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On March 4, 2002 the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts announced the first phase of its public building campaign at a gala event at the Meyerson Symphony Center. The planned new facilities are being referred to as "the jewel in the crown" of the downtown Dallas Arts District.

Scheduled for groundbreaking in 2004 with completion scheduled for 2007, the new facilities will include a 2,400-seat lyric theater which will be the home of opera, ballet, musical theater and other large scale productions; an 800-seat multiform theater with flexible stage space for a variety of performing arts, including theater and dance; and a smaller alternate space for use by small and mid-size performing arts organizations. The new facilities will be located on the southeast quadrant of the Arts District between Ross Avenue and Woodall Rogers Freeway.

The combined new facilities are budgeted at $250,000,000. The lyric theater is being designed by the British architectural firm of Norman Foster, whose graceful urban designs include the renowned Reichstag in Berlin. The multiform theater is being designed by Rem Koolhaas, whose designs include the Netherlands Dance Theatre in The Hague, the Kunsthal Rotterdam, the Guggenheim Las Vegas, and many more.

The Act One gala event was sponsored by Plano-based EDS, who inaugurated the private phase of the building campaign with a donation of $1,000,000. The evening began with a press conference at the Meyerson where Bill Lively, President of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, announced that "the people of Dallas have already committed $110,000,000 (during the private phase of the campaign) and the land is acquired, and there is no debt." A bond election will be held in September 2002 to raise additional funds.
Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS emphasized the importance of a viable Arts District because "the arts expose us to a larger world."

The most amusing take on the conference came from the usually outspoken city councilwoman, Veletta Lill, whose purview includes the Arts District, as she led off her comments: "This is my first press conference in a ball gown."

Lending their support at the press conference were Beverly Sills, one of the 20th Century's greatest opera stars and currently Chairman of the Board of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; and acclaimed Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier ("Lilies of the Field") who echoed both of their sentiments: "We're responding to something we have a feeling for here, a flourishing of the arts."

A reception was held following the press conference. Virtually every arts patron in Dallas was in attendance. Spotted in the crowd of !,250 guests were Dallas philanthropists Nancy Hamon, Ruth Altshuler, Sis Carr, Raymond Nasher, and a host of other prominent arts supporters. Enjoying just being one of the crowd was former EDS president, Jeff Heller. By far the classiest lady at the press conference and reception was former Dallas first lady Matrice Ellis-Kirk whose husband, Ron, was busy on the campaign trail for the Democratic primaries for the U. S. Senate.

Following the reception the guests were treated to a superb program, including an organ prelude by the Meyerson's resident organist, Mary Preston, followed by a rousing fanfare to the Spirit of Dallas by the Dallas Brass and the Dallas Youth Orchestra.

Dick Brown then gave a progress report on the building campaign and said: "Art endures in our memory and our lives and our culture and in the lives of those who experience it." Carol Vaness, here to star in Tosca at the Dallas Opera, delivered a moving rendition of "Vilja" from Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow. Then Beverly Sills delivered an address on the importance of creating a cultural institution such as the Arts District which will span the ages. She emphasized the need for performance space for smaller theaters and urged everyone to "think bold and be creative and generous in your contributions."

Following that, Sidney Poitier narrated Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait." Other performance groups included the Fort Worth Dallas Ballet and Dallas Black Dance Theater. Members of the Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico greeted guests as they entered the lobby prior to the festivities.

The program finale was delivered by stage and television star, Bernadette Peters, who brought the house down with her spirited renditions of songs including "There's Nothing Like a Dame" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific and Stephen Sondheim's Company. Peters has long been an interpreter of Sondheim's oeuvre. She then acknowledged her drummer, Cubby O'Brien, one of the original Mouseketeers. The evening culminated with a black-tie dinner .

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Key Subjects: 
Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, Sidney Poitier, Dick Brown, Veletta Lill, architecture
Writer: 
Rita Faye Smith
Date: 
February 2002
Subtitle: 
The First Phase of a Three-Year Campaign