Damien Hirst’s painting of George Michael, above, was a stellar work.

The most amazing things in North Texas culture in 2017

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
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The end of the year — and beginning of a new one — is a convenient time to reflect on where we started and how far we’ve come. Think about it: Virtually all of the things on this admittedly arbitrary list were not really true just 12 months ago (we left out President Trump, because hey, we’re trying to be positive here). You learned all these 20 or so things since this time last year … or you didn’t when they happened, and you now know about them. That’s pretty awesome.

The DMA gets amazing. The hiring of executive director Agustin Arteaga in 2016 was a masterstroke for the Dallas Museum of Art, which saw attendance — and acclaim — soar. Arteaga imported an exhibition of Mexican artists that broke records; he installed the amazing Yayoi Kusama infinity mirror room and made the famed Keir Collection of Islamic Art a permanent fixture. And that’s just in his first 16 months.

DMA’s dazzling Infinity Mirror Room, devoted to pumpkins by Yayoi Kusama.

The Dallas Theater Center wins the Tony Award. ’Bout time.

Poke bowls us over. The signature dish of the Hawaiian islands, a kind of rice-bowl-meets-tuna-tartare, becomes a major influence in the Dallas foodie scene. We’re cool with that.

A trans man becomes Mr. Texas Leather. Rylee Janus Spire proves your gender at birth can’t stop you from entering the rarefied world of leathermen.

The next season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars gets all Dallas-y. Shangela and Kennedy Davenport are announced as two of the nine contestants (a 10th will be named later) set to compete on the upcoming third All Stars installment of the drag competition.

New leadership stakes a claim at local arts companies. Joanie Schultz takes over as the new artistic director at WaterTower Theatre (and soon brings on a new managing director, Nick Even) and makes a statement with her first show, the Stonewall history Hit the Wall, while the Fort Worth Opera fires one gay general director (Darren Woods) and soon hires another (Tuomas Hiltunen). Meanwhile, Keith Cerny makes a sudden departure as CEO of the Dallas Opera.

The Arboretum gets a major overhaul. We love the Dallas Arboretum anyway, but its new A Tasteful Place pavilion and garden has really expanded its mission and improved its grounds.

Neil deGrasse Tyson explains it all for you. The rock star astronomer’s two-and-a-half hour apparently impromptu lecture about the universe, including us peons here on earth and how we think, was the most compelling educational event of the year. (And he’s coming back with a new show on Jan. 18!)

Gay North Texas-based ice skater wins bronze at U.S. Nationals. Timothy LeDuc and his skating partner Ashley Cain won bronze in pairs skating in January, and continue to make inroads in international competition.

The North Texas theater community says “#MeToo.” TheaterJones.com breaks a major story about Lee Trull — a longtime theater professional with ties to the Dallas Theater Center, Kitchen Dog Theater, Stage West and more — about sexual predation over years, and he is promptly disavowed and/or dismissed from his assignments. And word has it the scandal — as in Hollywood and Washington — is only beginning.

Rene Moreno, the peerless stage director, dies at 57. For the local theater community, the loss was incalculable.

Within a span of three days (Dec. 25–28, 2016), the world lost George Michael, Carrie Fisher and  Debbie Reynolds. And the gayverse seemed a little emptier.

George Michael’s legacy. The former Dallas resident left us his final project, a compelling autobiographical documentary (George Michael: Freedom), and his former partner, Kenny Goss, brought an amazing new painting by legendary artist Damien Hirst to Dallas for auction, netting a mint for charity.

Dallas gay Pride parade gets its first name sponsor. Gay-inclusive craft beermaker Lakewood Brewing Co. raises a glass for diversity.

The BSA slowly joins the human race. After allowing gay leaders, the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America announced a position permitting trans members, as well as girls, to join its ranks. Welcome to the new millennium! (P.S. It’s 17 years old.)

Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer prove sex allegations aren’t exclusively hetero. Allegations of unwanted sexual advances by both the actor and the director (who together made The Usual Suspects and Superman Returns) opened the debate from woman-only allegations to same-sex claims. And Spacey also came out.

Theater director Derek Whitener is brutally bashed, and his colleagues rally in support. The attack outside of Target on the out theater professional triggered a massive upswell in support that emboldened the entire theater community to stand up for its own.

The Resource Center gets its first-ever straight president. Deborah McMurray proves serving the community crosses gender-identity lines.

The Katy Trail crosses the road to let you get to the other side. The extension opens, finally connecting the 3.5 mile running, walking and biking trail with Mockingbird Station on the east side of North Central Expressway.

Lee Park changes its name back to Oak Lawn Park. With the statue of namesake Robert E. Lee removed, why not? Arlington Hall remains the same, despite its association with the confederate general.