BY MAXWELL L. ANDERSON
PORTRAIT BY WILLIAM BICHARA
AS DALLAS PREPARES TO HOST THE 2014 NEW CITIES SUMMIT, MAXWELL L. ANDERSON OF THE DALLAS
MUSEUM OF ART CONSIDERS WHAT MAKES A TRULY GREAT 21ST CENTURY CITY—FROM THE PERSPECTIVE
OF ONE THAT FAMOUSLY BOOTSTRAPPED ITS ARTS DISTRICT OUT OF PARKING LOTS.
he best way to predict the future is to invent it,”
as the saying goes. Later this month, Dallas hosts
the 2014 New Cities Summit, when some 800 city
leaders, urban planners, and academics from 40 nations
will gather to consider the city of the future. Not in a
sci-fi, Blade Runner sense, but in terms of what makes
a city great—in which to live, work, get around, and do
The fact that the Summit is taking place in the
Dallas Arts District, the largest in the United States, is
symbolic of two things. First, and as Mayor Rawlings
has also stated, that culture and the arts are an essential
part of the definition of a truly great city. Dallas is a great
place to shop, we have great sports. Neither is a unique
value proposition. We are convenient—DF W is easy to
get to. But that hardly quickens the pulse. I would argue
that what is human about a city is its culture.
Second, the Dallas Arts District is testament to how
a city can define its own greatness, its own way—there
isn’t a standard template. And Dallas, in true Texas
style, has hoed its own row in this respect. Many of the
great and ancient cities of the world have grown and
developed culturally in an organic way. In Dallas, we
want to demonstrate that there is a way of thinking
about cultural fare that doesn’t only spring up by virtue
of happenstance or habit or tradition. It can also be
planned. And the New Cities Summit will, we hope, be
the setting for that conversation to continue.
The theme for this year’s Summit is “Re-imagining
Cities,” and Dallas is already a prime example of that.
The 20 square blocks that make up our Arts District
were planned—bootstrapped, in true Texas style, out
of parking lots. And to be engineered is not a wrong or
inferior way for a city’s cultural identity and strength
to emerge. It’s just different. In Dallas’s case, this is a
function of being largely constructed on the shoulders
of entrepreneurial thinking, rather than on creative
I would love to shatter Dallasites’ presumption that
we’re second tier, or that New York is the center of the
cultural universe and we can never aspire to be relevant
Adrian Ellis, Director of the Global Cultural Districts Network (which includes the Dallas Arts District) and
founder of AEA Consulting, is a world-renowned lecturer on cultural management and planning issues.
Fahd Al Rasheed leads development of the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), a new port city in the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia planned to host a population of two million people.