A true grande dame of the Texas social scene, Deedie Rose has been a major force in the push to create an arts district in downtown Dallas for almost three decades. Last month, with the openings of the Wyly Theater and Winspear Opera House, the efforts of Rose and her fellow boosters finally paid off. Rose—whose daughter, by the way, is the fashion designer Lela Rose—chatted with us about the triumphs and challenges involved in making the district a reality and, for those planning a visit, shared a few of her Dallas must-dos.


What was the highlight of the opening for you?
At the end of the week of opening events, the museums and venues had a day of free admission. I went down thinking, "Well, I'll park at the Dallas Museum of Art because everyone is going to be at the other end of the district where the new buildings are." But when I arrived the museum was jammed and when I walked out onto the street I saw that people were also jammed into the Nasher Sculpture Center trying to see the architectural models—and not that many people generally go to see architectural models! This was a weekend that was the closing of the State Fair of Texas and I think there was also a Cowboys game. It was the most thrilling day I've about ever had!

How does Dallas's arts community compare to the art world in other places, like New York?
I don't want to sound like a stereotypical Texan going on about how everything is better here than anywhere else but we're maybe a little more collaborative down here. As you probably know, a group of us collectors have gotten together and bequested our collections jointly to the museum and now we've involved other people in that. It's not just the original three families anymore but other people who realized this is really a fun thing to do.


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Was it your goal to make Dallas an arts destination for people from other cities?
Yes. I would say that was a goal—we want our city to be noticed for good things. But what I really care about is that we're successful in building a center for the people who live in this community. All kinds of people, not just people who can afford to buy the most expensive tickets.

And that must be a challenge in this economy?
Of course it's a challenge, but you know, what's new? Life is a challenge. I say all the time, "We're the arts people! So we're the ones who should be able to think more creatively about how to serve the public."


Aside from the museums and performances, what else would you recommend in Dallas?
For shopping, a store called Forty Five Ten not far from downtown. Brian Bolke owns that and it's a unique boutique with lovely things. In terms of hotels, you could stay close to downtown at the Mansion or the Crescent or the Fairmont or the Ritz Cartlon. Fearing's at the Ritz Carlton is a divine restaurant. The arts district also has some great restaurants—there are six in the bottom of One Arts Plaza alone. And Charlie Palmer is also downtown. Of course, don't miss the downtown Neiman Marcus, which has always been a special, special place. But for me it's really about the visual arts. There is so much here that you could stay a week and not see it all.

Photos: AT&T Arts Center: Nigel Young/ Foster + Partners