Mesquite Arts Council/Arts Center Organizational History


Founded in 1981, the Mesquite Arts Council initially was a part of the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce Cultural Committee. Official recognition by the State of Texas occurred in 1984 as a result of the development of by-laws, articles of incorporation and tax exempt status. With the successful organization of the community theatre in 1985, the Arts Council assisted the band, chorus, and orchestra with an equitable allocation of hotel/motel tax monies. Delivery of the Local Cultural Grants Program in 1993 by the Arts Council, to the arts nonprofit community further solidified a commitment to arts services and continues to date. Currently, and in addition to the previously listed arts administration elements, the Mesquite Arts Council provides management, administrative support and policy making toward the operation of the Mesquite Arts Center, monthly publication of marketing materials, the public art program and both visual and performance presenting schedule.


The Arts Council has broadened its arts and cultural responsibilities from initially sponsoring the Mesquite Music Festival to providing for the community a variety of events. Writer’s in the Schools at Mesquite Libraries and at Mesquite recreation centers, a theatre season with The Black Box MAC Actors, JazzBreaks in June, Chamber Music (both instrumental and vocal) and the Summer Children’s Theatre/Art Camp are offered to the community with much of the programming available free to the public. Presenting local visual artists and touring art exhibits insures that the galleries support a variety of work, including photography, works on canvas including oils & watercolor, handwork including weaving & quilts, and sculpture. International artists such as James Dick, the Debussy String Quartet and the Chamber Singers are included in the chamber music series. The Arts Council presents mainstream theatre and brings popular children’s and bi-lingual theatre to the Black Box Theatre. Through several partnerships, the Arts Council programs for at-risk youth in designated neighborhoods. Other partnerships provide partial funding to senior citizen programs, architectural planning at historical properties and the September 11 Memorial Garden. Grants to the Arts Council supporting local programming includes, Texas Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Historical Commission and the State Arts Action Network which is part of Americans for the Arts.


The Arts Council board and staff have oversight of six endowments. Those named endowments include the Jeann & Ralph Wisenbaker, Bass/Brown/Collins, John & Alta Nichols, Edward Jones/Keith Singleton, Dr. Cary Tanamachi and Dede Duson. These endowments provide partial funding of the following programs:

  • Jeann & Ralph Wisenbaker, Edward Jones/Keith Singleton, Dr. Cary Tanamachi
    JazzBreaks on the Plaza & the Black Box MAC Actors
  • John & Alta Nichols
    Summer Children’s Theatre or Art Camp
  • Bass/Brown/Collins
    Sculpture acquisition
  • Dede Duson as designated by Jean Rogers Winchell of San Antonio, Texas
    Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas annual concert featuring the music of Dede Duson


The Arts Council has provided training for potential board members and general referral and financial assistance to each “start-up” nonprofit. The Arts Council has also provided a central focus to the cultural enrichment of Mesquite and eastern Dallas County communities. Broad, Arts Council board representation, including administrators from area colleges, Mesquite Independent School District, the local business community, elected city officials, and city staff, position the Arts Council for strong community leadership with committed financial support.


The Mesquite Arts Council provides partial salary reimbursement for the management of the Mesquite Arts Center. Prior to completion in December 1995 a major fundraising effort provided equipment and landscaping at the center. Generally, staff coordinates requests for space from the public, school district, city departments, and the 17 arts groups that lease from the center. Additionally staff prepares facility budgets including maintenance, operations and salaries. Recent figures indicate that over 80,000 people visit yearly and over 590 events take place at the Arts Center. In addition to making policies regarding the Mesquite Arts Center, the Mesquite Arts Council Board of Directors continues to provide support towards marketing, advertising and presenting the arts in Mesquite.


The recently completed Arts Center Master Plan forecasts the ability of the arts council to present a broad array of arts events. Doubling the square footage of the arts center will certainly provide for larger audiences, programming a greater number of arts events and enhance the image of Mesquite. During the spring of 2010 the Arts Council board of directors will undertake strategic planning and goals for the next five years.


