Want a little shot of culture to go with that latte? No need to travel to the downtown arts’ district or to Fort Worth, because in the shadows of SMU’s football stadium sits the Park Cities’ own contribution to the Dallas arts scene: Meadows Museum .

With its red-brick Georgian architecture and signature dome-topped Dallas Hall, the building has long served as an identifying feature of Southern Methodist University. But, if Edmund “Ted” Pillsbury and the staff at the Meadows Museum have their way, the neo-Palladian home of one of the “largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of ” will become another familiar landmark to the greater Dallas community.

Though open nearly 40 years, the museum’s recent expansion into its new digs on

Bishop Avenue

has not attracted the acclaim that a cultural attraction of this caliber should. A year into his directorship of the nearly 40-year-old collection, Pillsbury intends to change that benevolent neglect with a schedule of traveling exhibits, gallery talks, evening lectures, film screenings, and concerts against a backdrop that includes, according to their website, “some of the world’s greatest painters, Renaissance altarpieces, monumental Baroque canvases, Impressionist landscapes, modernist abstractions and a select group of sculptures by major 20th-century masters.” 

            The museum opened in 1965. Before that, Algur Meadows was a prominent Dallas oilman who founded the General American Oil Company of Texas, and his frequent business trips to generated a lifelong interest in Spanish art. His acquisitions of Spanish masterpieces became the base of the Museum’s collection, which has continued to grow.

            Santiago Calatrava’s outdoor sculpture “The Wave” greets museum visitors with slender bands of steel rising and falling like synchronized xylophone keys. This playful outdoor installation introduces visitors to the masterpieces waiting within this jewel-box of a museum situated in the heart of the Park Cities. And now, visitors can begin their experience of the wealth and breadth of Algur Meadows’ personal collection from the moment they enter the museum. Pillsbury has repositioned sculpture and paintings from the second floor to the first-floor corridors, which transforms those empty halls into intimate, welcoming galleries.

Upcoming and current traveling exhibitions include, “Painting a New World:  Mexican Art and Life 1521-1821,” from the Denver Art Museum, followed by a show of Mexican art from a more contemporary perspective: “Titans of Modern Mexico:  Rivera to Tamayo.” And the Lone Star state’s contributions to the art world appear in a November exhibit of Dallasites Nona and Richard Barrett’s collection, “Texas Vision:  The Barrett Collection:  The Art of Texas and Switzerland,” showcasing works from the 19th century to the present and including examples of Swiss modernism. Also showing this fall is a show celebrating the works of Mark Lemmon, a well-known 20th century architect, along with future exhibits on the works of architects O’Neil Ford, Howard Meyer and George Dahl.

            Docents are available to lead tours of 10-30 people, and the event schedule this fall includes a series of “Artful Thursday Evenings” that feature a discussion group in Spanish and a book club meeting in English on works with connections to the museum. And, in an effort to increase community attendance, the museum stays open late three evenings a week and maintains weekend hours as well.  Check out current museum exhibits and activities on the Web site, meadowsmuseumdallas.org. Parking is easy and convenient in the garage, situated underneath the museum. And an entrance fee of $8 for adults ($5 after 4 p.m.; children under 12 free) makes this European art excursion the most reasonable bargain you’ll ever experience.

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