Why Did The Dallas Symphony Orchestra Receive $5 Million From North Texas Shopping Center Magnates?

Recent news out of North Texas suggests that the friendly competition between Dallas and Houston for the unofficial title of capital of Lone Star state arts philanthropy has intensified.

My colleague L.S. Hall recently noted that fine arts in Dallas and arts education at Southern Methodist University received a generous round of support from a local patron, the Dallas-based Meadows Foundation to the tune of $45 million dollars.

The museum’s director told the Dallas Morning News that the $45 million gift, coupled with previous grants from the funder, will bring the museum closer to fulfilling founder Algur Meadows’ dream of a "Prado for Texas," a reference to Spain’s national art museum, the Museo Nacional Del Prado in Madrid. Ambitious stuff, right?

It's all part of a noticeable trend signalling Dallas' efforts to catch up with Houston, the formidable philanthropic powerhouse 293 miles south via I-45. 

Exhibit Number Two: The Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) recently received a $5 million gift from the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family. This gift to the DSO is part of a broad strategic fundraising initiative to create a sustainable financial future for the Dallas Symphony.

Central to this financial future is the DSO's SOLUNA International Music & Arts Festival, which begins on May 4, 2015, and continues through May 24, 2015. The festival, which showcases internationally acclaimed guest soloists, visual artists, and performing artists alongside leading Dallas-based companies and ensembles around the city, will now be titled The Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family SOLUNA International Music & Arts Festival.

(It's conjecture at this point, but I'm going to go out on a limb and theorize that without the festival, the DSO never gets this grant.)

Which brings us to the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family. Nasher and Haemisegger are co-owners of NorthPark Center, North Texas’ largest shopping center and one of America’s premier shopping centers. Occasionally their sights extend beyond Texas. Nancy is co-creator and co-founder with her father, Raymond D. Nasher, of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and serves on its Board of Advisors and Collections Committee. Three years ago the couple gave $5 million to the museum to create two new endowments for a visiting curatorship and the acquisition of modern art, school officials announced Wednesday.

At the end of the day, however, the family is firmly planted in North Texas, and much like the the SMU gift from the Dallas-based Meadows Foundation, Nasher and Haemisegger are part of a cadre of deep-pocketed individuals and foundations committed to elevating the city to the global stage.