DMA Opens The Center for Creative Connections

The Unique 12,000-Square-Foot Learning Environment Will Provide Interactive Encounters with Original Works of Art & Artists for Visitors of All Ages

On Saturday, May 3, 2008, the Dallas Museum of Art will premiere the Center for Creative Connections, a dynamic place for new interactive learning experiences that will offer visitors unique ways to engage with works of art and artists with a special focus on the Museum’s collections. Located at the core of the Museum on the first level, the Center for Creative Connections is intended to stimulate curiosity, inquiry, reflection and creativity in guests of all ages as they connect more deeply with works of art. Designed by Gluckman Mayner Architects, the Center’s renovations were completed by Balfour Beatty Construction.

“The Center for Creative Connections is a place to start your Museum experience and engage in experiences with works of art. We tend to look at works of art without seeing all of the clues left by artists that provide insight into the creative process and what an artist is trying to say,” says Bonnie Pitman, Deputy Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “Through our partnerships with the community and our special relationships with artists, the Center for Creative Connections provides interactions that encourage you to use your eyes and tap into your own creativity as you explore works of art. People will leave the Center able to make their experiences in the Museum’s galleries more emotionally and intellectually rewarding.”

The Center for Creative Connections is a 12,000-square-foot facility designed for active learning programs. It will include exhibitions featuring the Museum’s permanent collection and artists’ and community partners’ responses to them; other spaces include the Art Studio, Tech Lab, Theater, and Arturo’s Nest, for the youngest visitors. In the future, the Center for Creative Connections will also be referenced as C3.

To celebrate the opening of this unique learning space, the DMA will host an admission-free weekend with extended hours (Saturday 11:00 a.m. to midnight; Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), sponsored by Target. During the two days there will be a full program of activities held throughout the building, with more than 100 participating artists, while the Center for Creative Connections introduces its first exhibition, Materials & Meanings, on view until the summer of 2009. Additionally, the DMA will provide a special ticket price of $9 to view the acclaimed J. M. W. Turner exhibition and free for children under 12.

Materials & Meanings, an exhibit of eight master works of art selected by DMA educators and curators from the Museum’s encyclopedic collections spanning 5,000 years, focuses on the material from which a work of art is made and on the meanings associated with those materials to both the artist and the viewer. Organized by Gail Davitt, The Dallas Museum of Art League Director of Education, and designed by Jonathan Ingram of i.design, the exhibition “is an invitation to interact with art, to have fun, to slow down and engage. By exploring the artists’ choices of materials and by considering their personal connections, we hope that visitors will leave with a heightened awareness of the role that materials can play in their viewing experiences.”

The wide variety of materials found in the exhibition includes oil paint, wood, iron, gold, velvet, chocolate, soap, cardboard and stone, and the works represent various aspects of the international collections from Africa, Greece, Mexico, France and the U.S. The eight artworks chosen are:

  • Wreath—Greek (4th century B.C.)
  • Seated ruler in ritual pose—Olmec (c. 900-500 B.C.)
  • Gustave Courbet, The Wave (c. 1869-70)
  • Standing male figure with nails (nkisi nkondi)—Democratic Republic of the Congo (late 19th century)
  • Frank Gehry, “Easy Edges” chair (1971)
  • Dorothea Tanning, Pincushion to Serve as Fetish (1979)
  • Janine Antoni, Lick and Lather (1993)
  • Donald Moffett, Untitled/Cobalt (2004)
     

The Center for Creative Connections will be a national model for engaging audiences with works of art. It represents collaboration between the education, curatorial and design staffs of the Museum working in partnership with community colleagues. Of further distinction, the Center will exhibit real works of art in its interactive gallery spaces, not copies, as is often done in other museums.

As noted, the Museum invited community partners to contribute to the Center for Creative Connections, beginning with students and faculty from the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington. They designed two walls that explore meanings associated with materials used by architects and interior designers to shape the spaces around us. The Center will present work by visual arts students from the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts later this summer.

In addition to the exhibition spaces, the Center for Creative Connections will be at the forefront of technology with its new Tech Lab, developed in partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for Arts and Technology. In the Tech Lab, visitors can blog about, tag and research works of art in the collections during daily Open Lab hours. They can also experiment with current technologies during special classes, workshops and seminars.

Classes will be offered in this space and in the nearby Art Studio, a large room where visitors can explore their own creativity by creating their own paintings, collages or sculptures based on their response to the ones on view both in the Center and throughout the DMA.

In the newly renovated Theater within the Center for Creative Connections, visitors can view Community Voices on Materials and Meanings, a video of area artists, collectors and curators sharing their passion for the arts with a special focus on the meanings of materials. This space will also be used for storytelling, performances, classes and lectures.

Arturo’s Nest is a special place for preschoolers to learn about art and engage in creativity with storytelling and classes with Arturo, the Dallas Museum of Art’s family mascot. In the Young Learners Gallery, children will be able to explore exhibitions and participate in interactive experiences and learning resources related to themes in the exhibitions.

Susan Diachisin joined the DMA in January as The Kelli and Allen Questrom Director of the Center for Creative Connections. She will provide dynamic leadership in developing future exhibitions and programs and assuring that visitors of all ages will have a quality experience.

The $27 million required to build, operate and endow the Center for Creative Connections was the primary component of the Museum’s Campaign for a New Century, which began seven years ago. According to campaign chairwoman Catherine Marcus Rose, the effort was launched in 2007 with two generous foundation awards. First, a $2.825 million grant from The Allen and Kelli Questrom Foundation was announced last February. It was followed in April by a $4.38 million award from The Meadows Foundation, $3 million of which was part of a dollar-for-dollar challenge to achieve complete capital funding that was quickly met. The majority of the remaining funds for the Center were raised in less than a year by “The Catalyst Club,” a group co-chaired by Robert H. Dedman Jr. and his wife, Rachael, and John R. Eagle and his wife, Jennifer, to inspire donors to give $1 million or more.

Center for Creative Connections initiatives are made possible with generous support from The Meadows Foundation, The Allen and Kelli Questrom Foundation, The Dedman Family/The Dedman Family Foundation, an anonymous donor, an anonymous donor in honor of Alex, Charlie, Grey, Jack, and Rosey, the active and alumni docents of the DMA, Melanie and Tim Byrne, Nancy and Clint Carlson, Jennifer and John Eagle, Amy and Vernon Faulconer, Beverly and Donald S. Freeman, Ann and Lee Hobson, Marguerite S. Hoffman, The Pollock Foundation, Catherine and Will Rose, an anonymous donor, Molly Byrne through the Turning Point Foundation, Nancy and Tim Hanley, Estate of Gayle Hysinger, Martha McCarty Kimmerling, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, Caren Prothro, and other generous individuals and corporate and foundation donors. These gifts and pledges are allowing the Museum to build, operate and endow this new innovative and experimental center. They also support the renovations to Horchow Auditorium, Museum-wide wireless access and the launch of the Arts Network initiative, a sustainable technology model to build digital resources and connect visitors with art and creativity.

About the Dallas Museum of Art:
The Dallas Museum of Art, established in 1903, has an encyclopedic collection of more than 23,000 works, spanning 5,000 years of history and representing all media, with renowned strengths in the arts of the ancient Americas, Africa, Indonesia and South Asia; European and American painting, sculpture and decorative arts; and American and international contemporary art. It is the largest art museum in North Texas, and the region’s only general art museum.

The Dallas Museum of Art is the anchor of the Dallas Arts District and serves as a cultural magnet for the city with diverse programming ranging from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings, dramatic and dance presentations, and a full spectrum of programs designed to engage people of all ages with the power and excitement of art.