It is 10:30 on a chilly February morning in Uptown Dallas. Our workspace for the next several hours is an historic church, recently renovated to house the skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Triceratops. The space is beautiful, with its original ecclesiastical architecture alongside an imposing array of dinosaur bones. Past the dinos, though, something more fashionable is at play.
Six of the city’s most well-known women — Joyce Goss, Jessica Nowitzki, Anna-Sophia van Zweden and sisters Kim Whitman, Kari Kloewer and Krystal Schlegel — are having their makeup done for a photo shoot. There is something perfect about these women sitting for their portrait in this particular setting: They are, like the space, equal parts elegant and fierce — and together make for a refreshing mix of personalities.
They will serve as ambassadors for the fifth annual MTV Re:Define benefit — combining their diverse networks, shared penchants for philanthropy, and past experiences chairing the event — to raise funds for the Dallas Contemporary and MTV Staying Alive Foundation.
Each woman brings something to the table: Nowitzki and Goss go way back; Nowitzki was an associate director at The Goss-Michael Foundation, owned by Goss’ brother-in-law, Kenny Goss, before she married Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki. On location, Nowitzki opts for an edgy-pretty gown, while Goss sticks to a more modernist sheath.
As they try on clothes, they discuss everything from the art foundation’s upcoming move to Nowitzki’s tennis lesson after the photo shoot. She laughs at having to practice in full hair and makeup — something the laid-back Nowitzki would never do. Meanwhile, van Zweden — fresh from winter travel in Gstaad — is discussing her father’s recently appointed music directorship for the New York Philharmonic and the buzz surrounding Soluna, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s music festival she founded last year.
The three Schlegel sisters, who co-chaired last year’s Re:Define benefit, are their typical chatty selves. The youngest, Krystal (a fashion and lifestyle blogger), is smitten over the myriad shoes on hand for the photo shoot, while Kari and Kim chat about motherhood. Both are working moms with busy schedules — Kim is an author of several entertaining books, an editor at large for Southern Living and frequent guest on the Today show; Kari is a real estate agent with Allie Beth Allman & Associates — with two little ones at home. It is not lost on the group that this glamorous morning is for a larger purpose — to spread word about the upcoming fund-raiser, set for Friday, April 8, at the Dallas Contemporary.
“Philanthropy has always been a part of my life,” says Goss, executive director of The Goss-Michael Foundation. “I grew up watching my entire family give what they could to support causes important to them.” Goss is the common thread throughout the group of women — from having supported numerous visual arts organizations with van Zweden to encouraging Whitman to co-chair the North Texas Food Bank’s Food 4 Kids Letter Writing Campaign a few years ago.
Naturally, the megawatt art donated to Re:Define’s live and silent auctions is a result of each women’s patronage of the arts and their ability to round up a group of the city’s most active collectors. Past donations have come from Damien Hirst, David Salle, Daniel Arsham, Michael Craig-Martin, Mario Testino and Piotr Uklanski. At this year’s benefit, Neville Wakefield — writer and art director of biennial art exhibition Desert X — makes his debut as the evening’s curator, much to the excitement of the six ambassadors who concur that the bidding is what they most look forward to.
Executing one of the city’s newest and edgiest art auction fund-raisers — where there is competition for time, resources and precious fund-raising dollars — requires the strongest blend of leadership spanning generations, styles and personalities. In the case of MTV Re:Define, it took the hard work and credibility of six women just five years to build one of the most talked-about events in town, one that has raised more than $6 million. Nowitzki, who first sparked an interest in the Staying Alive Foundation after losing a family member to HIV/AIDS, dreams that her continued philanthropic involvement will not only raise awareness but also pave the way for the next generation of givers.
“If we as women care for others like we care for our own family, I believe our children will follow in our footsteps,” she says.