Owen Arts Center renovation kickoff inspires a new challenge

SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts paved the way toward the future of arts education with today’s kickoff of the Owen Arts Center renovation during SMU Homecoming Weekend. The $34 million initiative will improve academic spaces in the north wing for visual arts, art history and creative computation, while creating grand, welcoming and accessible exterior entrances.

DALLAS (SMU) — SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts paved the way toward the future of arts education with today’s kickoff of the Owen Arts Center renovation during SMU Homecoming Weekend. The $34 million initiative will improve academic spaces in the north wing for visual arts, art history and creative computation, while creating grand, welcoming and accessible exterior entrances.

At today’s celebration, a $1.8 million challenge gift from Indianapolis philanthropist and former SMU Meadows parent G. Marlyne Sexton was announced, creating a new incentive for others to become part of this transformative project. Previously, Sexton had given $3.2 million toward the project, bringing her total commitment to $5 million.

With this new gift, Sexton encourages admirers of the arts to help the Meadows School reach the remaining $4 million needed for the revitalization of the arts hub, which will enrich the experiences of students and the commununity for years to come.

The renovation launches as the Meadows School of the Arts marks the 50th anniversary of its naming this year. Formally established at SMU in 1969 and named in honor of benefactor Algur H. Meadows, it is one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States.

The commitment to excellence, entrepreneurial vision and devotion to community that Mr. Meadows embodied are captured in the reimagined Owen Arts Center, where creation and innovation will converge in new and exciting new ways.

“The improvements will serve as a catalyst for Meadows to attract the next generation of talented and diverse visual artists, art historians and multidisciplinary creatives and draw scholars and visitors from across the region and around the world,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said. “We thank our donors for their generous support.”

A community of supporters has made the Owen Arts Center renovation possible. Initially, The Meadows Foundation provided a $10 million matching grant as part of its historic 2015 commitment of $45 million to SMU.

“For us, art, education, SMU and Dallas just go together,” said Linda Perryman Evans, president and CEO of The Meadows Foundation. “We’ve supported the Meadows Museum and the Meadows School, which have risen to exciting new levels of renown, and we are proud of the stature both have achieved.”

This Foundation’s commitment became a catalyst for several significant gifts.

Reflecting their passion for connecting the arts to the community through public spaces, Gene and Jerry Jones committed $5 million to transform the east entrance. The Joneses’ commitment will create the Gene and Jerry Jones Grand Atrium and Plaza.

Dallas art collectors and patrons Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers committed $5 million to establish the new Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers Center for Visual Arts, which will provide a physical space that expands academic and artistic opportunities for students and faculty.

G. Marlyne Sexton’s gift will establish the Sexton Family Courtyard, the renovated west entrance to the building; the Sexton Family Art Studio and Terrace, an expansive indoor-outdoor space; and the Sexton Family Creative Computation Suite, where students will push the artistic boundaries of technology.

Additional major donors to the project include the Hoblitzelle Foundation; the Moody Foundation; the Vin and Caren Prothro Foundation; Jennifer Burr Altabef ’78, ’81 and Peter A. Altabef; Martin S. Cox ’75, ’78; Barbara Thomas Lemmon; Sarah F. Perot ’83; Chadwick/Loher Foundation, Arlene and John Dayton; Charlene Cline Marsh ’91; PMC Esping Foundation; Ann M. Shaw; and Emily Rich Summers ’66 and Steve Summers ’66, ’67.

“The University is grateful to these generous donors for their part in strengthening Meadows School as a top arts and cultural institution,” said SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves. “Their support will continue to benefit generations and  contribute to SMU’s rising national and international reputation as a trailblazer in arts education.”

Inspiring spaces for aspiring artists

Composed of three interconnected buildings designed by noted architect George Dahl in the 1960s, the 250,000-square-foot Owen Arts Center is the largest academic building on the SMU campus and a top arts and cultural institution in Dallas.

