary teams in the style and pace of the game industry throughout their tenure with us,” said Gary Brubaker, director of SMU Guildhall.
“This intentional interaction allows artists, programmers, designers, and producers to flow through three or more team game projects and make a seamless transition into the gaming industry, as is showcased by our partnership with over 250 studios worldwide that hire our graduates,” he said.
In fact, Frisco-based Gearbox Software — an industry pioneer in its own right — hired an entire SMU student team to develop an in-the-works virtual reality game, marking the first time in game development history that a major studio has hired an entire student group upon graduation.
We also boast prominent filmmakers. Irving native David Lowery — who co-wrote and directed the Disney remake of Pete’s Dragon — calls Dallas home. (He even had a disagreement with his wife about leaving his M Streets house, which formed the premise of 2017 film A Ghost Story, starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.) As does Cinestate, which had a big year in 2017, with films including Dragged Across Concrete starring Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn; Brawl in Cell Block 99 starring Vince Vaughn; and Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.
Oscar-winning film director, illustrator, and designer Brandon Oldenburg, who previously worked at Reel FX Creative Studios and with such clients as Pixar, Disney, and DreamWorks, has returned to Dallas to found his new company, Flight School. The studio unites technicians and artists to “investigate the intersection of narrative and emerging technology” in films, games, AR, and VR.
“We have some things really cooking,” said Janis Burklund, film commissioner with the Dallas Film Commission. “We hope to push the entire creative industry forward — there is such a synergy between all of the creative industries and having one segment being strong helps support all the others, too.”