Arts Advocates Embrace Pandemic Solutions

TACA honorees hopeful for smoother sailing in 2022

Each year, The Arts Community Alliance (or TACA) chooses two individuals who have made lasting contributions to the city’s culture with their support of the arts and honors them with their Silver Cup.

This year’s honorees — Preston Hollow’s Jennifer Altabef and University Park’s Larry Angelilli — have demonstrated their love of the arts from participation in everything from SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, the Dallas Theater Center, KERA, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and more.

And even with the continued pandemic, they’re continuing to find new ways to appreciate art.

“I think the arts in Dallas are more bold and less conventional than in other places, and less hierarchical.”

Jennifer Altabef

Altabef said that during the worst of the pandemic, finding art and performances online helped her “process what was happening and gave me hope for the future.

“I loved watching videos of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Concert Truck around town, and I signed up for all of the SMU Meadows School of Art History lectures I could,” she said, adding that she also watched virtual workshops from the Dallas Theater Center, too.

“It made me realize we could still connect in real-time through art.”

Angelilli said during the worst of the pandemic, his family “leaned heavily on KERA,” and enjoyed some Netflix offerings, too. He also found some surprising likes, as well.

“It also brought out my inner philistine, because I couldn’t stop watching Tiger King and McMillion$, and reruns of The Big Lebowski!,” he said.

The arts community in Dallas is unique and exciting, both Angelilli and Altabef said.

“This is a city that produces, performs, and displays all forms of art that are unique and original, and it’s a city that is passionate about the quality and variety of options available to everyone.”

Larry Angelilli

“I think the arts in Dallas are more bold and less conventional than in other places, and less hierarchical,” Altabef said. “Dallas has always prized entrepreneurship, and this is no less true in the arts community, where there is always new work available.”

Angelilli said Dallas’ diversity makes for exciting art offerings.

“Dallas is a city that has a more diverse and exciting arts scene, in all of the arts, than just about any other city in America,” he said. “This is a city that produces, performs, and displays all forms of art that are unique and original, and it’s a city that is passionate about the quality and variety of options available to everyone.”

Both said they hope that 2022 brings even more support to the arts — even through a tricky time like an ongoing pandemic.

“My wish is that each organization has success in bringing back their audiences and patrons,” Angelilli said. “It’s going to be challenging, because many people have adapted to a world where the only art they experience is at home.”

Altabef agreed, adding that she hopes to see more people supporting the arts in Dallas this year.

 “My biggest wish for the Dallas arts community as we move into a new year is that it receives support from an even greater number of us, whether that be financial, as audience members, or as volunteers,” Altabef said. “The pandemic obviously hurt us all financially, but the arts community also suffers in other less tangible ways when people are not filling performance halls and galleries.  “So, I wish for sellout crowds everywhere, and a lot of great new art — and new people finding great art.”

Our extended conversations with Altabef and Angelilli are below.

Since March 2020, the way the city accesses its art has changed and adapted. How, as a patron of the arts, have you found new ways to appreciate art during the pandemic, especially during the worst of it?

Altabef: During the worst of the pandemic, accessing art and performances online helped me process what was happening and gave me hope for the future.  I loved watching videos of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Concert Truck around town, and I signed up for all of the SMU Meadows School Art History lectures I could.  Finally, I watched virtual workshops of Dallas Theater Center’s Public Works Community, and it helped me realize that we could still connect in real time through art.  I even watched all of the online productions offered by the National Theatre in London, something I could not do pre-pandemic.

Angelilli: It’s been tough, and until recently, almost all art has come from the TV.  We leaned heavily on KERA, and also got into some great programming from Netflix like Lupin, Hamilton, and The Queen’s Gambit. But it also brought out my inner philistine, because I couldn’t stop watching Tiger King and McMillion$, and reruns of The Big Lebowski!  People are now responding, in a big way, to getting out and experiencing art in person, and I, for one, (thankfully) welcome the change back.  We have been to three live shows in the last two months, and it’s revived the incredible emotions that come from live performances.

What is your biggest wish for the Dallas arts community as we move into a new year?

Angelilli: My wish is that each organization has success in bringing back their audiences and patrons.  It’s going to be challenging, because many people have adapted to a world where the only art they experience is at home.

Altabef: My biggest wish for the Dallas arts community as we move into a new year is that it receive support from an even greater number of us, whether that be financial, as audience members, or as volunteers.  The pandemic obviously hurt us all financially, but the arts community also suffers in other less tangible ways when people are not filling performance halls and galleries.  So, I wish for sellout crowds everywhere, and a lot of great new art — and new people finding great art.

Describe Dallas’ approach to the arts to someone who isn’t from here.

Altabef: Dallas’ approach to the arts is not at all what people who are not from here expect.  I think the arts in Dallas are more bold and less conventional than in other places, and less hierarchical.  Dallas has always prized entrepreneurship, and this is no less true in the arts community, where there is always new work available.  I think the Office of Arts and Culture’s Cultural Plan is a must-read to understand how Dallas wants to build its arts community and prioritize art and artists.

Angelilli: Dallas is a city that has a more diverse and exciting arts scene, in all of the arts, than just about any other city in America.  This is a city that produces, performs, and displays all forms of art that are unique and original, and it’s a city that is passionate about the quality and variety of options available to everyone.  This is also a city with tremendous support from the community for the arts, and the arts, in turn, support the community.

You have 12 hours to spend in Dallas – how do you spend them?

Angelilli: Dallas is a  terrific city for biking, and riding to, from and around White Rock Lake is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the city.  That also provides the opportunity to work off a great dinner downtown.  Naturally, we love catching a show at the Dallas Theater Center, but would take a Dallas Stars game if DTC isn’t performing.  We also love taking walks in the neighborhood.  Walking around admiring the Christmas lights is always on the agenda this time of year. 

Altabef: If I had 12 uninterrupted hours to spend in Dallas, I would visit the Dallas Zoo or Dallas Arboretum for the best of our outdoor cultural spaces, visit SMU’s Meadows Museum or the Dallas Museum of Art for some great art in a beautiful space, poke around in the Dallas history archives of the Dallas Public Library, eat dinner at Parigi or Homewood on Oak Lawn or Ellie’s in the Hall Arts Hotel,  then see a Dallas Theater Center play at either the Wyly in the Arts District or the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Kalita Humphreys Theater.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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