On December 20, 2004 City Council approved the Mesquite Public Art Policy/Plan. Two-percent of capital improvement construction projects will go toward a public art component. Five public art projects have been completed: The Mesquite Animal & Adoption Center – “Connections” a metal sculpture consisting of carbon and polished steel, approximately 12 feet high by artist Terri Stone; Vanston Leisure Pool – “solar tide” is a hand cut, ceramic tile wall 7’ x 39’ by artist Dakota Warren; and the Community Services Building – “Calyx” is made of concrete and native plant material by landscape artist David Baldwin.

The largest public art project in the history of Mesquite was completed in the summer of 2011. Two sculptures commissioned for the Mesquite Municipal Complex, located at 757 N. Galloway in Mesquite, Texas are by internationally recognized artists Cliff Garten and Tim Prentice. “Mesquite Columns” consists of two stainless steel, 23 foot high lighted columns that represent the mesquite leaf and is by artist Cliff Garten. Tim Prentice created “Three Ribbons” of aluminum plates that are 1 foot high by 12 feet long which undulate within the interior environment.

The temporary sculpture exhibit entitled “Art Around Town” also features a variety of art work and is located throughout the City. For detailed descriptions, installation photos and a brochure depicting the locations of these artworks please go to

Mesquite Arts Council/Arts Center Overview


The Mesquite Arts Council is a nonprofit organization designated to support and nourish the arts in Mesquite. The Council allocates local grants funds and resources for the arts, provides needed services to artists, member organizations and the community; is an advocate for culturally diverse arts programs and is active in the community with regard to cultural planning, development and advocacy of the arts.


The board is comprised of 11 members and 5 standing committees (grants review committee, by-laws revision committee, public art committee, Duson Endowment Committee and the technology committee)


  • January 8
  • April 9
  • July 9
  • October 7 (Arts Presentation to Mesquite City Council)
  • December 6 (Annual Arts Council Member Appreciation)
Arts Council BUDGET= 70% Hotel/Motel Tax Fund
  30% Contributions, Grants, Ticket sales/concessions
Budget FY 2013 $139,057
Arts Center BUDGET FY 2013 = Maintenance and Operation = costs $270,000.00; income from rentals, leases, $65,000.00

Arts Council/Arts Center Administrative STAFF

2 full time

Arts Center Operational STAFF

3 custodians (time is divided between the Arts Center and the Municipal Center)


Seventeen Arts Groups provide programming at the Mesquite Arts Center. The volunteer base is substantial and numbers approximately four-hundred. A volunteer handbook is available from the Arts Council office and is used as a guide by each of the Arts Groups.


  • Mesquite Area Music Teachers
  • Mesquite Symphony Orchestra
  • Mesquite Symphony Guild
  • Mesquite Symphonic Band
  • Reflections Chorus
  • Mesquite Creative Arts Club
  • Texas Area Artists
  • Mesquite Community Theatre


  • Mesquite Arts Council – presents chamber music, jazz concerts, professional theatre, touring visual art exhibits, children’s art/theatre camps, literary events
  • Children’s & Youth Chorus of Greater Dallas
  • Texas Winds – music outreach to seniors in the metroplex - presents 26 concerts in Mesquite nursing homes and senior centers
  • Mesquite Jazz Repertory Ensemble
  • Texas Voices
  • Junior Players Guild
  • Missoula Children’s Theatre
  • Exhibits USA – offers touring exhibitions of visual arts and humanities
  • Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services
  • Michael Cross Gallery & Studio – two dimensional art in paint, charcoal and other media
  • Terri Stone – sculptures in metal and other media
  • Jeff Green – art from found objects
  • Michael Cassidy - photography
  • Laura & Brad Abrams – stone, metal and glass sculpture
  • Eliseo Garcia – metal and stone sculpture


  • Texans for the Arts
  • North Texas Arts Alliance
  • Historic Mesquite Inc.
  • Mesquite Business Committee for the Arts
  • Mesquite Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • “The Rows” Mesquite Economic Development
  • Mesquite Independent School District
  • John and Alta Nichols Art Camp
  • North Texas Business for Arts & Culture
  • Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs
  • State Arts Action Network
  • Texas Commission on the Arts
  • Texas Historical Commission
  • Texas Lakes Trail
  • Americans for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Arts


