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Forth Worth’s Cultural District

Cultural District makes magnificent art, architecture easily accessible

By Stephanie Stewart-Howard on September 5, 2014

Kimbrell Art Museum in Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth / Courtesy Kimbrell Art Museum/Robert LaPrelle

The Fort Worth Cultural District sets a national standard for cultural access, giving residents a centralized, easily walkable cluster of six major museums and other attractions. The district began in 1936 after the Texas Centennial Exposition, and now serves hundreds of thousands of local and visiting patrons annually.

The district includes the Kimbell Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Amon Carter Museum, the Museum of Science and History, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

“This is the largest contiguous cultural district outside the Mall in Washington, D.C. – the highest concentration of museums,” says Dustin Van Orne of the Modern Art Museum. “Each one is a major architectural undertaking, and these are amazing spaces. It’s a walkable gem for Fort Worth.”

Art and Architecture at the Kimbell

For the most recent and high-profile examples of how world-class art and architecture unite here, the Kimbell Art Museum and its new Piano Pavilion addition is a must-see.  The pavilion, completed in 2013, was designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano to complement the original Louis I. Kahn Building, which has long drawn attention for its masterful use of design and materials to manipulate light. The addition also allows the museum to display its entire permanent collection – 350 masterpieces spanning the world and centuries – while giving it space to continue hosting carefully selected traveling exhibitions.

“The new wing does homage to Kahn’s 1972 design, but shows its own style,†says the museum’s public relations coordinator Barbara Smith. “Glass, architectural concrete and wood are the main materials, and the design allows for the play of natural light in conjunction with the display of the collections. The pavilion also features a green roof, where visitors can picnic and view the city skyline or sculpture installations.”

The Kimbell was founded by Kay and Velma Kimball with the bequest of their collection, including many fine old master works. Admission to view the permanent collection is free; traveling exhibits are ticketed shows.

Modern Art, Science, Theater and More

The Modern Art Museum, or “The Modern,” lets visitors explore post-World War II art in all media and exhibits works by significant artists such as Rothko, Warhol, Picasso and Pollack. The Amon Carter Museum of American Art focuses on 19th- and 20th-century American art, including paintings and sculpture by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell.

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History maintains and exhibits a collection of more than 175,000 historical and scientific objects emphasizing Texas and the Southwest, including a herbarium of native plants.  It also houses a planetarium and the Omni Theatre, which was the first IMAX screen in the Southwest and is America’s largest IMAX dome west of the Mississippi River. Those who pay exhibit admission to the museum can receive half-price admission to another district attraction, the National Cowgirl Museum, which highlights the contributions of women in the American West.

Theater and performing arts fans will enjoy a visit to Casa Mañana, which offers musical productions in the round; nearby is the Will Rogers Memorial Center entertainment complex.

 “It was my first exposure to real culture, and to this day, when I think of the best of the arts, I always think of the Cultural District,” says Stacey Moody King, a regular Fort Worth visitor.  “It makes me think of the beauty of theater, the sounds of an orchestra tuning up, the endless beauty of the Kimbell and Modern. The whole area is magical.”

Day in the District

Although several Cultural District attractions offer free admission for permanent collections, an excellent way for newcomers to experience all it has to offer is the district’s annual Day in the District event, when all the museums open their doors for free.

For eight years, the event has drawn crowds, expanding beyond the district’s principal institutions to include other attractions such as the historical Log Cabin Village down the street.

“You can experience what museums do daily,†Van Orne says. “And we also have performing arts involved, including many troupes who don’t have brick-and-mortar facilities, so you may leave excited about a theater troupe or ballet you’ve never heard of.”

 

 

 

 

“It was my first exposure to real culture, and to this day, when I think of the best of the arts, I always think of the Cultural District in Fort Worth. It makes me think of the beauty of theater, the sounds of an orchestra tuning up, the endless beauty of the Kimball and Modern. The whole area is magical.”

Stacey King Moody, regular Fort Worth visitor
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