Venue still possible in Southlake Town Square

Grapevine has hired its first museum curator, and a long-discussed performing arts center may be back on the radar in Southlake, where the city's nonprofit arts league is flourishing.

Area cities, because they are between Fort Worth and Dallas—with world-class museums and venues—tend toward a quiet fine arts scene and conservative spending.

But that could change—discussion of a long-sought performing arts center in Southlake is pivoting back to Southlake Town Square.

The nonprofit Southlake-based Apex Arts League, now in its seventh year, continues to bring in professional performing arts. Its 2013-14 season includes a first-time-ever chamber ballet performance, as well as performances by parts of the Dallas and Fort Worth symphonies, the Dallas Opera and a French chamber music concert.

"We are growing and bringing world-class performances to northeast Tarrant County," said Terri Messing, president of the Apex board.

Apex has about 150 members, and sends out regular emails to more than 600 interested community members.

The group partners with White's Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, which will lay special flooring in the sanctuary for the Nov. 7 performance of Avant Chamber Ballet, a Dallas-Fort Worth company.

Town Square possibility

While the church functions for Apex performances, Messing said her organization hasn't given up hope on a dedicated performing arts venue. Apex performances typically draw 500 to 1,200, she said.

"Southlake Town Square would be a great place for something like this, and something we would like to see happen," Messing said.

Messing said the group, which operates using membership fees and a few grants, is not actively raising money for an arts center.

"We will not fund raise until we know exactly what the money will go toward. We are not there yet," she said.

Discussion of a performing arts center in Southlake began about 10 years ago. Town Square, the Carillon development and the old Gateway Church were among the sites considered.

For various reasons, every plan unraveled.

But the idea has not been dropped, said Frank Bliss, president of Cooper & Stebbins, developer of Town Square.

"We are really looking at it seriously and hoping to find a way to make it happen by 2020," he said.

An arts venue likely would be tied to a joint-use project, possibly incorporating convention and meeting space, Bliss said.

"We believe this is the right strategy but we haven't quite figured it out yet," he said.

Jim Bob McMillan, deputy director at Texas Commission on the Arts, cautioned that sometimes the arts lose out on such combinations. He said a center in Plano wound up less focused on the arts than planned.

"You have to have your local champions that are willing to follow and stick their necks out and meet with the local elected officials and make sure everything that has been promised ends up being that way," he said.

Messing said Town Square has always been Apex's choice.

"We know that there eventually will be a performing arts center somewhere in this area and we want it to be here," she said.

Apex's mission is to increase appreciation and participation in performing and visual arts, and create a "regional home for the arts."

Grapevine gets a curator

Grapevine's new curator of museums, Lynn Rushton, envisions a cultural renaissance.

"We are trying to make Grapevine a center of art and culture," said Rushton, who was hired about five months ago. The painter and mixed-media artist has worked as an art educator, lecturer and curator.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau has two gallery spaces, the Tower Gallery and Grand Gallery. Both host art and cultural exhibits.

Tower Gallery, about 3,000 square feet, is hosting the Texas Sculpture Association's Annual Membership Show, featuring 70 original works. The free show, with works for sale, ends Oct. 31.

On the private front, artists and gallery owners in Grapevine have banded together to showcase and promote the arts.

"We have a lot going on, and it's very exciting for anyone who appreciates art or wants to take classes and learn," said Pat Bodnyk, artist and owner of Holder Dane Gallery & Art Studios.

Through South On Main Artists Grapevine, working artists in the Cotton Belt Depot complex demonstrate and sell their works at ART2Market the second Saturday of each month.

The artists include master glassblower David Gappa, owner of Vetro Glass Studio & Gallery; Linda Lewis-Roark, a bronze artist at The Grapevine Fine Arts Foundry; and Bodnyk.

Six Grapevine galleries—including Vetro and Holder Dane—created the Grapevine Art Dealers Association to host gallery nights.

Apex also has stepped up its visual arts offerings with two to three exhibitions a year in Southlake Town Hall.

The city of Southlake budgeted $194,500 in expenditures from its public art fund in 2014. Part of that money will go to support the city's relationships with Apex; Arts Council Northeast based in Hurst; and Southlake Arts Council, which is appointed by the City Council to advise on public art.

Community arts

Some of the need for performing arts venues may be filled at the planned Community Recreation Center in Bicentennial Park in Southlake.

In August, the City Council approved a $1.72 million contract to design the first phase, which will include a community multipurpose space and senior center.

The multipurpose space will provide opportunities for local theater troupes, bands and ballet companies to perform.

Community-based performing arts are a popular staple in Southlake and Grapevine.

The Arts Council Northeast, a major arts organization, brings its MasterWorks Concert Series to cities in Northeast Tarrant County, including Southlake.

The arts council, which works with 16 cities, has many other programs, including a summer arts college. The college this year had artists and teachers leading classes for kids in Southlake and Colleyville.

The city of Grapevine hosts outdoor fall concerts at the Grapevine Botanical Gardens at Heritage Park as well as the Grapevine Opry at the historic Palace Theatre on Main Street.

Compared to the fine arts venues the state usually works with, the Palace is "a little bit more what I would call a commercial venue that's offering activities that are much more commercially oriented," McMillan said.

A figure that covers all of Grapevine's expenditures on the arts was not immediately available. But Rushton's salary is $61,897 annually.