Q&A: Scot Hart

From a Bishop Arts storefront, Kiestwood resident SCOT HART is changing the way Dallas does arts coverage. He’s the editor of THE Magazine, a new monthly publication focusing on everything from the big-wig art venues to the little guys.

You recently moved from Los Angeles, so how did you wind up being the editor of a Dallas arts magazine?
They scouted me out. I worked for Art LTD, which is a West Coast arts glossy. I was the managing editor there for four years. When the owners of THE in Santa Fe were launching L.A., they hired some of the staff from Art LTD to staff THE — they raided that magazine, basically. Then they found out from my friends that I was in Dallas, and called me up.

So you were already here by the time you got this gig?
I moved here because David [Lee Kelting] and I were tired of L.A. and the L.A. scene, and were looking around the country at different prospects to move to. We came to Dallas and asked our Realtor, who lives in Oak Cliff, to take us to museums and art galleries. Bishop Arts was the first place I saw the first day I was here. We had never been to Dallas, and the third day we were here on our trip, we bought a house. There was such a groundswell of energy here. Everyone we spoke to — the waitress at Tillman’s or someone pouring coffee at Starbucks — they all had very good things to say about the growing art scene here, so we liked that vibe. We were also looking for a city that was a little more progressive and had a fairly identifiable gay culture, and Dallas fit the bill.

Why did you choose Oak Cliff as your home, as well as your magazine headquarters for the entire metro area?
Oak Cliff is so pretty — all the trees, all the old houses, the character. We went to a few other areas, but they didn’t have the character, and they didn’t have the trees. Then when THE called me up, they said, ‘Oh we’re interested in doing this arts magazine, and we’d like you to be the editor. Where would you like to have your office?’ I told them No. 1 on my list would be Bishop Arts. Not only is it close to where I live, it’s a really charming grassroots type of place, and that’s part of our image. We’re not glossy on purpose.

What is THE magazine all about?
We tend to stay with contemporary art. We like to highlight mid-career and emerging artists. While we cover the majors in town — ­ Nasher, Theater Three — we also like to cover the smaller folks who don’t necessarily get the publicity in larger publications in town.

Why did THE choose this area as the next logical place?
They noticed a lot of collectors and artists visiting Santa Fe, and they started doing some research about the market here and found out that there was a huge arts market. We’re a little different than the other THE publications because we cover a broader range of art. The others are strictly contemporary. But once they got here, they found a dearth of coverage form other media outlets across the board, so we do try to open it up and include performance art as well.

What do you think about Dallas and Fort Worth media losing some of their art critics recently?
I think the economic situation of publishing is very fragile. It’s unfortunate, but the media conglomerates have chosen to ax most of the arts coverage versus maybe some other sections of the paper. Now if you’re in a market where there are minimal arts stories going on, that’s understandable, but Dallas rivals L.A. and in some ways New York. As the arts market is growing, the coverage is shrinking, which does no favors to progress the dialogue on the arts. Something that gets missed is that art is a great stimulus for the economy. Art is not just entertainment.

How is that?
Art is a big business, and really helps to draw in tourist dollars, which are very important for city economies. Art is year-round, where you might have football three or four months of the year. People will come to support the Cowboys — it’s a national, world-recognized team — but they might not come to see hockey, so between seasons you have a lull.

What have you learned about the Dallas art scene in the short time you’ve been here?
The arts community here is a bit fragmented. There’s a lot of it going on, and a lot of great work going on both in the individual and performance, but not everyone is working together at this point, and it’s something we’re trying to help bridge because for DFW to be considered a major arts destination, they’re all going to have to work in unison.

For people who are intimidated by art, what advice would you give them on enjoying art right around them?
Part of our mission is to educate the novice art patron. We have a kids’ page with things like the dos and don’ts of taking kids to a museum or an art gallery. We host symposiums, and we try to promote a lot of free events in the publication. In today’s economic situation, let me tell you, it’s a cheap date because they all serve wine — it’s a kind of wine crawl. You can socialize, bring your friends, have some fun for zero dollars.

What’s one of your favorite art venues here in the neighborhood?
I would love to give kudos to the Bishop Arts Theater Center. It’s a beautiful venue — they display local artists in the lobby and have a mini gallery going — and it’s a wonderful stage with comfortable seating. A real jewel for Oak Cliff.


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