Dallas herd is a hit with tourists

August 18, 1996|By Michael Precker | Michael Precker,DALLAS MORNING NEWS

After years of long-distance friendship, the Colemans of England are visiting the Conaways of Texas for the first time, and the hosts are eager to show off Dallas, their hometown.

First up on the tour is the big cattle sculpture at Pioneer Plaza.

"This is wonderful," says Ron Coleman, as he takes photographs of 40 oversized bronze longhorns moseying from a real, historic cemetery down a man-made hill under the watchful eyes of three oversize bronze cowboys.

"It's fantastic workmanship," says Coleman, a retired management consultant who lives in Hampshire. "It's so realistic. It depicts what the area is all about. And it really gives some personality to the place."

Never mind the artistic quibbles. Stop wondering whether a cattle trail through downtown Dallas truly reflects Texas history, or whether there ought to be a fancy hotel adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center instead.

Two years after the first cow hit the Young Street trail -- and before the project is even finished -- the big bronze bovines are a hit.

Conventioneers wander over for a look. Kids climb on the steers. Busloads of tourists and carloads of locals can't resist.

"Pioneer Plaza has been a boon for the image of our city," says Stephen G. Foster, vice president for sales and marketing at Gray Line of Dallas-Fort Worth. "When you go to Washington, you see great monuments; when you go to Miami, you see art-deco stuff. There wasn't a signature piece to say, 'This is Dallas.' It's really nice to show visitors we've taken care of our heritage."

Gail Sachson, an art educator and consultant, opposed the project as a member of the Dallas Public Art Committee. When she leads bus tours of Dallas art, she tries to slip by Pioneer Plaza without stopping. "But then it's mutiny on the bus," she says. "It never ceases to amaze me how they want to get off and see it and take pictures. Here I am, an accomplice to something I thought would be so tacky. But I must admit people love it."

Reactions such as those are all the vindication that Robert Summers needs. The artist, who lives in Glen Rose, Texas, designed the plaza and sculpted the steers, which were cast in Wyoming. "To me, that's what a park monument should be -- to draw people so they can get away from their hustle and bustle," he says.

Pub Date: 8/18/96

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