Those who’ve grown to love and appreciate the historic Bath House Cultural Center in Northeast Dallas are in good spirits, but cautiously optimistic about its reopening.
Robert McVay’s relationship with the Bath House Cultural Center goes way back. He’s on the board of directors for Echo Theater, a theatrical organization that partnered with the Bath House many years ago and has been consistently putting on shows ever since.
“I know it really well. I’ve designed sets and lights here a lot. I’ve produced here some,” he said. “I think I did my first show here, a dance show maybe in 1985.”
For more than a year, the Bath House sat empty due to upgrades and the pandemic. The center is now open by appointments, and McVay said it feels good to be back inside.
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“It’s very unpretentious, it's very community-friendly. People wander in from the park all the time,” said McVay.
Nell Potasznik Langford is a visual artist whose work has been on display at the Bath House. She said she understands the significance of having a piece of art lining the walls.
“It’s very difficult to gain exposure, so this presents a very open, and very fun and approachable way to present your artwork to a very large audience,” she said.
The excitement, though, is accompanied by concern. The facility reopened without a permanent on-site manager – a position deemed critical by those who’ve been involved with the facility’s programs. Teresa Bond is a board member of the organization ‘Friends of the Bath House.’ She said they’ve petitioned the City of Dallas to hire a manager, but their efforts have been unsuccessful. Without someone in the position full-time, they fear lack of exposure and dwindling attendance.
“If there was only one employee at each of the cultural centers it would be the manager. That’s how critical it is,” said Bond. “The manager is the one who has the vision and the mission for the community at heart.”
However, city officials are confident the Bath House can be managed and maintained without the position filled. Jennifer Scripps is Director of the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture. She said difficult budget decisions were made after the previous manager retired.
She gave NBC 5 the following statement:
“Like every arts organization in America, the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture had to make hard decisions related to budgets and staffing. Bond dollars have been put to work to bring the Bath House back to life. Our staff continues to work to meet the needs of artists and arts organizations that call Bath House home.”
The facility boasts some 32,000 visitors per year. Bond says they simply want visitors to have the best possible experience and someone who will advocate for their community. Ultimately, shows will go on, with or without a permanent manager. McVay said he’s cautiously optimistic and hopes people will see the historic Bath House for what it is.
“It’s an important connection to the community,” said McVay.
Scripps tells us consideration for a full-time in-house manager isn’t permanently out of the question, but with current budget restraints, there is no guarantee. She said the city does have plans to hire a new cultural centers coordinator to oversee all cultural centers throughout the city. She said that person will focus heavily on the Bath House.
For more information about programs and visitation visit https://bathhouse.dallasculture.org/