Worth the trip: The Dallas Art District: Texas-sized, yet walkable

Entertainment,Robin Tierney

The rivalry between D.C. and Dallas has expanded beyond football to another realm: the arts. Living up to the claim that everything’s bigger in Texas, the Dallas Arts District encompasses 68 acres and 19 blocks. And it’s easy to navigate on foot.

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“The Dallas Arts District, with its collection of important contemporary buildings, including four by Pritzker Prize-winning architects, makes Dallas a particularly special destination for lovers of art and culture,” says Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, a Renzo Piano-designed anchor of the downtown district. Other “star-chitects” represented include Rem Koolhaas, I.M. Pei and Norman Foster. “No other city in America boasts such an assemblage,” adds Strick, who was a curator at D.C.’s National Gallery of Art from 1986 to 1993.

With the recent opening of the red-capped Winspear Opera House, the Modernist, vertically stacked Wyly Theatre, and the Annette Strauss Arts Square’s outdoor artspace, the downtown reinvention is nearly complete.

“We’re in the largest arts district in the country,” says Carolyn Burtt at the Crow Collection of Asian Art, where she points visitors to exhibitions of Qing Dynasty jade carvings and live sand painting by Drepung Loseling monks. The monks are creating a 5-by-5-foot mandala by pouring colored sand, grain by grain, from metal funnels. Mandalas depict the perfect balance of energies of body and mind.

Nearby, the Dallas Museum of Art’s artworks span 3,000 years; current exhibitions include African masks, luminescent medieval tomb sculptures and Mexican Modernism ranging from Jose Guadalupe Posada’s 1800s grinning-skeleton satirical prints to a stunning Miguel Covarrubias glass mosaic. A winter show will celebrate American Arts & Crafts visionary Gustav Stickley.

Nasher features masterworks from the likes of Rodin and Brancusi and temporary exhibitions such as self-described “Texas roughneck” James Magee’s creations from car parts, broken glass, rust and other discards. Play the audio guide to hear Magee recite chilling poetic accompaniments.

Lodging/arts packages are offered at the recently renovated Sheraton Dallas, the biggest hotel in Texas with 1,840 rooms and multiple Internet lounges, supersized iPod-like touchscreens and Draft sports bar’s 21 flat-panel HDTVs. The hotel will serve as media center for 4,600 reporters covering Super Bowl 2011 at the new Cowboys Stadium.

Don’t want to walk the district? Hop a free ride on the new fuel-saving Art Carts.

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