Culture mingles with cleats at AT&T Stadium

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by MIKE CASTELLUCCI

WFAA

Posted on October 14, 2013 at 5:27 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 14 at 11:00 PM

ARLINGTON –– It's the largest art gallery anywhere; it’s just so happens to share space with a professional football field. 

At AT&T Stadium, culture mingles with the cleats. 

"It’s as much an art gallery as any art museum in the world,” said Phil Whitfield, art curator at AT&T Stadium.

At first glance, many may think that the art is a nice side dish to the 100-yard main course. Whitfield will tell you something different: People to come to the stadium solely for the art. 

“What makes this special is 3,000 LED lights,” he says, pointing to a piece by LED artist Jim Campbell. "This is called Crystaline,” he said, pointing at a sculpture. 

There are 55 other pieces on permanent display throughout the stadium. 

This is the domain of Gene Jones, the wife of Cowboys owner Jerry. She is helping the stadium stand out ahead of the teams the Cowboys play against. And the fans, she says, have been respectful of the art.

”Fans have never damaged it; no one has smeared ketchup, no mustard, no fingerprints,” she said. 

The Joneses knew from the start this house would be like no other.

”We wanted it more than a football stadium, we wanted it to be unexpected,” Gene says. 

“Our fans are blessed,” Gene says of Whitland. “For a tour, they ask for him; he’s world known.”

Whitfield knows his art. But it wasn't always that way.

”I was head of security at the old Texas Stadium,” he said. “At first, I thought it was punishment; if you told me five years ago I was going to do art, I would have said no way possible.”

Now, he talks about the stadium's newest piece titled Exploded View, the aforementioned LED piece. The artist, Campbell, uses cutting edge technology to bring mystery into modern life. Whitland talks about it like the art has changed him.

”When you’re in the art community, they don't care if you have red shoes or a green shoe or they don't care who you date, what your political, what they do care about is what passion you have about art,” he said. 

And his passion rubs off.

”Everybody sees something different, some people saw a little of everything,” Whitland said. “The issue I have with people is when they don't try to see anything.”

Of all the employees, Gene says he has the biggest passion for art.  

“He’s enriched our lives, we're blessed to have him,” she said. 

“The Jones family wanted art collection for all men and women and children to appreciate at no cost,” Whitland said.  

Email mcastellucci@wfaa.com

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