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SXSW: Keeping data secure, possible ‘killer apps’ and more

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Good morning from rainy Austin, where I’m attending this year’s South By Southwest Interactive gathering!  I’ll be posting here periodically over the next three days about emerging trends and topics from the conference, particularly about the colliding worlds of art, technology and human behavior.  If you have questions or want to suggest a topic, let me know at @amelson on Twitter.

South By Southwest, the sprawling annual conference that crowds Austin and surrounding areas every March, is back this year with what may be its largest Interactive offering ever, drawing an expected crowd of more than 30,000 attendees (the film and music portions of the conference will bring another 40,000 or so next week).  Austin Kleon, who writes frequently about creative openness and collaboration between artists and creators, used his opening keynote on Friday to sarcastically reiterate a frequent complaint: “Is (SXSW) over? Has it gotten too big?”

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at SXSW, March 7, 2014. (Greg Swan via Flickr)

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at SXSW, March 7, 2014. (Greg Swan via Flickr)

Despite (or because of) the conference’s size, there are plenty of fascinating sessions to check out.  NPR’s Elise Hu wrote a nice primer on expected areas of focus for this year’s conference, including a number of sessions focused on privacy and security.  This topic is of particular interest now, given the past year’s revelations about National Security Agency spying, as well as spying or hacking incidents attributed to a number of other countries.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will be appearing separately via teleconference during SXSW to discuss their direct roles in uncovering supposed government intrusions (Editor’s Note: KERA’s Stephen Becker filed this report on Assange’s chat), but Friday’s early sessions featured a chat with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who delved into the company’s issues with governments trying to gain access to its data.

“We have strengthened our defenses in ways we have said publicly, and some other ones we have not disclosed,” Schmidt said. “We think your information is very safe from what we view as inappropriate actions by foreign and domestic governments.”

He urged attendees to be vigilant about maintaining their own data security, and vowed that Google will continue to advocate for protecting its users’ information, saying, “”You should fight for your privacy or lose it.”

Other topics that pop up a lot in the schedule (and that we’ll be covering here) include the concept of an Internet of Things – the proliferation of connected devices in our everyday lives, from smartphones and tablets to TVs and appliances – and the blurring of lines between branding and storytelling.

New app Frontback.

New app Frontback.

Besides the actual sessions, there’s plenty of hype each year around potential breakout products – fitting, given the conference’s reputation for helping new “killer apps” make it big.  This year’s early buzz includes Secret, an elegant new app from former Google and Square employees that is singularly focused on sharing anonymously – like a Facebook or Twitter with no names.   Given that your initial social circle in the app is built off of your contacts list, it remains to be seen how anonymous it really is (even without your name attached to posts), but it bears watching.

Other apps popping up in discussions around the conference include Jelly, an offering from Twitter cofounder Biz Stone that launched in January and encourages collective Q&A – a way to post questions and get answers, or as the company puts it, “A loosely distributed networks of people coordinating via Jelly to help each other.”  And lastly, a fun app called Frontback, with a name that describes its purpose: It allows you to post photos using both the front- and rear-facing cameras simultaneously.  A limited premise, but one that should still draw a lot of downloads – and has already drawn millions in funding.

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SMU Study Finds Gender Inequality in Art Museum Director’s Salaries

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shutterstock_120767212All images from Shutterstock

 Hey, another month, another revealing arts-data study from SMU’s National Center for Arts Research.

Fewer than 43 percent of art museum directors are women. And the female directors, on average, are paid less than their male counterparts. These are the results of a joint study done by SMU’s NCAR and the Association of Art Museum Directors. It found that female directors at museums with budgets of more than $15 million earn 71 cents for every $1 male directors earn. At the same time, women who run art museums with smaller budgets do earn more than their male counterparts – annually, they earn 2 cents more.

Averaging both groups, though, still leaves a gender gap for female directors of 79 cents for every dollar male directors earn.

