Strauss Square

photo by Amber Knowles

How did our venues get their names?

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Learn More about Some of Dallas’ Most Generous Arts Supporters

As the AT&T Performing Arts Center celebrates its 10th year, we’re reflecting on the historic investment in the arts that created this campus. Let’s start with the namesakes of our venues:

Margot and Bill Winspear

Winspear Opera House

Margot and Bill Winspear at the announcement of their gift in 2002

Margot and Bill Winspear’s passion for opera was reflected in their $42 million contribution to what is now the AT&T Performing Arts Center in 2002 which, at the time, was the largest gift of its kind in the history of Dallas. Having moved to Dallas from Canada in 1975, Mr. Winspear became president and CEO of Chaparral Steel Co. and later founded Associated Materials Inc. where he served as president and CEO until he retired in 2002. Mr. Winspear served as president and chairman of The Dallas Opera’s board and was a founding board member of the Center. Mrs. Winspear also served as a Director on The Dallas Opera’s Board and as president of the Women’s Board. The couple were also strong supporters of the Dallas Symphony Association and the University of North Texas, where a performance hall bears their name. While both Bill and Margot attended the Center’s groundbreaking, Mr. Winspear passed away in 2007 before he was able to see the iconic opera house bearing his name completed and opened in 2009. Mrs. Winspear passed away in 2015.

Dee and Charles Wyly

Wyly Theatre

Dee and Charles Wyly at the Grand Opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in 2009

Dee and Charles Wyly, along with Cheryl and Sam Wyly, gave $20 million to help create a new home for the Dallas Theater Center, an organization about which the late Charles Wyly was very passionate. Charles, who passed away in 2011, was a founding board member of the AT&T Performing Arts Center and was recognized as one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and civic leaders. The two Wyly brothers successfully operated a number of businesses including Michaels Stores, the nation’s leading arts and crafts retail chain, the Bonanza and Ponderosa steakhouses, Green Mountain Energy, Sterling Software and the hedge fund company Maverick Capital Ltd. During their lifetime, the Wyly brothers together gave more than ninety million dollars to a wide range of charities, including the Dallas Children’s Theater, which has the Dee & Charles Wyly Family Garden. Dee and Charles supported many other causes including the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas where they endowed an academic chair. In 2011 Dee Wyly was awarded the BrainHealth Legacy Award for her extensive efforts to support brain research and the vast potential of the human mind. Charles served on the Salvation Army Board for 40 years and also served as chairman of the Communities Foundation of Texas.

Annette Strauss

Strauss Square

Annette Strauss during her tenure as mayor of Dallas

The AT&T Performing Arts Center’s outdoor concert venue is named Annette Strauss Square in honor of the late Annette Strauss, who in 1989, was the first woman to be elected mayor of Dallas. Her grace and compassion helped guide the city through a racially turbulent period in its history. She had previously served on the Dallas City Council. Mrs. Strauss, who passed away in 1998, was considered charming and persuasive, and used those attributes to successfully fundraise for numerous causes. Mrs. Strauss was a passionate supporter of the performing arts and an ardent proponent of the Dallas Arts District. She oversaw the construction and opening of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and helped set the stage for future development of the district. Her desire to enhance Dallas’ cultural offerings came from a lifelong fascination with music, theatre and museums, and she was adamant that the arts belong to everyone. A quote of hers is on a wall at Annette Strauss Square: “The arts in all their many exciting forms are a bridge between people.”

Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons

Sammons Park

Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons

The Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park was named following a $15 million charitable gift from the men and women of Sammons Enterprises, Inc., one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S. The gift honored the firm’s late founder Charles A. Sammons and his late wife, Sammons Chairman Elaine D. Sammons. Mr. Sammons, who passed away in 1988, started his firm in Dallas with the creation of Reserve Life Insurance Company in 1938. In the 1950s, he diversified the holdings of Sammons Enterprises to include radio stations, cable television, industrial product distribution, travel, life and health insurance and hospitality. Mr. and Mrs. Sammons were both active in Dallas civic and charitable organizations and were benefactors to health care and arts institutions, including the Sammons Center for the Arts, where Mrs. Sammons served as Chairman Emeritus. The private philanthropy of Mrs. Sammons, who passed away in 2009, supported education, medicine, the arts and the underserved.

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