There year that was — and wasn’t — in Dallas arts and culture
What day of the week is it? Have I already fed the dog or was that yesterday? Like so many of us this strange year, my routines are blurry.
But some details remain clear in my head. Like this date: March 13th, 2020 – Friday the 13th, no less. That day, amid a growing pandemic, our entire newsroom stayed at home to test if we could delete the newspaper remotely. We never went back to the office.
Now, nine months later, it seems almost ridiculous to think we are scared we might not do it. I’m so grateful for our frontline reporters and visual journalists and for our exhausted editors and designers plugged into the matrix at the back of our 24-hour zoom pods. We did it and we will continue to do it to bring you stories about how our community is meeting in this moment.
This week we have prepared a special review edition of the print edition of our Arts & Life Sunday section. (You can read it now in our digital ePaper. And if you are not already a member, enter CHRISW here for a free trial.) While putting this section together, I was reminded of two editions of our section that are among my favorites and that embodies this unprecedented year.
The first was in April. We planned our annual Art and the City edition, which usually marks the start of Dallas Arts Month and the dizzying array of events ranging from the Nasher Prize to the Dallas Art Fair. In a short time, however, every gathering, exhibition and performance was canceled due to the corona virus.
So instead we discarded our plans and turned to the artists themselves. We asked nearly 100 North Texas creatives from all disciplines to tell us in their own words how they deal with it and what work (their own and the other) was inspiring them. The result was a kind of diary, a recorded story, a love letter to art and perseverance. The memorable cover was a selfie of Dallas singer, composer and designer Teddy Georgia Waggy, who had made her own face mask with a defiant, humorous twist.
The second edition was in June. The death of George Floyd, a black man who died under the knee of a white policeman, sparked a national reckoning of the race that spilled over onto the streets of Dallas. Demonstrators marched with carefully labeled signs, murals were painted over boarded-up windows in the city center, the eye sculpture opposite the Joule Hotel was embellished with a deeply sprayed message: “NOW UC US”. Darryl Ratcliff remarked in this issue: Artists have “the ability to make the invisible visible”.
The cover was a simple, inspired idea from A & L’s visual editor Michael Hamtil. I can still see him on my screen raising his fist in the air to demonstrate how he could stand for Reunion Tower on the Dallas skyline. Illustrator Michael Hogue and designer Jeff Meddaugh brought the powerful concept to life – no headline required. For days this cover filled my social media feed as it kept getting shared.
Now as I look to 2021, I still don’t know when we will return to the newsroom. But I hope for a new kind of normal. Perhaps one where our city is smarter, more tolerant and more creative than ever after what we endured. Gosh, we all learned how to pan.
Whatever happens, we’ll be here to tell your story.