For North Texas art museums, the Kimbell is the only one that would be a “top” museum by reason of its budget. The study notes that across all non-profits with budgets of more than $50 million, women hold only 16 percent of the CEO positions.

In all this, the study takes into account other factors besides gender that may have led to the salary disparity. It concludes that the only other relevant influence involves whether a director was promoted from within a museum or hired from without. ‘External hires’ generally get bigger salaries; women are more often promoted from within.

In his recent State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama cited the familiar statistic that, on average, American women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn, calling it an “embarrassment.” He was taken to task for using a dubious, sweeping average that doesn’t account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours per week. Christina Hoff Sommers, a frequent critic of feminism, has argued, “Much of the wage gap can be explained away by simply taking account of college majors.” In other words, women tend to enter professions (human services, social work, the arts) that typically pay less than the engineering and science professions (pharmacy, metallurgy, petroleum) that are mostly male and are often the highest-paid. The same may be said of finance and business administration: less than 5 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are female.

But the NCAR / AAMD study finds gender inequality within a single profession. This bias has been changing, the study says, over the past five to ten years and it suggests “that advances will continue to be made toward equality.” The study doesn’t state this explicitly but the implication raised by the female directors in smaller art museums being paid slightly more is that this is a generational change. In short, these female directors haven’t been in the field long enough — yet — to be promoted to the ‘top’ museums. It also suggests that the reason often given for not hiring a female director from outside a museum — that there’s isn’t a good enough pool of qualified candidates — will increasingly not reflect reality.

The full release and report:

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Saturday Spotlight – Untapped Fort Worth

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untapped_ftw_2014_851x315For this week’s Art & Seek Spotlight, we’re off to the Panther Island Pavilion for Untapped Fort Worth. On the line-up at this annual festival are the best in craft beer and both emerging and national bands. Enjoy music by Quaker City Night Hawks, Topic, and The Joy Formidable while tasting local brews and perusing the work of area artisans.

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The High Five: SXSW Starts Today

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SXSW starts today in Austin. (

SXSW starts today in Austin. (

Five stories that have North Texas talking: A little festival starts today in Austin; say “so long” to Gloria Campos; the wildflower forecast looks pretty good; and more:

  • It’s early March, so you know Austin will be hopping: It’s time for SXSW (or South By Southwest.) There are festivals focusing on music, film and interactive. The event wraps up March 16. (It began in 1987, by the way.) Music sessions range from “Anyone Can DJ: Democratization of Music Creation” to “90s Suburbia: A Revival of Letters, Tapes & Zines.” Film festival keynote speakers include Marc Webb, director of The Amazing Spider-Man and Lena Dunham, who stars in the HBO series, Girls. The New York Times reports that this year’s event will have a more international flavor. “Many Silicon Valley companies aren’t making the trip. Instead, the nifty new thing that captures the attention and social calendars of attendees could be from South Korea, Brazil, Europe or Africa.” Attendees represent 74 countries this year, up from 54 last year. Various KERA and KXT staffers will be attending – and will share their experiences on the radio next week.
  • Say “so long” to Gloria Campos. The longtime WFAA-TV news anchor is retiring. Her last newscast will be at 10 p.m. Friday. Campos, WFAA’s first Hispanic anchor, started at the station in 1984. For many years, she anchored both the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, but cut back to doing just the 10 p.m. newscast in recent years. Campos spoke with KERA 90.1 FM about her career — that interview will air Friday morning and afternoon on KERA. Watch videos of Campos and her lengthy TV career.
  • The forecast is calling for colorful displays of wildflowers in the parts of Texas that received ample fall and winter rains. The University of Texas at Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center said Thursday that while cooler-than-usual weather might delay the wildflower season in some parts of Texas, many areas should have full blooms and the first stirrings of spring can already be seen. The Wildflower Center reports that cold weather in North Texas has slowed the onset of this year’s season, but there have been sightings of spring beauties at the new Elmer W. Oliver Nature Park in Mansfield and elbow bush at Cedar Ridge Preserve in Dallas. Trout lilies came to life in recent weeks in Tandy Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth. Large colonies may be seen at places such as Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, Cedar Mountain Preserve and White Rock Lake. Get the latest statewide forecast.
  • The Dallas Woman’s Forum presents its third annual Antiques at the Alexander Saturday and Sunday at the Alexander Mansion in Dallas. The public is invited to bring in their antiques for on-the-spot evaluations by appraisers and conservators and to hear lectures, all centered on a French theme. On Saturday, there will be lectures on French jewelry, art, furniture and porcelain. Appraisal and conservator consultations will be given on Sunday.
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Check Out The Ark On Noah Street. It’ll Be There For 40 Days And 40 Nights.

