Pattersons, Appleton played key roles in city’s cultural growth
The efforts of three people and their lifelong commitments to expanding the arts in Denton will be reflected in the renaming of the Center for the Visual Arts.
The Greater Denton Arts Council will rename the building at the southeast corner of Hickory Street and Bell Avenue as the Patterson-Appleton Center for the Visual Arts in honor of Fred and Patsy Patterson and Roy Appleton Jr.
The renaming honors the trio for their contributions to developing the arts culture and growth in Denton and the county at large, officials said.
“I believe the history of a community is rooted in individuals who come together to help make the community progress, those who do that in a very significant or material way. It’s traditional for cities to recognize those individuals from time to time,” Mayor Mark Burroughs said.
The City Council is expected to approve the name change at its meeting Tuesday.
Burroughs noted the trio’s dedication to the arts and Appleton’s work in the establishment of public television in Denton.
“He was one of those stalwarts that championed Denton throughout his career,” Burroughs said of Appleton. “He was dedicated to the community and believed in it [and] did everything a person could do professionally or personally to promote it.”
Fred Patterson, publisher emeritus of the Denton Record-Chronicle, has been a co-chairman for fundraising for the Center for the Visual Arts, where the arts council is based, and chairman of the Campus Theatre renovation committee, among numerous other community endeavors.
Patsy Patterson — whose father, Riley Cross, bought the newspaper in the mid-1940s — has been a charter member and president of the Denton Benefit League, president of The Arts Guild and president of the Denton Community Theatre.
Appleton was general manager at the time he retired in 1991 after a 44-year tenure with the Record-Chronicle. He also served as chairman of the Denton Chamber of Commerce, served on the board of the United Way of Denton County and was a member of the Denton Rotary Club and Denton Jaycees.
He was also a key figure in bringing cable television news to Denton in the 1970s, garnering the ACE (Award for Cable Excellence) award for best cable news broadcast in the nation in 1978.
Appleton said he and the Pattersons felt the need to work on the arts practically upon their arrival in Denton.
“We were together in the newspaper business and, as a result, we covered a lot of activities. We tried to cover them all,” Appleton said. “We had interests in making Denton grow. I heard recently some students say Denton has really changed. It used to be they’d come to school and couldn’t wait to get back home; now they come here to school and want to move back [here] permanently.”
Appleton and the Pattersons were instrumental in the development of the Campus Theatre, the annual Holiday Lighting Festival and the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival.
“I can remember a few years back that we went over to Fort Worth and they had a jazz festival over there,” Appleton said. “Coming back, we were talking and I said, ‘I don’t understand why Fort Worth can have a jazz festival and Denton is noted for jazz. ... Why Denton can’t have a jazz festival?’”
Fred Patterson chimed in during a recent conversation, adding that the festival began in the Denton Chamber of Commerce and grew from what was originally known as the Spring Fling.
The Arts & Jazz Festival, which drew 200,000-plus attendees last weekend, gets bigger every year, Appleton said. The festival draws people from across the region, state and neighboring states.
The evolution of Denton’s downtown Square also has been a longtime project.
Looking back, Fred Patterson said he envisioned more retail-type businesses downtown, though the existing businesses work just as well.
“It’s all entertainment, cafes and antique shops for people who want to come up and do a little shopping,” he said.
Seeing all the development he had long thought and dreamed about come to fruition has been something special, Patterson said.
“All this has gone together and [has] been wonderful,” he said.
Looking ahead, the Pattersons and Appleton see the arts evolving further due to the plethora of people and talent in Denton.
“We have two universities here. They have instruction classes, courses in film, music, writing … all the things that go into art, and they come from many different parts of the country,” Appleton said. “It’s a perfect mix for creativity. And then the train — that’s another thing to bring people up here at night. We have good community theater — all the things that go into an evening [of entertainment].”
Margaret Chalfant, executive director of the Greater Denton Arts Council, said the Denton Chamber of Commerce made the initial suggestion for the name change.
“[They] have been wonderful civic leaders,” Chalfant said. “We just thought it was really appropriate for the Pattersons and Mr. Appleton to be recognized together for the Center of the Visual Arts.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.