Explore Dallas-Fort Worth

Cowtown Culture: Fort Worth Stocked Well in Art, Artifacts

Think Fort Worth is just cowboys and rodeos? Think again.

Within only a few miles of each other in Fort Worth, you can find a Cézanne masterpiece, a bronco-busting sculpture by Frederic Remington, Andy Warhol's silk-screened Marilyn Monroes and Annie Oakley's wedding ring. And that’s only the beginning.

Though Fort Worth has long embraced its Cowtown persona, the concept of "cowboys and culture" is now just as widespread. Just west of downtown, right by the Will Rogers Memorial Center (home to the nation's oldest continually running stock show and rodeo), a park-like setting hosts "the museum capital of the Southwest": five major museums spanning the world's history of art and artifact.

The Cultural District is walkable by design, since visitors can and do log miles by exploring the extensive collections displayed inside its museums. The district also shows off the exterior beauty of its buildings, many designed by revered and award-winning architects (think Renzo Piano and Tadao Ando).

Whether you're looking to drop in for a quick art education or to get lost in a day of gallery wandering, Fort Worth's Cultural District has something for everyone.

Discover Your Western Roots

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History offers full-size steer replicas, plus spurs, saddles and branding irons. (©Kevin Brown)

In 1961, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art was founded to display Fort Worth Star-Telegram founder Amon G. Carter's collection of paintings and sculpture by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. If you're craving more by this artistic pair, known for shaping the world's image of the 19th-century American West, the Sid Richardson Museum in nearby Sundance Square also welcomes patrons to come in and admire for free.

Carter and Richardson were both philanthropic oilmen, pioneers in their own time who were drawn to this particular style of art as a romantic link to the Old West. Over the years, the Amon Carter Museum has amassed a staggering collection of American artwork, from paintings by Winslow Homer to sculptures by Daniel Chester French (of Lincoln Memorial fame). A collection of 40,000 photographic prints makes the museum one of the country's major repositories for American photography.

More than 750 inspiring women are represented through photographs, artifacts and precious oral histories at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Everyone from pop-culture heroines like Annie Oakley and Patsy Cline to fearless trailblazers like livestock expert Temple Grandin and Frances Kavanaugh, one of only a few women writing Western screenplays in Hollywood, is represented.

Likewise, the Cattle Raisers Museum, inside the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, focuses on telling the tale of the West—it just happens to use life-size longhorn steer replicas and an impressive collection of historical spurs, saddles and branding irons with which to do it. Beginning with the popularity of ranching in the 1850s and continuing on to modern cattle-raising methods like micro-chipping and online auctions, the museum's displays and interactive exhibits outline an entire industry's impact on society through the years.

To America and Beyond

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, designed by Tadao Ando (©Kevin Brown)

Getting to the Cattle Raisers Museum means exploring the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History first, and there's plenty to see. A three-story-high steel beam from the World Trade Center's North Tower greets visitors at the entry, part of a permanent 9/11 tribute. Farther inside, thousands of specimens of botany, zoology and paleontology (just to name a few) are displayed in hands-on, interactive ways, such as the DinoLabs and DinoDig, a way for folks to know what it feels like to discover the five new species of dinosaur that have been found in the Fort Worth region.

If a dinosaur would make you look twice, what about a book with wings? Anselm Kiefer's lead, tin and steel sculpture is an iconic piece on display at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. It keeps good company—from Lichtenstein to Pollock, Rothko to Warhol, the Modern's 53,000 square feet of gallery space are used to cleverly exhibit its nearly 3,000 pieces of post-World War II art.

Directly across the street lives a smaller but no less impressive collection, as the Kimbell Art Museum has on view antiquities from as early as the third millennium B.C. to masterworks by 17th-century European legends. Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Monet, Goya, Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian are only a few of the artists on display. You won't find much American or modern art, however. All the museums in the Cultural District work together to ensure they don't overstep into each other's collections, meaning a day spent touring the area promises a well-rounded experience indeed.