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A Passage To India (Via Downtown Dallas)

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Categorized Under: Culture, Visual Arts

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Downtown Dallas is home to the Crow Collection of Asian Art. But by the end of the decade, a second museum dedicated to the world’s largest continent could open just a few blocks away. That museum will focus on South Asia.

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Just across Woodall Rodgers Freeway from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, a parking lot takes up a prime chunk of real estate. But one day, that spot will be home to a center dedicated to the art and culture of India.

That’s because a prominent Dallas doctor has bought the land with the idea of building a museum and learning center dedicated to India and other South Asian countries.

VinayJain

Dr. Vinay Jain

Dr. Vinay Jain is the Dallas oncologist who now owns the 4.7 acre property. He says the proximity to the Perot Museum and Dallas World Aquarium means his museum will be in an area that people already visit to learn.

“We feel this location gives an opportunity to expose a lot of people who may not otherwise be contemplating visiting a center or a museum or a cultural opportunity to learn about this whole subcontinent of South Asia,” he says.

Dr. Jain was born in India and has lived in Dallas for 20 years. Until a few months ago, his plan was to build a modest center dedicated to his home country. But when he heard about the chance to buy the land downtown, he started thinking big.

While Dr. Jain stresses that it’s still early, his vision for the space includes galleries dedicated to South Asian art, classrooms for teaching Indian languages and a theater to show movies from the region.

And he’s already hired Dr. Gardner Harris, an expert in Asian cultures and languages, to think through the center’s possibilities. Which is a tall order.

“When you try to encapsulate a particular region of the world that has maybe 5,000 years of documented history, how do you do it?,” Dr. Harris said. “Do you focus on one area, do you focus on just a couple?”

Dr. Jain has already consulted with the Crow Collection of Asian Art. The Crow Collection shows art from across Asia, including the Indian subcontinent. But where others might see the potential for competition between the museums, the Crow says there’s an opportunity for collaboration.

“Absolutely,” says Stacie Wheelock Adams, the Crow Collection’s Director of External Affairs. “Some of the things that are obvious fits – for example, we have an annual Diwali celebration here that we’ve been doing for many years. We also have a street festival called Discover India, that’s very popular. … We’re already engaging with the Indian community; I see that talking throughout this process as a great way to help them get started and get engaged.

One thing that the Crow has already figured out is that specialized museums have to attract visitors from all backgrounds. Dr. Jain says that’s his goal, too.

“We would not have invested this sort of money if I only wanted to cater to the 50,000 or 80,000 people who were either born in India or the subcontinent or the children of those parents,” he said.

Dr. Jain declined to say how much he paid for the land, but its tax-assessed value at $12.3 million.

The next step is to choose an architect to design the project. If everything falls into place, the center could open its doors in 2018.