An Urban Oasis

By Kevin Tankersley

Exploring the Dallas Arts District

Just off Woodall Rodgers Freeway in Dallas is the Dallas Arts District, a zone in the northeast corner of downtown that is home to a variety of art museums, historic churches and an urban park. In the heart of the Dallas Arts District stands a jewel: the Nasher Sculpture Center.

The Nasher’s collection includes more than 300 sculptures by artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Rodin. The building, with its indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces, was designed by Renzo Piano, who is considered one of the greatest modern architects. Piano is known for projects like The New York Times Building in Manhattan and The Shard in London, the tallest skyscraper in Europe. He’s also known for reinventing the roof. For the Nasher, Piano built a roof composed of glass and a sunscreen of cast aluminum that protects the sculptures from overheating. The Nasher building is a work of art in itself and was treasured by its founders, Raymond and Patsy Nasher.

Before opening the sculpture center, Raymond and Patsy Nasher dreamed of owning a gallery. They began their art collection in 1950 with the purchase of a piece in Mexico, a trip which spurred their interest in pre-Columbian art. By the 1960s, the Nashers were acquiring works of modern sculpture, and Raymond Nasher began to display pieces in his commercial real estate buildings in Dallas. The Nashers’ collection grew quickly in the 1980s, with the couple becoming interested in work by living artists, and the breadth of the collection expanded as well. Their collection has been featured in displays in New York, Washington, Spain, Italy and Israel. The collection’s permanent home in Dallas opened in 2003. It has become the epicenter of the Dallas Arts District and one of the world’s foremost museums of modern and contemporary sculpture.

Outside the Nasher, standing among the Dallas skyscrapers, is the Nasher Garden. Landscape architect Peter Walker worked with Piano to create a 1.4-acre garden that would flow smoothly from inside to outside. Today, the sculpture garden serves as a serene oasis, a quiet escape from the urban surroundings.

While the weather is warm (or smoldering in the summer), the Nasher offers a free late-night event once a month — “‘til Midnight” in the Nasher Garden, which is held the third Friday of each month through October. Each night kicks off with an acoustic singer-songwriter showcase at 6 p.m. and is followed by a concert at 7. The music ranges from folk, rock and pop, and the series features mostly local talent. June’s featured band is Quiet Company. Valise will play in July, and TEAM performs in August. The events conclude with a movie at 9 p.m. In June the John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis comedy, “A Fish Called Wanda,” will be screened, though it will be “edited for a wider audience,” the Nasher website says. Each “‘til Midnight” will also offer social media scavenger hunts. Inside the Nasher, guests can lose themselves viewing the touring and permanent exhibits in the luminous gallery of modern and contemporary art.

The Nasher Sculpture Center is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $10, with discounts available for seniors, students and members of the military. Children younger than 12 are admitted for free. Admission is free for everyone on the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center is located at 2001 Flora Street. More information can be found at NasherSculptureCenter.org.

Just across North Harwood Street from the Nasher is the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), a staple of the Dallas Arts District. The DMA offers its own late-night fun every third Friday, when it’s open until midnight. The museum also offers concerts, films and tours during its Friday series.

The collection of the DMA is massive, containing more than 23,000 pieces spanning more than 5,000 years. It contains works from diverse artists such as Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright, Salvador Dalí and Josiah Wedgwood of the Wedgwood tableware factory.

The Dallas Museum of Art opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It’s open until 5 p.m. every day except Thursday, when it closes at 9 p.m. The museum is closed on Monday. General admission is now free. The Dallas Museum of Art is located at 1717 North Harwood Street. Learn more at DMA.org.

Another popular destination is Klyde Warren Park, the “front lawn” of the Dallas Arts District. This 5.2-acre deck park is located above the recessed Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Pearl and St. Paul streets. The foreign idea of building a deck park over the highway may have begun in the 1960s, when Dallas Mayor J. Erik Jonsson decided to recess the freeway. In 2002 the idea resurfaced, and in 2012 the project was finished and quickly became a part of the city’s urban fabric.

Food trucks visit the deck park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, and throughout the week the park is home to various yoga and Pilates classes and boot camps as well as live music and entertainment in a children’s amphitheater. The park is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. A complete schedule of events is available at KlydeWarrenPark.org.

From world-renowned museums to an urban park, the Dallas Arts District offers more than enough activities to educate and entertain the family. To plan a day of adventures, visit TheDallasArtsDistrict.org.

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