Dallas’ small arts groups are finally getting a spot on the big stage in the city’s Arts District. The $40 million publicly-funded City Performance Hall opened Thursday with a ribbon cutting and a marching-band soundtrack. Now, the city’s small arts groups are trying to figure out how the new space suits their needs.
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Singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffe, Shakespeare Dallas and local dance companies are among those who will take the City Performance Hall stage this weekend.
The 750-seat hall was designed to be a versatile space and an opportunity for small to midsized arts groups to perform in the Arts District. So far 95 events have been booked in the hall.
The Dallas Chamber Symphony, a new group, picked the hall for six performances in its first season. The group’s executive director. Zachariah Stoughton, says the hall is more flexible than other venues. For example, multimedia elements are easy to work into performances. And it doesn’t hurt that the new building provides built-in interest.
“It allows us to take advantage of the publicity that is going into the hall itself,” he said. “That, coupled with the publicity that we’re doing for our first season, it’s really a win-win situation for us.”
There are, however, concerns that some groups that might like to use the hall can’t afford it. A six-hour block rents for a minimum of $1,400.
“The intention was that it would be a facility in the Arts District for all the smaller arts groups to be able to use,” says Charles Santos, the executive director of TITAS, which presents touring music and dance groups. TITAS may use the hall in the future, be he’s concerned smaller groups can’t.
“The problem is that it’s not inexpensive to use. So, I think there’s still a hurdle – even though it’s very beautiful – the big hurdle is the affordability of the space. … A lot of the people that we had hoped would be in that space couldn’t possibly afford it.”
That problem could be remedied. A proposed second phase of the project includes even smaller, black-box theaters. But no funding is available and the city has shelved those plans.