Kevin Moriarty, artistic director of the Dallas Theater Center, arrived in Dallas in 2007, two years before the AT&T Performing Arts Center opened.
“My sense of Dallas before arriving here was that it was not a city that had arts and culture on its front foot,” says the 48-year-old, who is known for his youthful pluck and collection of sneakers. “That has radically changed.”
Since then, he has watched as the other institutions in the district have attracted top leadership talent: Jeremy Strick at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Jaap van Zweden at the Dallas Symphony, Keith Cerny at the Dallas Opera, and Max Anderson at the Dallas Museum of Art. Thanks to them, and the way they each have been able to raise the profile of the institutions they head, culture is now a regular feature in how the mayor and the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau pitch this city.
But more important than the cultural brand, the mix of new talent and renewed ambition has helped each organization raise the bar on its own artistic ambition. For the Theater Center’s part, during Moriarty’s tenure, it has doubled its audience and its budget, while leveraging the state-of-the-art Wyly Theatre to forge partnerships with renowned theaters such as Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and New York’s Public Theater. And within a six-month period this year, the DTC will have sent two musicals to New York.
“It just takes that one super-sexy video with all the balconies going up and down, the floor moving,” Moriarty says. “That’s 90 seconds of catnip.”
But as Moriarty is quick to point out, venues can only take a cultural organization so far. The real indicator of the Arts District’s success will be its ability to foster a meaningful connection with the rest of Dallas.
“We are still a young, new, and growing city,” Moriarty says. “And with each person who moves to Dallas, the question has to be asked again: what role do the arts play in my life, and how is my voice and my experience reflected in the work that I am seeing? The ultimate measure is going to be the level and depth of participation from the community. That’s what makes a city a great arts city.”