The Arts Council manages the Mesquite Arts Center. The Arts Center is designed for specific arts disciplines, which include vocal, chamber and orchestral music; drama and the visual arts. The concert hall seats 500 and contains a canopied stage (not curtained) for music. The Black Box Theatre is scheduled by three different theatre companies for the production of children’s theatre, mainstream and contemporary plays, and the Rehearsal Hall is used for recitals, art demonstrations, meetings and receptions. Two galleries support local artists and touring art exhibits. Each of these areas surrounds the Jeann & Ralph Wisenbaker Courtyard, which is used for receptions, jazz concerts and Shakespearean productions.

In May of 2003, Milton Powell & Partners prepared a masterplan for the proposed expansion of the Mesquite Arts Center. The plan was presented to the Mesquite Arts Council Board of Directors, the mayor and city council members for the City of Mesquite. At an estimated cost of $12 million, the expansion will include a 900 seat Main Auditorium, new visual arts gallery, an outdoor performance space/sculpture garden and 200 seat lecture/recital hall. Additionally, expanded parking and bus drop off will be included in the plan.

TOTAL 2012 Events and Participants at the Mesquite Arts Center

Total number of events 489


Arts Groups --86,890
City Employee classes --3,510
Public sponsored events --346
School District events --200
Total --90,946


Arts and Cultural Programming:

  • Internationally recognized series of chamber music concerts occurs year round (a focus on summer programming is significant).
  • Local artists are invited to exhibit in the Main & Chamber Galleries. The Arts Council assists in the hanging and placement of the work, produces publicity material, title plates and often funds artist receptions.
  • Professional jazz musicians are presented in June of each year for free outdoor concerts.
  • Arts Council funding to Junior Players Guild provides for free after-school writing programs and summer children’s theatre camps in Mesquite recreation centers. Both of these programs are provided at no cost to the City of Mesquite and the Mesquite Independent School District.

Arts Education:

  • Endowment funded activities by the Arts Council include arts youth camps such as the John & Alta Nichols Children’s Theatre Camp and Art Camp.
  • Three endowments are managed by the Mesquite Arts Council and they include the Jeann & Ralph Wisenbaker, Edward Jones/Keith Singleton, Dr. Cary Tanamachi Endowments. Currently the endowment funds are used in support of the summer jazz series and the mainstream theatre productions. The summer jazz series is presented each Tuesday evening in June and the Black Box MAC Actors present two plays annually for a total of twelve performances.
  • The Dede Duson Endowment as established by Jean Rogers Winchell provides funding for the annual children’s choral concert.
  • Junior Players Guild of Dallas is a partner with the Mesquite Arts Council in presenting after school and summer arts programs in Mesquite libraries and recreation centers

Grant Making:

  • The Mesquite Arts Council, through the Hotel/Motel Tax Fund of the City of Mesquite, provides the Local Cultural Grants Program to area arts organizations. Through an established peer review process, delivery by contract for arts services from applicant organizations is managed professionally. In 2012 eleven applications from seven arts organizations requested funding for arts projects of $29,500. Additionally, Arts Center staff serves on statewide arts panels for peer review of applicants to the Texas Commission on the Arts grants program.

Services to artists and Arts Organizations:

  • The Arts Council provides technical assistance with a broad range of elements specific to nonprofit operation including: the effective nonprofit board, grant writing techniques, contract management, newsletter production and other printed material, producing events and festivals and essential elements of publicity.


  • The Arts Council staff provides arts advocacy to elected officials, the City Council and School Board; and assists the Economic Development Department with visual aids and statistics representing the Arts in Mesquite. Staff serves the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce as the cultural liaison to the board of directors and serves on the board of Texans for the Arts, a statewide organization.

Public Art Policy/Plan

  • City Council approved on December 20, 2004 the Public Art Policy for the City of Mesquite. “two percent of all capital improvement construction projects will be used for a public art component.”

Community Cultural Planning & Development:

  • The Arts Council staff produces surveys, community cultural plans and performs strategic planning every five years. Staff provides analysis and performance measures documents for public review which is published annually in the City of Mesquite Budget Manual.