A new exhibit titled “Forest Forward: The Future is Here” is open at NorthPark Center through Oct. 17.
The exhibit is located in the NorthCourt area, on level one between Nordstrom and Macy’s. It explores the $75 million plan to restore the Forest Theater and ignite a healthy and thriving South Dallas. Key project components include re-establishing the 74-year-old theater as a neighborhood anchor, creating cradle-to-college education pathways with Dallas ISD and the Martin Luther King Jr. Arts Academy, and developing mixed-income housing surrounding the theater.
Forest Forward is a grassroots initiative started by members of the South Dallas community. Matthew Ruffner, senior pastor of Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, is on the organization’s board of directors.
“Although the Forest Theater in South Dallas has served as a proud beacon of hope for decades, its history and significance is unknown or forgotten by many,” Forest Forward founder and CEO Elizabeth Wattley said. “Restoring this historic treasure to its full potential as an arts and culture center — and using it as a catalyst to improve education, housing, and economic vibrancy — is a good-news story for everyone living in Dallas and North Texas.”
A Sept. 14 unveiling revealed a replica of the Forest Theater’s marquee sign created by artist Sergio Garcia of Dallas. Wattley also announced a giving opportunity called the “Forest Fund,” designed to engage and amplify community support by offering a five-to-one match for residents of the 75215 ZIP code.
South Dallas resident of 89 years and community leader Willie Mae Coleman made the first gift to the “Forest Fund,” which she described as “the people’s campaign.”
“I am proud of my community, and I am so excited about what is taking place at the Forest Theater,” Coleman said. “Thank you to Forest Forward for their hard work, dedication, and the financial investment they are bringing to South Dallas. And, thanks to the ‘Forest Fund,’ every gift — no matter how large or small — is so very special and will help make this vision a reality.”
Exhibit visitors will see images of the Forest Theater in its prime and photos illustrating the destruction that the S.M. Wright Freeway caused to the neighborhood. Also displayed are renderings of the newly imagined theater, expanded MLK Arts Academy, and revamped boulevard with mixed-income housing.
“Giving us an opportunity to tell our story at NorthPark Center is another step in broadening community support across Dallas and bringing this dream to life,” Forest Forward chair Matrice Ellis-Kirk said.