Fort Worth resident Jacurria Allen spent a recent Sunday afternoon strolling around the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
She stopped and studied “The Negro Looks Ahead,” a bronze sculpture of a Black American by Richmond Barthé.
“This actually makes me emotional because our people are now allowed to create art through our own creativity and not rely on someone else to tell our story,” Allen said.
Allen’s experience is just one of many that happen every day inside the museum, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month. It also represents the Amon’s transformation from a place that housed art focused on the Old West to a museum that now represents all facets of American art.
If you go
What: The Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s 60th Birthday Bash
When: 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are required to attend the free event.
Where: 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth
“It’s a museum that not only speaks to the particular influence here in Fort Worth to create a world-class museum, but to increasingly provide different kinds of experiences so that people can individualize it,” museum Executive Director Andrew J. Walker told the Fort Worth Report. “It’s really the city’s museum.”
The showcasing of America’s wide range of art did not happen overnight. The museum opened in 1961 with more than 400 pieces of Old West drawings and paintings that Amon G. Carter Sr., the longtime Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher, had collected since 1935.
Ruth Carter Stevenson, the daughter of Amon G. Carter Sr., was responsible for overseeing her father’s vision of opening a museum specializing in Western American culture. After his death, she honored those wishes by hiring architect Philip C. Johnson to design the building. Then in January 1961, the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art was born.
“So much in the ‘60s were predicated on the idea that we were always moving west as a nation, and she used that with her board to develop a strategy to look at America as a country of frontiers. So, she really began putting her energy toward collecting the American landscape tradition tracing the movement west,” Walker said. “Over time, within the first 20 years of the museum, she shifted away from that idea of having to honor that idea of the West to just collecting American art in general.”
The Amon, under Stevenson’s direction, made an effort to incorporate the works of women and artists of color. That sentiment has intensified in the past 20 years, Walker said. In 2010, the museum was renamed to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art to better reflect its American art collection.
The museum now features work from many artists of color. This trend, Walker said, really follows the nation’s embrace of its diverse landscape.
“There were a lot of different stories to be told, and the Amon did a phenomenal job at giving artists’ from different walks of life the space to tell their stories,” said Karen Wiley, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Fort Worth.
Many visitors now can relate to the art rather than admire it without any connection, Walker said. On her recent visit to the museum, Allen said she appreciated the changes.
“I visit the Amon often and, as a minority, I love how inclusive their art exhibitions have increasingly been,” Allen said.
Staying relevant and reflecting Fort Worth’s changing demographics is key as the museum celebrates its 60th birthday. For example, the Amon has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans of the museum are now able to research virtually and read through its archival features.
“This is the opportunity to say that … we’ve really made strides to open up our doors to further realize the fact that this is the museum that belongs to the city of Fort Worth,” Walker said.
The museum also has embraced American photography. It houses 45,000 photographic prints and 250,000 photographic objects.
At the same time, the museum has not strayed far from its Old West roots. It features the Carter Library that contains around 50,000 books detailing the experiences and history of Western American art as well as other parts of American art history.
Exhibits are becoming increasingly interactive, allowing visitors to engage with the art. Artists can even create based upon the feedback spectators have with their work. This recent development allows an almost simultaneous process between the artists and the viewers because their designs rely on people’s involvement.
Despite all the changes and enhancements the Amon has undergone, the essence of the museum remains and will be on full display on its 60th birthday bash.
The museum has “evolved and grown over time. It has been committed to the city and its deepening excellence over the course of its entire history,” Walker said. “It’s that remarkably dynamic force that continues to make Fort Worth a rich and special environment in which to live.”
Fort Worth Report fellow Sederick Oliver can be reached at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.