Plans to install plaques that add context to the controversial tile murals on Will Rogers Memorial Center Auditorium and Coliseum will move forward after an Aug. 15 Fort Worth City Council work session.
After a series of public meetings, the panel recommended that, rather than tear down the historic murals — or the section that depicts Black workers picking cotton — the city should install a series of white bronze panels in the plaza to give viewers context instead.
Discussions on the two, 200-foot-tile murals began in 2019 after a post on social media called its depiction of Black people racist. That same year, the City Council discussed the issue; in early 2020, the Fort Worth Art Commission formed an advisory panel to put forward potential solutions.
The murals adorn the top of the Will Rogers Memorial Center Auditorium and Coliseum, both of which were completed in 1936 in celebration of the state’s centennial. According to city records, one-term Fort Worth Mayor William Jackson Hammond recommended the subjects of the murals, which are highly romanticized images of the state’s history.
An excerpt from one of the dozen or more panels says, in part, “Nevertheless, the murals did not represent an accurate story. The goal of these interpretative plaques is to encourage viewers to learn more about Texas’ multifaceted history and to foster cultural understanding and equity in our community.”
Throughout the process, everyone’s voice was invited, said Estrus Tucker, chair of the art commission.
“Public art is about engagement. It’s not about scripting or censoring. It’s about engagement,” he told The Report in June. “Engagement is not about agreeing. … It’s about listening and learning from one another as neighbors, as people in our city.”
Mike Crum, director of Fort Worth’s public events department, said he anticipates the installation will happen in the second or third quarter of 2024.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. 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.