ark 1editResidents in an Oak Cliff neighborhood have teamed up with an artist to come up with a novel way to draw attention to vacant and abandoned homes threatening the Historic 10th Street District. Together, they built an ark.

Recently, they filled it with history and memories worth preserving. It’s one part of “Activating Vacancy,” a plan from Building Community Workshop. Of course, the giant vessel will be around for at least 40 days and 40 nights.

KERA’s Anne Bothwell talked to Fort Worth artist Christopher Blay about building the ark … on Noah Street.

You can listen to the conversation here:

The ark stands on the parking lot of Greater El Bethel Baptist Church, one of the oldest African-American churches in Dallas. It’s built around a 20-foot shipping container. The container is covered with doors, windows and screens that were collected from abandoned homes around the neighborhood and from a nearby salvage yard.

One of the more recent additions came from a home across the alley that burned just before the ark was constructed. Doors from the church were donated by the congregation, and mark the four corners of the ark “to give a symbolic nod to the church,” Blay says.

The neighborhood chipped in

The original Noah’s Ark is said to have contained a pair of all the animals.

“I’m sticking with the 2-by-2 motif,” Blay says. “I gave the residents that participated these 2-foot square panels where I encouraged them to create their family narratives. A lot of them put photographs and letters and family histories. It became this really rich collection of information which is what I was hoping for.”

Recently, the residents had a parade, which started at a nearby daycare center. They carried their panels to the ark.

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‘Night Of The Proms’ Coming To Verizon, Tickets Available Tonight Only On KERA-TV

nile rogersNile Rogers and Chic in Night of the Proms

The Night of the Proms will be spending a night in North Texas.

Night of the Proms is the annual concert in Europe that’s been a major event for three decades. It’s played to more than 9 million people. The show, which combines rock ‘n’ roll, classical music and splashy sets, will be coming to America for the first time for four performances. One of these will be at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie on June 19.  The concert will feature Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, the Pointer Sisters and a 24-voice choir.

Tickets are not yet on sale. But a limited number of tickets will be offered tonight beginning at 7 pm on KERA Channel 13. Channel 13 will be airing the television special, Night of the Proms, a greatest-hits selection of concert performances in Europe.

The full release follows:

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The High Five: ‘Alright, Alright, Alright!’ Matthew McConaughey Has His Own Clothing Line

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One of the shirts from Matthew McConaughey's clothing line. (Credit: JKL/Dillard's)

One of the shirts from Matthew McConaughey’s clothing line. (Credit: JKL/Dillard’s)

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Matthew McConaughey is a “resident philosopher;” BuzzFeed profiles Dale Hansen; how did a little-known candidate make it into a runoff, and more.