This first phase the Owen Arts Center renovation will modernize the north wing of the building from Hillcrest Avenue to Bishop Boulevard. Highlights include:

  • Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers Center for Visual Arts: Home to the academic pursuits of art, art history and creative computation, including renovated studios, galleries, classrooms and offices with a new formal entrance on the north side of the building.
  • Gene and Jerry Jones Grand Atrium and Plaza: Revamped Bishop Boulevard entrance and glass-enclosed atrium creating ample space in a natural light environment for formal and impromptu performances, concerts and events.
  • Sexton Family Courtyard: Lush space along Hillcrest Avenue suitable for performances and gatherings, serving as the west entryway for Greer Garson Theatre and Hamon Arts Library.
  • Main Gallery: The original home of the Meadows Museum restored as a gallery to display rotating exhibitions and to serve as an elegant entertainment space, with access to the Dean’s Suite.
  • Dean’s Suite: Offices for the Dean of Meadows School of the Arts and key academic leadership prominently located on the first and second floors adjoining the Main Gallery.
  • William B. Jordan Gallery: New gallery for student critique sessions, temporary exhibitions and gallery talks named in memory of William B. Jordan, founding director of the Meadows Museum and former chair of the Division of Fine Arts, through a fundraising effort spearheaded by Dr. Jordan’s friends, former students and colleagues.
  • Gallery Conference Room: Elegant conference room located next to the Main Gallery and Jordan Gallery used for meetings with distinguished guests of the University and for faculty and student presentations and seminars.
  • Studios: Multiple studios specialized for drawing, painting, printmaking, photography and other disciplinary studies located on all four levels, including the newly created, expansive Sexton Family Art Studio and Terrace on the top floor, with accompanying terrace suited for en plein air painting; and on the first floor, a new Foundations Studio for learning the fundamentals of techniques, processes and principles involved in the creation of art.
    Sexton Family Creative Computation Suite: Fully equipped technology labs and classrooms for students to explore computing as a creative medium, integrating aesthetic principles and practices from the arts with analytical theories and processes from computer science and engineering. 
  • Jennifer Burr Altabef Student Lounge: Located on the third floor of the Greer Garson Theatre, an informal space for students to work, study and relax.
  • Barbara Thomas Lemmon Art History Suite: Offices for key art history leadership and The Lady Tennyson d’Eyncourt Visual Resources Laboratory.

The transformation ensures the Meadows School’s physical spaces are on par with the academic excellence and artistic creation taking place at the school.

“A modernized Owen Arts Center will showcase our renowned arts and design programs and encourage bold work by faculty and students,” said SMU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs ad interim Peter K. Moore. “Students learning in this innovative environment will have the potential to redefine creativity and become leaders in emerging areas of artistic expression.”

The reenvisioned and restructured space will amplify the Meadows School’s cutting-edge curriculum and its leadership among university arts programs.

“We aim to create spaces that will inspire and foster creativity, attract current and future generations of artists, and solidify the Meadows School’s place among the city’s top arts and cultural institutions,” said Samuel S. Holland, Algur H. Meadows Dean of the Meadows School.

Inside the Owen Arts Center is a world that transcends conventional boundaries, bridging the classic, contemporary and emerging frontiers. “It’s a place where they’re generating new, energetic and innovative ideas. New ways of seeing the world,” said Caren Prothro, chair of the Owen Arts Center Transformation initiative and member of the SMU Board of Trustees. “The Meadows School is such a dynamic part of SMU’s reputational rise, and I anticipate broad support from alumni and arts enthusiasts everywhere.”

To learn more about the renovation, visit smu.edu/TransformOwenArts.

About Meadows School of the Arts

The Meadows School of the Arts celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019. Formally established at SMU in 1969 and named in honor of benefactor Algur H. Meadows, it is one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States. The Meadows School offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, corporate communication and public affairs, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre. The goal of the Meadows School, as a comprehensive educational institution, is to prepare students to meet the demands of professional careers. The Meadows School is a leader in developing innovative outreach and community engagement programs, challenging its students to make a difference locally and globally by developing connections between art, entrepreneurship and change. Meadows is also a convener for the arts in North Texas, serving as a catalyst for new collaborations and providing critical industry research.

About The Meadows Foundation

The Meadows Foundation is a private philanthropic institution established in 1948 by Algur H. and Virginia Meadows from wealth accumulated through the General American Oil Company, once among the largest private oil and gas companies in the United States. The Foundation exists to assist people and institutions of Texas to improve the quality and circumstances of life for themselves and future generations. The Foundation strives to exemplify the principles of its founder in addressing basic human needs; protecting the environment; providing cultural enrichment; encouraging excellence; and promoting understanding and cooperation among people. Since its inception, the Foundation has disbursed more than $1.2 billion in grants and direct charitable expenditures to more than 3,500 Texas institutions and agencies. The Meadows Foundation grants funds in the areas of arts and culture, civic and public affairs, education and health and human services.

