Bela Cooley is wearing Gucci and Eiseman Jewels.
In its sixth year, NorthPark Center’s Ambassador program boldly merges all things fashion, art, and philanthropy. The assembly of Ambassadors ― an idea generated in tandem by Nancy A. Nasher and Kimberly Schlegel Whitman ― shines a spotlight on Dallas’ top influencers and the causes most significant and important to them.
Hand-selected specifically for their philanthropic endeavors, each year-long ambassadorship offers the opportunity to partner with NorthPark Center and its retailers for a variety of events and initiatives to benefit their respective charitable organizations. From a not-to-miss fashion show to a magical holiday season, NorthPark provides a platform to get the mission of these organizations out there and ignite significant impact all year long.
This month we recognize Bela Cooley and her dedication to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) as her nonprofit of choice. “From the free community programs to kids’ classes and workshops, and the talks and tours led by distinguished artists and curators, the DMA makes art accessible to everyone at any age,” Cooley says.
She recalls going on field trips to the DMA every year as a child and attributes her love of art and creativity to the experiences she had at the DMA. “The DMA had such an influence on me, I just want to give other children that same opportunity to experience the museum,” Cooley says.
Showcasing art for everyone to enjoy is similarly important to NorthPark, who will partner with the DMA and the Dallas Art Fair to present a special pop-up exhibition March 22-April 30, 2023. Talk of the Town, located on Level Two between Nordstrom and Macy’s, will feature artists Sarah Cain, Danielle Mckinney, Arcmanoro Niles, and more. Curated by Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, the DMA’s Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, and coinciding with the 15th edition of the Dallas Art Fair, the show will celebrate and explore the diversity of womanhood through a wide range of artistic perspectives.
What was it for you that first instilled the value of giving back to your community?
My parents are both immigrants from former Yugoslavia, currently in Montenegro. I remember being a young child and visiting former Yugoslavia as there was a war going on in the ’90s. My parents had just built a house in the village they had both grown up in, and instead of us moving into it, my parents housed and fed around 45 homeless refugees in our new home. We spent that summer at my grandparent’s home, and that was the summer I knew how blessed I was and that I wanted to always give back.
Who have been your strongest role models?
Definitely my family, but, specifically, my mom (sorry, dad)! Throughout my childhood, she was thrown so many obstacles. She relocated her entire life to America at the age of 19 and raised five daughters, all while my father was building his restaurant business. This is a woman who learned English by watching Sesame Street, spent most of her childhood feeding her family by foraging in the mountains, and still managed to put others before herself in every situation she was in.
NorthPark Center is at the center of combining art and fashion. Can you describe your own personal art and fashion interests?
I am a fan of all types of art, but I tend to gravitate toward contemporary art. My fashion interests are mainly things I feel good in. And although I love a trend, I lean towards classic pieces I can treasure for a long time.
What do you do to unwind?
I love to go on walks, play tennis, and spend time outside to relax.
Fondest memory spent at NorthPark Center?
I have so many memories as a child at NorthPark. My mom and her sisters often used Dillard’s as their meeting place. We used to always visit the turtles and ducks. Now, NorthPark is a frequent meeting spot for me and my sisters.
What DMA event are you looking forward to?
We are so excited for Art Ball 2023 on April 15, which I am so very honored to be co-chairing! A lot of people don’t know that entry to the Dallas Museum of Art is free and one of the reasons why is because of the financial support provided by Art Ball. The money raised that night helps bring in new exhibits, advanced educational programs, and provides operational support for the Museum for the whole year.
Words of advice you would give to your younger self?
Trust your instincts, always.
What’s on the horizon for you in 2023?
I’m looking forward to starting and completing many new projects this year! I want to always begin the year with a positive mindset and energy to set the tone for the year and prioritize how I can better the relationships I have with my family and friends.