The Dallas arts and cultural community has been fortunate to have strong support from our current mayor and city council. In fact, late last year they unanimously approved new Dallas Cultural Plan. Our newly elected mayor and six new councilmembers also appear to be bullish on the arts. Here are some excerpts from their responses to the arts questionnaire from the Dallas Area Cultural Advocacy Coalition (DACAC). See the complete questionnaires and more info at DallasNeedstheArts.com.
Eric Johnson, Mayor-Elect
“Arts and culture are fundamental to any community, and especially to our community here in Dallas. In many ways, they help define the personality of a city while making a major impact on our quality of life, our sense of cohesion, and our economy.”
Mayor-elect Johnson enjoys art in all its forms but is especially fond of musical theatre. He and his wife Nikki attend many performances around town, particularly at Dallas Theater Center. He is a former board member for The Arts Community Alliance (TACA).
“Mayor Rawlings has been a strong and effective advocate for the arts community. He raised the bar for arts advocacy from the Mayor’s office. I want to build on that good work and be an even stronger advocate for the arts in our city. I am a former ‘band geek’ after all.”
Chad West, District 1
“I want to support artists, including both small and large groups. I reject the false narrative that says we must fund one over the other, pitting arts groups against each other. We don’t need divisiveness, but should instead lift our entire cultural ecosystem. They are all important to having a vibrant cultural community.”
Councilmember-elect West in north Oak Cliff enjoys theatre but currently focuses on finding experiences his children (3 and 1) can appreciate, like classes at Color Me Empowered and festivals in the Bishop Arts District. He’s passionate about the arts’ role in economic development and transforming neighborhoods, like affordable housing, workshops, and exhibition and performance space.
“I will be a reliable advocate for sustained support on the City Council because vibrant arts and cultural experiences advance the interests of both D1 and the city. If we are working to attract corporate relocations, I want our arts community to be part of those pitches; not only will this highlight reasons for the relo, but if the relo occurs, these corporations may end up sponsoring/supporting the arts.”
Jaime Resendez, District 5
“We need to improve the availability of art and cultural events that broaden our children’s knowledge of the world and other cultures.”
Councilmember-elect Resendez representing the Pleasant Grove area enjoys arts experiences with his daughters (2 and 10), the oldest of whom has taken classes at Dallas Children’s Theater. He’s passionate about making the arts accessible to people from all socioeconomic brackets.
“I totally understand the importance of such experiences to the development of a well-rounded individual. As such, I’ve made a diligent effort to expose and broaden my daughters’ awareness of the arts and culture around them.”
Adam Bazaldua, District 7
“I believe the arts are a crucial element to increasing the quality of life in our city and overall.”
Councilmember-elect Bazaldua in South Dallas is a teacher, chef, husband and father who is particularly fond of musical theatre, having been a thespian and choir member in school. He’s passionate about preserving and highlighting the cultures of Dallas and District 7 neighborhoods.
“I believe that we should have much more of an initiative into telling the story of Dallas and the cultural and historical significance of the community and some of its influencers.”
Paula Blackmon, District 9
“Many international cities have a thriving arts community and with all of our venues and artists, Dallas should strive to be the top one.”
A former dancer, Councilmember-elect Blackmon in East Dallas particularly enjoys performances of dance and musical theatre. Her husband is an architect, ensuring the family appreciates buildings and sculpture. Blackmon worked with Mayor Rawlings on his arts initiatives, including Dallas Arts Week (which became Arts Month), and bringing support from corporations to the arts through Business Council for the Arts. While at Dallas ISD, she strengthened the district’s partnership with Big Thought to bring more arts to students.
“I will continue to make sure arts and the nonprofits that support the arts are in our schools, libraries and recreation centers. I will encourage smaller venue performances in our black box theatres throughout our city so our neighborhoods can experience performances within their own community.”
Cara Mendelsohn, District 12
“I do not think we should be constricted by what other cities are doing. We need a bold approach to accomplishing our goals.”
Councilmember-elect Mendelsohn in Far North Dallas loves the arts and can be seen all over town enjoying performances and museums. Mendelson’s children all play multiple instruments and performed with Plano Children’s Theater, which informs her arts education advocacy. She has served on the Plano Symphony Advisory Board to promote arts education in Plano schools.
“Our children need the arts to fully develop and every child deserves a strong arts education. Too many children will grow up and never see or experience a live opera or symphony if they are not exposed to it through school experiences. Many children find their passion and genius through the arts and we should encourage everyone to use their talents to bring beauty and depth to our lives.”
David Blewett, District 14
“I understand the importance of the arts both as a quality of life issue, but also as an economic generator.”
Councilmember-elect Blewett, whose district includes the Dallas Arts District, loves musicals and names Les Misérables and Evita among his favorites. One of his daughters studies ballet, and he and his wife encourage all of their seven children to get involved in the arts they enjoy, and to understand the importance of the arts to their lives and community.
“If we are to compete economically with other cities and draw new business here, the arts, libraries, parks, trails are all quality of life issues critical for our success.”
Rounding out the rest of the council are eight incumbents who will return to the horseshoe: Adam Medrano for District 2, Casey Thomas for D3, Carolyn King Arnold for D4, Omar Narvaez for D6, Tennell Atkins for D8, Adam McGough for D10, Lee Kleinman for D11, and Jennifer Staubach Gates for D13.