The Meadows Foundation traces its historic partnership with SMU back to the early 1960s, when Algur Meadows, an avid art collector, donated his Spanish art collection to SMU in honor of Virginia after her passing, along with a $1 million endowment to create the Virginia Meadows Museum within the Owen Arts Center. Mr. Meadows later donated his collection of sculptures by contemporary Italian artists to SMU to establish the Elizabeth Meadows Sculpture Garden, named in honor of his second wife. He gave an $8 million endowment to the SMU School of the Arts, and in gratitude for his gift and previous generosity, the SMU Board of Trustees renamed the school Meadows School of the Arts in 1969.

About Gene and Jerry Jones

Gene Jones has spent a lifetime in the pursuit of helping others. Under Gene’s enthusiastic direc-tion, the Jones Family has taken a major leader-ship role in their involvement with The Salvation Army – both at the local and national levels. She also played a key role in the design and construction of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas – the home of the Dallas Cowboys. Gene’s vision and commitment to the arts is responsible for the Dallas Cowboys Art Collection, which features 56 artists and 86 works of world-renowned contemporary art at AT&T Stadium and The Star in Frisco.

A dedicated supporter of the arts, Mrs. Jones is a member of the board of directors for the AT&T Performing Arts Center as well as for the Texas Cultural Trust. Other community service and support roles held by Mrs. Jones include: member of the SMU Board of Trustees, co-chair of the executive board for SMU Meadows School of the Arts, member of the board of directors for the John G. Tower Center for Public Policy and International Affairs at SMU, member of the George W. Bush Institute Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council, member of the Children’s Medical Center Dallas Board of Trustees and an involved member of the Sweetheart Ball.

Jerry Jones has been the owner, president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys since 1989. In 2017, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as just the 15th owner in history to earn a bust in Canton, Ohio. Also, in 2017, Mr. Jones was selected as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds in commemoration of Forbes magazine’s 100th anniversary and was recognized for his career contributions to sports in America by being named the recipient of the Sports Business Journal’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A man of varied interests, he is a dedicated businessman and family man, sharing a vivid enthusiasm for both.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones are the parents of three successful children – Stephen, Charlotte and Jerry, Jr. (SMU Law ’95) – and the proud grandparents of nine.

About Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers

Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers are renowned supporters of the arts and artists in Dallas and throughout the country. In addition to leading NCR Capital Group, Mrs. Rogers is an internationally recognized philanthropist and contemporary art collector. She has chaired TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art, a signature fundraising event for both its beneficiaries: the Dallas Museum of Art and amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.

Mr. Rogers is executive chairman for Mary Kay, Inc., which he co-founded with his mother, Mary Kay Ash, in 1963. Mr. Rogers’ son, Ryan, graduated from SMU in 1998. Mrs. Rogers’ niece and nephew both currently attend SMU, and one of her goddaughters graduated in 2017.

The couple also are longtime supporters of Crystal Charity, The Family Place, the Dallas Museum of Art – where Mrs. Rogers currently serves on the Board of Trustees – the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas Arboretum, Genesis Women’s Shelter and countless other causes.

In 2013, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers provided a leadership gift to SMU, in support of the Moody Coliseum renovation and expansion project. Mrs. Rogers also was actively involved in the building of the Chi Omega sorority house on SMU’s campus in 2014.

About G. Marlyne Sexton

Marlyne Sexton is a philanthropist and civic volunteer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the owner of The Sexton Companies, a nationwide builder and developer of apartment homes and communities based in Indianapolis, founded by her late husband, Joseph Sexton, in 1962. She is active as a board member of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, the 500 Festival Foundation, and a sponsor of the 500 Festival Princess Program Scholarship Fund. Other organizations benefiting from her generosity include the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis as a donor and distinguished advisor, IU Health North Hospital, Riley Children’s Hospital, Best Buddies International and the Inter- national SeaKeepers Society. Mrs. Sexton received the Indianapolis Opera’s Kathryn Taurel “Woman of the Arts” Award and is involved in producing and funding Broadway productions in New York and London.

Mrs. Sexton’s daughters, Nicole Sexton and Tracy Copeland, graduated from SMU Meadows School of the Arts. Nicole earned her B.F.A. in art history in 1987. She currently serves as president and chief executive officer of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and previously she held key positions at Central Park Conservancy in New York City and with Bono’s One Campaign. She established FEED Foundation as its first executive officer along with friend and collaborator Lauren Bush Lauren. Tracy earned her B.A. in journalism from SMU in 1982 and is an active philanthropist and volunteer for the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and other organizations in New Orleans. In addition to their current activities, both daughters, along with their mother, are active in the management of The Sexton Companies. All three women have joined in support of the Alzheimer’s Association, co-hosting various galas in the Hamptons and New York City.