Art in the Metroplex
October 3 - 29, 2014
Art in the Metroplex: The Beginning
Art in the Metroplex was first held in 1983. It opened in June on the Texas Christian University campus and attracted almost 900 works of art created by 370 artists in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The numbers stunned exhibit organizers. “The fact that (artists) responded in such numbers clearly proved their desire for such an exhibit,” wrote Janet Kutner in the Dallas Morning News. “Faced with the deluge” (Kutner’s words), the show’s sole juror, art historian Barbara Rose, pared the pool of nearly 900 submissions down to 98. The two principal organizers of Art in the Metroplex, Fort Worth’s Committee for an Artists’ Center and the Department of Art and Art History at Texas Christian University, quickly realized that they had correctly identified a pressing community need. Artists in Fort Worth and Dallas were hungry for a high-quality, broadly inclusive but competitive showcase for their art. Planning for the next year’s show began immediately.
At the time of Art in the Metroplex’s inception, exhibit opportunities were few for local artists unaffiliated with a gallery or professional organization. The Tarrant County Annual, once a staple event for a broad swath of Tarrant County artists, was gone. Regional art competitions long-sponsored by the Texas Fine Arts Association in Austin were contracting. To fill the need, Art in the Metroplex offered impartial judging, generous cash awards and was open to any Metroplex artist over 18 who wished to enter one or more original artworks created within the last two years.
Art in the Metroplex sprang from a collaboration between an organization of art activists and the Texas Christian University art department. At its root, the exhibit was the brainchild of two people who wanted to work together. Beth Lea Clardy was an established Fort Worth artist, a 1940 graduate of the TCU art program and one of a quartet of concerned citizens who in 1978 founded the non-profit Committee for an Artists’ Center. Ronald Watson was an artist and educator on the faculty of the TCU Department of Art and Art History. He assumed the chairmanship of the TCU art department in 1982 with a goal of “seeking greater collaboration between the university and Fort Worth artists and organizations.” After meeting face-to-face in 1983, Clardy and Watson found their common goal and began to marshal the resources necessary to organize and fund a large undertaking like Art in the Metroplex. The first call for entries went out in May. The art gallery in TCU’s new J. M. Moudy Building was fully scheduled for the 1983-84 academic year, so the first edition of Art in the Metroplex was escalated to June.
The Committee for an Artists’ Center (CAC) was organized by Beth Lea Clardy, Jo Ann Durham and Marguerite Meisner as a membership-based, not-for-profit Texas corporation. It existed solely for the purpose of securing a building where Fort Worth artists could exhibit and teach. The CAC first partnered with the Stockyards Development Corporation in 1979 to launch and run the Mule Alley Art Center, located in the historic Livestock Exchange Building. By 1983, the CAC was headed to a new permanent home at 414 Templeton Street where its art school and gallery spaces became indispensable fixtures in the Fort Worth art community. There, a professional faculty included artists Ed and Linda Blackburn, Dennis Blagg, Julie Bozzi, Dale Connor and Ann Ekstrom. The CAC changed its name to the Templeton Art Center in 1991, but Art in the Metroplex remained one of the organization’s most important annual projects.
Through its first 28 years, the constants behind Art in the Metroplex were Ron Watson and the Texas Christian University Department of Art and Art History, the Templeton Art Center, Beth Lea Clardy, and the Beth Lea and John L. Clardy Estate. Close collaboration between long-time organizer Nancy Vance, who was the sister of Beth Clardy, and TCU coordinator Karen Weinman formed the hinge on which the exhibition’s longevity swung. Year-in and year-out, these and a cadre of others working behind the scene made the exhibit in the J. M. Moudy Building on the Texas Christian University campus one of the smoothest running anywhere. In 2014, after a brief hiatus, Art in the Metroplex is now in the capable hands of the dedicated staff at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center (FWCAC). The FWCAC, managed by the Arts Council of Fort Worth, is housed in a former Fort Worth art museum where Texas art was first shown in 1954. It’s a building that Beth Lea Clardy knew well and a home for Art in the Metroplex that she would approve of. The amazing artists of Dallas and Fort Worth and the many communities that make up our great Metroplex are the reason for all of this.
Scott Grant Barker