Audio: Listen to the interview with Phillip Jones, president/CEO, Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau
Phillip Jones: “We had our fifth annual City Arts celebration this past weekend. It was an incredible success, we had over 100,000 people who attended and that’s exciting, because we had several people — thousands of people who have never visited museums — in the Nasher Sculpture Center, in the Dallas Museum of Art. We had five stages with musical and dance performances. We had over 100 hundred artists showcasing and selling their product, ranging from $50 all the way up to $6000, and some incredible food with a culinary tent and culinary demonstrations as well.”
BJ Austin: Tell me how it’s grown over the past five years.
“It’s amazing. When we started this project five years ago, we hoped to get 10,000 people the first year and we did. And each year it’s almost doubled in size, and this year we exceeded the 100,000 mark. Which I think is phenomenal for a city to experience that kind of growth with what we’re hoping will be a signature festival because at the end of the day, we have the largest urban arts district in the country, we have incredible new product coming online. We want the people who live here to know about it, but we also want them to tell their friends and family from out of town so when they come to Dallas, they can really understand and appreciate what a great cultural destination Dallas is becoming.”
Austin: This was on a weekend when we topped 100 degrees. You picked the summer time because …. ?
“We picked the summertime because — a couple of reasons. It doesn’t conflict with anything else already on the calendar. We’d love to have it in October, but we really don’t want to compete with the State Fair of Texas. And we also know that kids are out of school by that time, by the second weekend in June when it’s held, and we wanted to give them something to do, and it’s a very family-friendly event with a whole area dedicated to children. At the end of the day, it’s hot in Texas in the summer. We understand that, but we open the museums and the symphony for free, and people can go in and cool off. And there’s lots of opportunities for cooling off with misting tents and lots of water.
Also, at the end of the day, we were pleased with the fact that Saturday was a lot cooler than Sunday, and our record attendance was on Saturday and also on Friday afternoon. We had a huge crowd Friday evening as well, from folks who live and work downtown coming into the festival and experiencing the great musical acts we had. Apparently the Rev. Horton Heat is quite popular.”
Austin: What do you feel is the attraction? What draws people to City Arts?
“I think several things. One, it’s free. Two, it’s in the Arts District, which a lot of people are very proud of and they don’t always understand the depth of what we have available, and they go in and explore and experience on their own. The other thing I think is the fact that we are growing as a cultural destination. So we have a lot to expose people to, and they come in and buy incredible art or they talk to incredible artists or they watch dance performances. And they really have a positive opinion of Dallas as a city that has a lot to offer visitors and then that’s important because we want the people here to be our biggest ambassadors.”
Austin: Next summer we’re just about ready to finish off the Arts District. Are you anticipating some sort of gigantic pre-ribbon-cutting ceremony?
“Our goal is when they open the performing arts venues in October of ’09, we’ll have an amazing footprint. We’ll have lots more greenspace that we currently can’t use today. And then we’ll begin the construction of the Woodall Rogers deck part. So eventually the festival will start to segue into that area, and we’ll have 75 acres in a very sort of environmentally sensitive greenspace that I think will be even more attractive, even more successful. And so next year, we’re still in the growth phase because the construction will be still ongoing. But 2010, this will be an amazing festival that will rival Jazzfest in New Orleans or Main Street Festival in Fort Worth. We want City Arts to be one of the top festivals in the state of Texas and we’re well on our way to doing that.”