Editor's note: After the events of 2020 (and early 2021) devastated Fort Worth's arts scene, the city's museums, venues, and organizations came back blazing. To invite patrons back through the doors, they developed new programming, forged innovative partnerships, and celebrated anniversaries in creative ways — and took bold steps to keep everyone safe. These were our top 10 most-read arts stories of 2021.
1. Massive new LEGO sculptures bloom at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Blooming at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden last spring: hydrangeas, hollyhocks, and huge sculptures made entirely out of LEGOS. For the first time, the city's premier garden hosted the exhibit "Sean Kenney’s Nature Connects Made with LEGO Bricks," which debuted May 6. The award-winning traveling exhibit consisted of more than a dozen sculptures depicting animals, plants, and garden vignettes that towered among the garden's plants and trees. Hundreds of thousands of the beloved children's toy were used to make them.
2. Texas Ballet Theater shuts down Fort Worth headquarters after 'catastrophic' storm damage. Dallas-Fort Worth's premier dance company, Texas Ballet Theater, was in recovery mode after a water pipe break during Winter Storm Uri shut down operations of its Fort Worth headquarters. Ankle-deep water had destroyed all specialized floors in every rehearsal studio, among other damages. The building destruction came as a crushing blow after a year of financial and artistic hardship due to COVID-19.
3. Fort Worth museum debuts new adults-only nights for arts & craft cocktails. After its blow-out 60th birthday party, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art was still feeling festive in October. The Fort Worth museum launched a new monthly series for adults only, Second Thursdays at the Carter, that stirs together one part cocktails, one part conversation, and one part creativity to connect adults with art. (The next one is Thursday, January 13.)
4. Historic Fort Worth tower to light up with high-tech art for 2 nights. In April, it was announced that the 204-foot-tall Pioneer Tower at Will Rogers Memorial Center would light up as a beacon of Fort Worth art and life for two nights only this summer. To mark its 20th year in August, Fort Worth Public Art — a city program run by the Arts Council of Fort Worth — illuminated all four sides of the tower with new large-scale, high-tech media installations created from photos and memories submitted by Fort Worth residents.
5. Works by 30 world-famous Black artists come to Arlington in groundbreaking exhibition. The Arlington Museum of Art revealed in February that it would host the landmark traveling exhibition "30 Americans" during the summer. Described as "showcasing works by 30 emerging and established African American artists of the last three decades," the list of artists on display included marquee names like Kehinde Wiley, who famously was chosen to paint the official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama.
6. Broadway at the Bass lifts curtain with jubilant 2021-22 season. Shortly after Dallas Summer Musicals announced its grand return to the indoor stage, Performing Arts Fort Worth revealed its own 2021-22 Broadway at the Bass season in May. The six-show series would feature many of the titles that were previously scheduled prior to COVID-19, as well as a newly added hit show direct from Broadway: Come from Away, Cats, Dear Evan Hansen, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Mean Girls, and of course, Hamilton.
7. Acclaimed artist comes to Fort Worth to sculpt something cool out of sticks and twigs. There was an artwork coming to Fort Worth in February that was so unusual, not even the artist knew what it would be. On February 1, nationally acclaimed artist Patrick Dougherty began twisting, weaving, and shaping every child's favorite outdoor collectible — sticks — until they became a towering sculpture Fort Worth Botanic Garden's Fuller Garden. The whimsical creation, called Stickwork, is a walk-through "bird's nest," of sorts, that is still on display.
8. Fort Worth's Bass Hall reopens with first-ever Jubilee Theatre show. In June, Jubilee Theatre, in partnership with Performing Arts Fort Worth, announced it would present the musical Southern Boys: Sons of Sharecroppers at Bass Hall from July 29-August 15, marking the first live, in-person performances at the city's premier performance venue since the beginning of the pandemic. It was also the first time Jubilee would put on a production at Bass Hall, although it might not be the last, Bass Hall management said.
9. Bass Hall ticketholders now must show negative COVID test or volunteer vaccine card. Patrons who queued up outside Bass Hall for opening night of Cats on November 16 had one extra stop before they could zip inside for a quick pre-show cocktail: They had to show a recent negative COVID-19 test result or proof of COVID-19 vaccination. It was a new requirement that Fort Worth's biggest performing arts organization instituted November 1.
10. Fort Worth Opera composes star-studded celebration of Black artists. In the first event of its kind for the city, Fort Worth Opera presented a virtual, all-star benefit concert called "A Night of Black Excellence: Past, Present, and Future" to celebrate Black History Month in February. The event honored "the rich cultural legacy, inspiring contributions, and trailblazing talents of Black musicians, composers, and librettists." The second annual event will take place in February 2022.