Thoughts of Cowtown often take visitors to the historic Stockyards, and rightfully so. It's where the city's rich heritage first began. But after the Cattle Drive Era ended, oil and aviation brought new wealth throughout the region leaving oil tycoons and cattle raisers with money to spend. And where exactly did the rich like to invest their money? The arts, of course.
In downtown Fort Worth on Main Street one may find the Sid Richardson Museum. This museum boasts many pieces collected by oilman and cattleraiser, Sid Richardson who said, “I get a kick out of seein’ em around me.” His tastes for the romantic images of the nineteenth-century conquering the West are shown in his many paintings that are over a hundred years old. These oils, watercolors and bronze sculptures depict the blood and the beauty of this era. My favorite is Frederic Remington’s spectacular oil Buffalo Runners-Big Horn Basin created in 1909, the last year of the artist’s life. The free texturing of the strokes creates movement that grabs the viewer from all parts of the room. The warm colors catch the heat and excitement of the buffalo chase on the hot prairie.
All museums must, of course, control humidity, temperature and light to maintain their works. Since 1982 the Sid Richardson museum has paid careful attention to these elements and preserved their paintings’ vibrant colors. Charles Marion Russell and Frederic Remington paintings comprise the majority of the works. However, one room is dedicated to other Western painters whom Mr. Richardson also collected.
Now take a short drive west to the Cultural District. Within about a half-mile radius are five other museums including the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame that was started 1975 in the basement of the Deaf Smith County Library in Hereford, Texas. The Cowgirl Museum is the only museum of its kind in the world that honors more than 750 courageous women of the American West. The 228 National Cowgirl Hall of Fame honorees include Sacagawea, main guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition; potter Maria Martinez; painter Georgia O’Keeffe; writer Laura Ingalls Wilder; sharpshooter Annie Oakley; Enid Justin, who created the million dollar Nocona Boot Company; Hollywood icon Dale Evans and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
The exterior of the 33,000 square-foot structure is a cowgirl’s dream of wild-rose finials, bas-relief sculpture panels and a lovely Richard Hass mural. Renovation is in progress; however, the museum is open and houses more than 400 artifacts not to be missed. Look for it nestled in the middle of the Cultural District on the Will Rogers Memorial Complex.
Take a short hike north to arrive at the Kimbell Art Museum with the amazing Renzo Piano Pavilion and landmark Louis Kahn Building. These structures are a feast for the creative eye with distinct combinations of glass, concrete and wood surrounded by elms and red oaks. On my last visit I joined a group of Urban Sketchers who enjoyed capturing the archways and fountains with fast drawings of pencil, ink and watercolor. My watercolor depicts the lovely arches of the structures.
The permanent collections are fewer than 350 works but, nonetheless, comprise many important works including the only Michelangelo in the America’s which happens to be his first known work, The Torment of Saint Anthony. A recent rediscovery includes a painting of a church interior brought to the museum by Mac Shafer of Mineral Wells, Texas. The painting turned out to be a rare oil sketch of San Ambrogio, Milan by Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828). Also, if you are a Monet fan, you won’t want to miss the amazing exhibit Monet: The Early Years from October 16th to January 29th.
Just a bit south of the Kimbell is the Amon Carter Museum of American Art that is named after the creator and publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. For six decades this museum has connected visitors with American art.
The Amon Carter is one of the largest repositories of American photography. This unique museum offers lectures by visiting artists and scholars and a variety of family events and children’s programs for both indoor and outdoor activities. You’ll find a multitude of illustrated books, photographs, sculptures, works on paper and paintings to enthrall you for hours. The docents are ready and eager to enlighten you and answer questions, so don’t feel as though you need be an expert.
Nearby you’ll find the oldest museum in Texas, the Modern Art Museum. The art presented, collected and interpreted here depicts media developments post-World War II. Plan a good chunk of time to view their over 3,000 objects that represent everything from abstract expressionism to pop and minimalism. Their film series is especially enjoyable to me. Recently my German-speaking club viewed the stunning movie The Lives of Others, part of their "Art of Espionage" film series. After the movie one can find plenty of restaurants nearby, however, the Café Modern on location presents a stunning view of the reflection pond and dramatic landscaping. The sleek silver trees reach towards each other in a dramatic human-like gesture. This is a soothing place to digest the exquisite backdrop of Tadao Ando’s architecture. The Chamber Music Society and Fort Worth Opera present excellent musical programs here and the first Friday of each month is simply thee place to be! The Star-Telegram, the Modern, and Café Modern collaborate to offer live music and cocktails in the museum's Grand Lobby from 5-8 p.m.
Also in close proximity—the Museum of Science and History is a plethora of fun family activities with the Omni IMAX Theater and the amazing Noble Planetarium that brings the first Zeiss-manufactured hybrid planetarium system – an immersive all-dome video combined with a fiber optic dual-hemisphere star projector to see more than 7,000 stars. The exhibit area provides large screens with views of the sun and downlinks that provide the latest information from the Hubble Telescope. The planetarium shares space with the Cattle Raisers Museum and programs with the Cattle Raisers’ introductory presentation, such as “Thundering Herd.” The Children’s Museum targets the very young audience and features live reptiles and amphibians as a central element. Kids can dig for dinos indoors or splash in water play stations in the outdoor experience.
Whether your taste in art is Monet or buffalos, Fort Worth's abundance of museums will surely satiate your creative appetite.