In 60 years, the art of the Carter Museum has evolved from the Old West to the diversity of America

September 22, 2021

Fort Worth resident Jacurria Allen spent a recent Sunday afternoon strolling through the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

She stopped and studied “The Negro Looks Ahead”, a bronze sculpture of a black American from Richmond Barthé.

“It really 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 daily experiences inside the museum, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this month. It also represents Amun’s transformation from a place that housed Old West-oriented art to a museum that now represents all facets of American art.

“It’s a museum that not only speaks of the particular influence here in Fort Worth to create a world-class museum, but increasingly offers different kinds of experiences so that people can individualize it,” said said museum executive director Andrew J. Walker at the Fort. Worth the report. “It really is the city museum.”

The presentation of the wide range of American art did not happen overnight. The museum opened in 1961 with over 400 pieces of Old West drawings and paintings that Amon G. Carter Sr., longtime Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher, had collected since 1935.

Ruth Carter Stevenson, daughter of Amon G. Carter Sr., was responsible for overseeing her father’s vision to open a museum specializing in West American culture. After her death, she honored these wishes by hiring architect Philip C. Johnson to design the building. Then, in January 1961, the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art was born.

Andrew J. Walker has been Executive Director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art since 2011. (Courtesy Kimberly Daniell / Amon Carter Museum of American Art)

“Both in the ’60s, it was based on the idea that we were always going west as a nation, and she used that with her board of directors to develop a strategy to view America as a country of frontiers. So she really started to put her energy toward collecting the tradition of the American landscape tracing the movement west, “Walker said.” Over time, during the first 20 years of the museum, it went from this idea of ​​having to honor this idea of ​​the West to the simple collection of American art in general. “

Amun, under the direction of Stevenson, strove to incorporate the works of women and artists of color. That feeling has intensified over the past 20 years, Walker said. In 2010, the museum was renamed Amon Carter Museum of American Art to better reflect its collection of American art.

The museum now displays works by many artists of color. This trend, Walker said, really follows the country’s embrace of its diverse landscape.

“There were a lot of different stories to tell, and Amun did a phenomenal job 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 can now relate to art rather than admiring it without any connection, Walker said. During her recent visit to the museum, Allen said she appreciated the changes.

“I visit Amun often and, as a minority, I love how more and more inclusive their art exhibitions are,” Allen said.

Staying relevant and reflecting the changing demographics of Fort Worth is essential as the museum celebrates its 60th anniversary. For example, Amun has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans of the museum can now conduct virtual research and read its archival material.

Elie Nadelman was an artist of Polish origin who created the conductor in the photo, a sculpture of a conductor of an invisible orchestra. (Sederick Oliver | Fort Worth Report)

“This is an opportunity to say that… we have really made progress in opening our doors to further realize that this is the museum that is owned by the City of Fort Worth,” Walker said.

The museum has also adopted American photography. It houses 45,000 photographic prints and 250,000 photographic objects.

At the same time, the museum has not strayed from its Old West roots. It includes the Carter Library which contains approximately 50,000 books detailing the experiences and history of West American art as well as other parts of American art history.

Exhibits are becoming more and more interactive, allowing visitors to engage in art. Artists can even create based on viewers’ feedback on their work. This recent development allows an almost simultaneous process between artists and spectators because their creations are based on the involvement of people.

Despite all the changes and improvements the Amun has undergone, the essence of the museum remains and will be on full display during the celebration of its 60th anniversary.

The museum has “evolved and grown over time. It has made a commitment to the city and its growing excellence throughout its history,” Walker said. “It is this remarkably dynamic force that continues to make Fort Worth such a rich and special environment in which to live.”

Fort Worth Report member Sederick Oliver can be contacted at [email protected] At Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Learn more about our editorial independence policy here.

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