  • You know that Matthew McConaughey has an Oscar – but did you know he has his own clothing line? It’s called JKL or “Just Keep Living.” It’s sold through Dillard’s. Some of the clothing has references to McConaughey’s Dazed and Confused, such as: “Be a lot cooler if you did.” But no: “Alright, alright, alright!” – a line from the same movie and a line that the Longview native used during his Oscar acceptance speech. (Or should it be “All right, all right, all right!”) JKL’s website declares: “JKL isn’t just about the clothes on your back. It’s about what’s in your head, what’s in your heart, and the things that get you out of bed every day.” McConaughey is JKL’s “resident philosopher; a rugged, masculine thinker whose own lifestyle, is a model of adventure, curiosity and determination.” A portion of the sales supports the just keep livin Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by McConaughey, which implements after-school fitness and wellness programs in inner-city high schools. (Read more about it from Jezebel and Texas Monthly.)
  • Dale Hansen’s commentary on Michael Sam, the Missouri football player who’s gay, went viral, and Hansen appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Then Hansen’s commentary was auto-tuned. But, as we all know, Hansen, the long-time WFAA-TV sports anchor, was a big deal even before his Sam commentary. Leave it to BuzzFeed to explore the anchor’s long history in North Texas. Hansen “first made a name for himself and the station nearly 30 years ago when he broke a story involving a Southern Methodist University slush fund for under-the-table payments to football players. Since then he’s tangled with the area’s sports icons — Tom Landry, Jerry Jones, and Barry Switzer, to name a few. … His defense of child victims in the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal hinted at a deep reservoir of empathy.”

Here’s Hansen’s Sam commentary:

  • How To Pick A Candidate In Texas: Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe. Ever heard of Jim Hogan? Well, not many people have, but he made it into the Democratic runoff for agriculture commissioner. Hogan thanks God for his victory. His campaign clearly had little to do with it. Hogan paid his filing fee and then did essentially nothing else. NPR’s Alan Greenblatt reports: “Nevertheless, Hogan, a cattle farmer from Cleburne, came out on top in the Democratic primary for agriculture commissioner. With 39 percent of the vote, he finished ahead of Kinky Friedman, the country singer turned perennial candidate, and bison rancher Hugh Fitzsimons.” It might have been a case of reverse name recognition. Texas Democratic officials didn’t want Friedman occupying a space on the statewide ticket and had backed Fitzsimons, to no avail. Texas has long ballots, which can be intimidating for even the most savvy voter.
  • The Dallas Film Commission said this week that NBC Universal will shoot two pilots in Dallas in the next few weeks. The Dallas Morning News reports they are Salvation starring Ashley Judd and Two to Go, a comedy in which Jason Bateman is an executive producer. Janis Burklund, director of the Dallas Film Commission, told the News that Salvation is scheduled to shoot here March 10-26, followed the next day by Two to Go, which wraps April 4. Burklund says more projects may be coming to Dallas. Whether these shows will actually make it on the air – well, we’ll find out …
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The Big Screen: Revisiting ‘Bottle Rocket’

Next Friday, native Texan Wes Anderson releases his new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. To mark the occasion, our Big Screen team returns to 1996 for a look at Anderson’s first movie, Bottle Rocket, which he made in Dallas.

Wanna see Bottle Rocket on the silver screen? Chris Vognar will introduce a special screening of the film tonight at 7 at the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson. It’s showing as part of the Drafthouse’s Wes Anderson Week.

Be sure to subscribe to The Big Screen on iTunes. Stream this week’s episode below or download it.

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Dallas Architect EG Hamilton Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

940_448_Corridor-Leaping-HareLarge Leaping Hare by Barry Flanagan at NorthPark Center. Photo credit: Gary Blockley

On Thursday the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects  is handing out 21 awards, including a lifetime achievement award to EG Hamilton. Hamilton co-founded the firm OMNIPLAN and he’s designed homes and office buildings from Geneva to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. But KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports North Texans know him best for one ageless landmark that turns 50 next year.

  • KERA radio story:
  • Online story:

NorthPark Center can fool a visitor. The building opened in 1965 and at first sight, it may not impress, what with its simple lines and its cream-colored brick. Beyond the stores here, what’s most striking visually are the decorative plantings, the fountains and, of course, the notable artworks from the collection of the late owners, Raymond and Patsy Nasher. It can even look like the building was designed to house and encompass them. It wasn’t; the sculpture collection came later.

