If there is the lack of a scene, then it’s time to create one — that’s the thinking behind Fort Works Art, which celebrates its second anniversary this month with a permanent gallery space. Created by artist Lauren Childs and her business partner, J.W. Wilson, Fort Works originally was conceived in March 2014 to fill a void in Fort Worth’s suddenly sparse gallery world.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, and when I was in school, there was a gallery night that was a big deal,” Childs recalls. “Most of those [spaces] have closed, and people have retired. We have Artspace 111 and William Campbell [Contemporary Art], but that’s really it.
“We started doing pop-ups, because there was no place for artists to show.”
Fort Works’ first curated show took over a space “stacked with things from floor to ceiling” in the old Supreme Golf warehouse. Now the location of the bar Shipping & Receiving (not to mention the locale where singer Leon Bridges recorded his hit album), the then-unfinished room ended up hosting an unexpectedly large crowd of 1,500 art lovers.
The event was enough of a success that Childs and her partner followed up with a September show. For their second year, they created a citywide arts competition judged by the Mayor Betsy Price, director and curator of the Gallery at the University of Texas at Arlington Benito Huerta, and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth curator Andrea Carnes.
Having such support helped Childs conceive of a more permanent space. By the middle of 2015, they started looking in earnest.
But before they unveil their new programming, they’ll indulge in “The Last Pop Up Show,” a group exhibition opening March 19, held in the eventual permanent location at 2100 Montgomery St., from noon to 9 pm. Works by Childs, Riley Holloway, Marshall Harris, Clay Stinnett, Janna Tidwell, and Leigh Ann Williams will join pieces from other local arts organizations in a wide range of mediums.
“After we started, a lot of other groups of kids started popping up and doing shows. For this last show, we’re taking a select group from our other shows and including the organization Bobby on Drums and The Exhibitionists, who are a group of people affiliated with museums in Forth Worth.”
After the night winds to a close, the real work begins, as Childs and Wilson shift into a serious gallery program representing both local and New York-based talent. As they have a full 7,000 square feet to play with, the sky is the limit for the scope of the work, and the pair plans on showing paintings, drawings, installations, sculpture, and photography.
As ambitious as running a gallery can be, the goal of Fort Works remains the same as it was with that very first event: support and grow the city’s artistic community.
“I want to make Fort Worth a cultural marker for the arts,” Childs says. “We have this amazing trifecta of museums, and my goal is to bring in artists one step below that are still extremely successful. In Fort Worth there are a lot of collectors and not enough art to buy, and for me this is the next step."
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