“You talk about bravado? He had a huge spirit,” says Billingsley, who is no shrinking violet herself. “That is the essence of a Texan, right?”
Crow erected some of the marquee glass towers that today define the Dallas skyline, and a small museum near the DMA is devoted to his Asian art collection. He also helped fund the city’s most idiosyncratic public artwork: a life-size herd of cast bronze longhorn steers that the contemporary crowd seems to find an embarrassing reminder of old Dallas.
Today’s town boosters would rather highlight the Koolhaas and Foster buildings, which are named for the Wyly and Winspear families, respectively. Businessman Bill Winspear and his wife, Margot, gave $42 million to the opera house—one of the largest donations ever to an opera company. And mild-mannered entrepreneur Charles Wyly and his wife, Dee, wrote a $20 million check for the theater. In the eyes of one conservative Dallas stalwart, Koolhaas’s techno tower appears to be half finished at best. “Some might say that,” Deedie Rose fires back. “And what I’d say is that the play is what finishes it. It’s a machine for theater.”
With the performing arts center well on its way to completion, the focus has shifted to creating Woodall Rodgers park, which will span the freeway separating the Arts District from uptown. On the far side of the green space, the Perot Museum of Nature & Science—paid for in part by a large gift from Ross Perot’s family and designed by edgy Pritzker Prize–winner Thom Mayne—is scheduled to open in 2013. (Mayne will be the latest in a string of Pritzker laureates to build in Dallas, after Foster, Koolhaas, Piano, Johnson—whose oversize postmodern whimsies were popular during the punch-drunk days of the early-Eighties energy boom—and I.M. Pei.) And on the west side of town, work has begun on a pair of bridges designed by Santiago Calatrava. Again, the project is supported partly by private fundraising, which also draws heavily on corporations headquartered in the region, including AT&T, American Airlines, ExxonMobil and numerous financial companies that service the state’s oil and gas industry.
“It’s been a shock to some executives who have moved their companies here,” says Charles Wyly. “They have been floored by what they are asked to do. We have pretty high expectations for our leaders.”
Even the Dallas Cowboys have caught the culture bug. Out at the new stadium, team owner Jerry Jones and his wife, Gene—he’s as tough as Patton; she’s a Chanel-clad steel magnolia—made room for a serious public arts program. “We have nothing contemporary in our home, nothing,” says Gene, noting that her taste in decor runs toward Mediterranean, while her husband’s private, sports-theme art collection includes Norman Rockwell’s The Toss. “But anyone will tell you that a great home should have great art, and though this stadium isn’t our home—it is. We wanted to make it a great building, and I felt like it needed great art. Not just posters of football and sports.”