Architect Vel Hawes worked on different expansions at NorthPark; he has a knowledgeable eye for the building. “One thing that always strikes me about NorthPark is the light,” he says, pointing up to the clerestory along the ceiling. “These little windows along the edge plus the skylights always bring in natural light. I think that’s always important, and then the Nashers had a great sense about the placement of art. So generally it’s always placed very well.”

But a major reason NorthPark is so clear, uncluttered and harmonized is what’s not here. There are no glaring signs, no competing hodge podge of corporate styles for the many restaurants and stores. EG Hamilton designed NorthPark, and he said the decision was a collective one, made early on with Nasher to limit the palette, keep things simple.

“Up until then and since then,” says Hamilton, “each department store had its own architect, used his own materials, his own style, and the center had its own, so visually it was chaotic. But this was a goal of mine, to make this into architecture instead of a stage set. And nobody had ever done this before.”

eann thutedit

And for Hamilton’s aesthetic to work — and to continue to work — it required Nasher to push back against the retailers’ desire to control everything about their brand and graphics. Hamilton’s design had them tightly circumscribed

“You do not touch the ‘framework’ of the building,” says Hawes. “Everything has to be approved – and these are details that will kill a deal.” Hawes recalls flying to California to meet with one retailer who wanted to cover their store with red brick. When this was denied, the company threatened not to come to  NorthPark.

EG Hamilton and EAnn Thut. Photo credit: Jerome Weeks

“Fine,” Hawes says with a laugh and a shrug. “Ray won’t let you come.”

NorthPark is a classic example of late, commercial modernism. It uses a limited range of colors and materials. It’s very spare and polished (one of the few ornamental details are the little, abstract tree icons on the corners of the storefront frames — remember, this is a ‘park’). This kind of serious, meticulous, modernist aesthetic is still best summed up by architect Mies van der Rohe’s famous declaration, “Less is more.”

Hamilton calls himself not just a modernist but a minimalist. “I feel like I lived and practiced in the golden age of contemporary architecture,” he says, “which was, you know, from the twenties to maybe eighties. Mies van der Rohe was my hero. He was the greatest architect of the 20th century.”

But by the ‘70s, modernism, “the International Style,” was getting kicked around — particularly by Americans, like Tom Wolfe, who derided it as a radical, left-wing import from Europe and insufficiently yee-haw American-baroque. Architect Robert Venturi’s famous dismissal was “Less is a bore.” But perhaps what truly hobbled international modernism in the public eye — and would do the same to the fanciful post-modernism that followed it — was that developers found it could be cheap. So they made tons of cheap knockoffs of Mies’ Seagram Building and Le Corbusier’s high-rise housing.

But with the original modernists, the spareness of their designs were often countered by the luxury and modern-immediacy of their materials: marble, leather, stainless steel, chrome, bronze, polished concrete. NorthPark may seem ordinary, even modest, because it’s made of brick. The bricks actually help keep the center from being aggressively severe or purist in the high modernist, white-cube manner. They lend a soft tone to everything. And  when Vel Hawes worked on the additions to the mall, he found the sand-surfaced brick Hamilton chose was subtle, richly colored – and actually expensive. The sand finish meant the bricks broke easily during production – so there were plenty of discards, raising the costs.

“We looked at any number of other bricks,” recalls Hawes,(below, at NorthPark). “And you put them side by side, and it’s like a Rolls Royce vs. a Model T. I mean visually, it’s not nearly as handsome.”

Vel Hawes, architectedit

Hawes says that this simplicity, consistency and understated elegance are characteristic of Hamilton’s work, whether it’s the second Republic Tower in Dallas or the early phases of the UT Southwestern campus. Or the many homes he’s designed, such as the classic one, the ‘Hexter house’ at 3616 Crescent Avenue,  or the home he designed on Abbott Avenue, where he lives with his wife EAnn Thut. She’s been the head of interiors for their designs.

“This house represents my values, my wife’s values,” Hamilton says on a tour of the house. “It’s minimalist, it’s functional and in our mind, beautiful.”

