The Butler Advisory Committee, a diverse group of civic leaders interested in the redevelopment of Fort Worth’s Butler Place public housing community, has endorsed the idea of developing a museum of Fort Worth African American history and culture as an appropriate step, among other measures, toward mitigating the adverse impacts of redevelopment upon the historic resources associated with Butler Place. This committee, including community leaders who have long advocated for such a museum, has appointed a subcommittee, co-chaired by Dr. John Barnett and Andy Taft, to assess the general conditions under which such a museum or similar cultural institution might be successful and to determine whether a more detailed feasibility study would be warranted.
The subcommittee, now known as the project’s Steering Committee, has secured financial support from local funders and has assembled a panel of experts who will conduct an interactive community workshop and produce a report of its findings and recommendations. The panel is comprised of qualified consultants and representatives of museums or similar cultural institutions with extensive experience in the development and management of African American museums. The following narrative describes the panel’s scope of work, organization, schedule, and budget.
Scope of Work
The Steering Committee’s charge to the panel of experts is to review available information about this project, gather insights from community leaders and other stakeholders, and thereby provide answers to the following questions:
- What aspects of Fort Worth’s African American heritage – e.g. history, architecture, visual arts, performing arts, culinary arts, others — should we seek to preserve in connection with the redevelopment of Butler Place?
- Would the development of a new museum, cultural center, or similar cultural institution be an appropriate way to preserve this heritage? If so, then what should be the purpose and scope of this institution? What stories would we want the institution to share with Fort Worth’s residents and visitors?
- How might this new institution support and complement existing African American and multicultural museums, such as the Lenora Rolla Heritage Center Museum, the Juneteenth Museum, the Center for Stop Six Heritage, and the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum? Would a new museum unduly conflict with these existing institutions in any way?
- How might Fort Worth’s most prominent museums, such as the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, support and complement this new institution?
- Should the new institution take the form of a new or renovated building? If so, roughly how much space should the building contain? Alternatively, should we incorporate the new institution and its story-telling function into one or more existing institutions?
- Could the new institution successfully stand alone in a new or renovated building, or should it be combined with complementary uses, such as restaurants, a live theater, retail, and offices that might appeal to the same market?
- What criteria should we use to select an ideal site for this new institution? What sites or districts appear to meet those criteria most extensively, e.g. Butler Place, Evans & Rosedale, the Guinn School campus, the Convention District in the south end of Downtown, the Cultural District, the North Side, others?
- In rough terms, what range of capital costs would be associated with the development of this institution? What range of annual costs would be associated with its operations? What financial models should we consider? What community partnerships are likely to be necessary?
- Who should develop and own the new cultural institution? Who should operate it?
- Would a more detailed feasibility study be an appropriate next step for us? What other next steps should we consider?
Panelists will develop answers to these questions through a four-day workshop that includes:
- A tour of existing museums and potential museum sites
- Interviews with as many as 100 selected stakeholders
- A public forum
- Discussions with the Steering Committee and City staff
The immediate products of this workshop will include a draft report of the panel’s findings and recommendations and a PowerPoint presentation summarizing this report. City staff will subsequently refine the draft report editorially and issue a final report within two weeks of the workshop.
The panel of experts consists of six individuals as follows:
- Dr. Jason Shelton, Director, Center for African American Studies, University of Texas at Arlington (panel chair).
- Wyona Lynch-McWhite, Vice President, Arts Consulting Group, Boston.
- Joy Bailey-Bryant, Vice President, Lord Cultural Resources, New York.
- Mark Walhimer, Managing Partner, Museum Planning, LLC, New York.
- Dr. Harry Robinson, President/CEO, African American Museum, Dallas.
- John Spriggins, Manager, South Dallas Cultural Center.
Staff from the City’s Neighborhood Services Department will assist the panel during the workshop with meeting documentation, note taking, photography, scheduling, and logistics. The panel’s findings and recommendations will be subject to review and comment by the Steering Committee co-chairs before the panel releases them.
The workshop will be held on November 15-18, 2021, with full in-person participation. The following is a general outline of the schedule:
Monday 11/15 Early afternoon: Panel members arrive Omni Hotel Fort Worth
3:00 – 4:30 p.m.: City staff briefs panel members Omni Hotel conference room
5:30 – 7:00 p.m.: Reception with elected officials, stakeholders, Butler Advisory Committee, Steering Committee, and City staff Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Tuesday 11/16 8:00 – 10:00 a.m.: Panel tour of Fort Worth historic and cultural resources and potential sites for museum Begin at Omni Hotel
10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.: Stakeholder interviews Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.: Public forum, including 45 minutes for presentations by panelists and 45 minutes for comments from residents I.M. Terrell High School auditorium
Wednesday 11/17 8:00 – 10:00 a.m.: Additional stakeholder interviews as necessary Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Panel work time Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.: Preview of findings and recommendations for Steering Committee Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods
Thursday 11/18 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.: Public presentation of panel’s findings and recommendations Como Community Center
11:00 a.m.: Panel members depart N/A