Fort Worth: Museums Making Waves Around the City’s Art Scene
I don’t know about you but the first thing I think about when I think of Texas is cows. And steak. And then more cows. Famous artwork isn’t top of my Texas icons, even though it really should be. I used to work in art book publishing after all; we did tons of publications with Texas museums with incredible collections, and yet, I still only thought about farms and cattle as I landed in Texas last month for a 3 day marathon through Fort Worth.
In the cultural district of Fort Worth you will find most of the museums, 3 of which are award-winning art museums prized not only for their art collection, but also for the buildings themselves who were designed by world renown architects. These museums were not huge, and that was part of their charm. If you have ever been to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, or the National Gallery in London you know how overwhelming an art museum can be. You are bombarded with color, lines, brush strokes, and sculptures at every turn. Fort Worth took a much different approach. Instead of showing you as much as possible, they spread the work out and let you digest what you were seeing, take your time with each piece, and not feel like you had to rush on to the next artist just because it was there. Better yet, three of the four museums were free. If that doesn’t scream multiple visits I don’t know what does.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
I’m usually not a huge modern art fan. I like Impressionists, Cubists, and some renaissance for the most part. The big exception is photography. As a photo major I love most things in the photography department of art. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth showed me that I am passionate about more from the 20th and 21st centuries than just the evolution of painting with light (AKA photography). Even before I walked into the building, which was impressive in and of it self, I was greeted by a sky-high echo chamber by Richard Serra, an artist who also has a sculpture in Seattle’s own Olympic Sculpture Park. Inside the museum large works were displayed with plenty of space to take them in without the distraction of other pieces. My favorite was a wall length photo series by Nicholas Nixon. In it he photographed his wife with her 3 sisters every year from 1975 through 2011. It was an incredible look at how we evolve through time, how we remain the same, and how our relationship ebbs and flows with the camera.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Russell and Remington burst off the walls in their very own galleries inside the Amon Carter. I first got to know both artists as I worked on their books at my former company. Western art is certainly a theme here, but there are also more modern exhibits including a photograph by Richard Avedon, and sculpture by Robert Laurent. Not so modern works on paper by Mary Cassatt and Winslow Homer are also on display. Special exhibitions regularly rotate out, making this a museum that you can visit over and over again, even if you have seen the permanent collection 43 times. Admission is free, and photos are welcome, but be mindful of which images you are not allowed to photograph. There will be a little camera with a line through on the placard.
Kimbell Art Museum
The Kimbell has an extremely small collection as far as art museums go, but they stayed small on purpose. Instead of buying as many pieces by say Impressionists, the museum invests their money in one impressionist painting that is the best example of that period of art. Their gallery consists of one room of masters you can work through. Even better, the museum is free, making it an incredibly easy stop with babies and toddlers whose attention span is not always worth the price of admission at a pricey gallery. One painting you do not want to miss is what many believe to be the very first Michelangelo painting. Historians believe that he was 12 or 13 when he painted it. Seeing this relatively small painting in person (when you compare it to say the Sistine chapel) you can’t help but be impressed that a tween created this masterpiece, when if you are like me, you were still drawing stick people and Disney characters at that age. The Kimbell also invests its money in some of the world’s most incredible traveling exhibits, and even stages its own shows for locals to enjoy. They do charge for special exhibits, but with museum admission being free it’s easy to splurge a little to see more art.
Kids and museums
Although I saw these three art museums sans kids, I could see everything we would, and wouldn’t do together. The Kimbell and Amon Carter are free; this made these two a no brainer, as I have learned Dek can only take a museum for so long before he needs to be outside exploring again. He does have some pretty definitive taste in art though. He knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. Now we just have to work on why.
The Modern Art Museum would have been thrilling, but a challenge. Many large pieces have no barriers. Being the inquisitive child that he is, Dek would want to touch each piece, feel the texture, tug on the branches, and even climb the ladder to no where. Not what the curators had in mind when they set up their collection. These limitations would never stop me from visiting, but it would make for a shorter trip, and possible necessitate a second adult to corral kids.
All of the museums offer children’s programming. Make sure you check out their websites before you visit to see what events may be happening that day.
Sample Itinerary for Visiting the Art Museums of Fort Worth
Start your morning at the Amon Carter on a hunt for cowboys, and a Richard Avedon photograph of a girl. Move onto the Kimbell to gaze at Michelangelo’s first painting, and help your child find their favorite piece. After you pick out the best, head to the Modern Art Museum for lunch at the café. Gaze out over the water that makes the museum appear to be floating on a clear lake. Also ask your child to spot the metal trees. They are hard to miss, but they may not realize the trees aren’t real. If it’s a warm day stroll out onto the lawn, but don’t let your child jump into the water. That’s frowned upon. Pop back inside for a quick tour, or a children’s program, before heading back to your hotel for a nap or a splash in the pool.
Many thanks to Visit Fort Worth for showing this Yankee gal that there are some Texas size art collections in their fabulous city.
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