The lifetime achievement award recognizes not just Hamilton’s designs but his leadership. In 1956, with George Harrell, he established Harrell & Hamilton Architects and that morphed into the firm, OMNIPLAN. He’s also a past president of the Dallas AIA chapter. By 1990, though, he was more manager than designer at OMNIPLAN, so he and his wife left to form Hamilton Studio, and they’ve continued to work on projects, notably homes.

But leadership means more than just companies formed, positions held. For Hamilton, it’s the responsibilities architects have to more than satisfying their clients, responsibilities to the larger community that will experience their designs. “Professionalism” is what he calls it, and fears that once architects

“I really received a lot of motivation from the idea that I might be doing something worthwhile. It was more than just a business. It was almost like a religion to me.

One project the Hamiltons are working on is adding an elevator to their home, the part that’s three stories tall. It’s getting a little hard for him to get up and down all the steps.

But then, EG Hamilton is 94 years old.

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The High Five: Bruce Springsteen And E Street Band Will Play In Dallas In April — For Free

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Bruce Springsteen is coming to Dallas in April for a free concert. (Antonio Scorza/

Bruce Springsteen is coming to Dallas in April for a free concert. (Antonio Scorza/

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Ian Kinsler generates controversy; a busy election night; Bruuuuce is coming!; and more:

  • Bruuuuuce! The musical lineup for the 2014 NCAA March Madness Music Festival in Dallas was announced today – and it includes some top-notch groups. How about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band? The Killers? Tim McGraw? Jason Aldean? They’ll be here in April. And they’ll be performing – for free – at what’s called Reunion Park or the site of the former Reunion Arena. Learn more here from KERA News – and brush up on all things Bruce.
  • Ian Kinsler hopes the Texas Rangers, his former team, goes winless this year. And he called the team’s general manager, Jon Daniels, “a sleazeball.” Kinsler talked with ESPN The Magazine about the transition from Texas to the Detroit Tigers. But, on Tuesday, Kinsler told reporters that his comments were “taken a little out of context.” He also thought the story was “a little ridiculous” and “a little childish.” He said: “There’s not much to say about it. It’s written. It’s out there. I’m not happy about it.” ESPN reported: “Kinsler says that with [Nolan] Ryan’s role diminished the past couple of years, the Rangers lost the swagger and professionalism that had been a point of pride for the team.” Daniels told ESPN that Kinsler was entitled to his opinion. But Kinsler did say he’ll miss his teammates. “I’ll miss Elvis and Beltre, Mitch [Moreland], Matt Harrison and [Ron] Washington,” he told ESPN.
  • Which city do you want to host the 2016 GOP convention? The Republican National Committee has launched an interactive poll that allows folks to vote for their favorite city. Dallas is one of eight cities preparing a bid to host the event. The others are Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Kansas City, Mo., Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.
  • Tuesday was primary day. You might have heard. It was a late, tense night for many primary candidates as conservative tea party voters flexed their muscle and defeated some Republican incumbents, while other candidates went on to win their party nominations. In the Republican race for lieutenant governor, State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston and incumbent David Dewhurst are heading for a May 27 runoff. Also, in North Texas, Don Huffines defeated longtime incumbent John Carona in the State Senate District 16 race. Get up to speed on KERA’s Primary Blog.
  • The 2014 State Fair of Texas will include a Texas Sports Hall of Fame exhibit and an effort to fight hunger by turning canned foods into art. Fair officials in Dallas on Tuesday announced the fair theme: “Deep in the Heart of Texans.” An exhibit from the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco will include memorabilia from sports stars recognized since the athletics group began in 1951. Giant arrangements at the State Fair will be built with cans of food, with the items later donated to the North Texas Food Bank. College football returns to the Cotton Bowl with Grambling State facing Prairie View A&M on Sept. 27. Texas and Oklahoma will play on Oct. 11. The State Fair of Texas runs Sept. 26-Oct. 19 – just 204 days away. (Associated Press)
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