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Sunday, April 23, 2023

Four Decades of Western Art in Kerrville

Entrance to the Museum of Western Art, as it appeared in 1983

Forty years ago, on April 23, 1983, the Museum of Western Art opened its doors in Kerrville. Originally called the Cowboy Artists of America Museum, it has brought visitors from all over the world to our community.

The first news stories I find about the museum were published in October, 1980.

“The Cowboy Artists of America has chosen Kerrville,” Sharon Krickbaum wrote for the Kerrville Daily Times, “as the site for its $3 million museum to be located on the Bandera Highway adjacent to Riverhill Country Club.” The land for the museum was donated by Bill Roden, one of the owners of Kerrville’s First National Bank.

The announcement was made by Raymond Barker and Glyn Stewart, co-chairmen of the museum fundraising committee. Both men were bankers – Barker at Charles Schreiner Bank, and Stewart, First National Bank.

Architect's Renderings
The architect for the museum was announced in the same news story: Ford, Powell, and Carson, a firm headquartered in San Antonio. James Boren was president of the Cowboy Artists of America organization at the time.

The original “founding sponsors,” who’d each pledged at least $100,000 to the fundraising effort for the museum, included L. D. Brinkman; John Duncan; John Eulich; Walter Hailey; Robert Holt; Sherman Hunt; Stuart Hunt; John Hill; Red McCombs; Robert Parker; William Roden; and Robert Shelton. More donors would join the effort, following these first founders, and eventually 28 donors met the threshold of $100,000 to become ‘founding sponsors’ of the museum.

Ground was broken for the museum on April 17, 1981. A news release described the new museum to be 14,366 square feet of space; including a large main gallery; three smaller galleries; two cottages (with working studios); an amphitheater for outdoor seminars; office space; a library and board room; and a gift shop. 

Information published at the time of the groundbreaking suggested the work would be completed by the spring of 1983.

Photos from the event show it to be well-attended, and the weather looks like it cooperated as well.

Groundbreaking ceremony, 1981
Grant Speed, John Duncan,
James Boren, Robert Shelton
As work began, more news stories were filed.

In December, 1981, a news story noted Griffiths C. Carnes was hired as the first director of the museum. Carnes had previously owned a bank in Meridian, Texas, and had sold his interest in that bank the summer of 1981.

Details about the construction of the museum were also reported, often focusing on the domes made of brick in the main gallery. Called ‘boveda’ domes, they were constructed by craftsmen from Mexico. The domes were built without plans, support forms, and ‘seem to defy gravity,’ according to Carnes.

A black-tie event was planned for April 22, 1983, honoring the ‘founding sponsors’ of the museum. A silent auction of artworks was conducted, and nearly $300,000 was raised, which the artists donated to the museum.

The next day, April 23, a ‘barbed wire cutting’ ceremony was held, instead of a ribbon cutting ceremony, and the museum opened to the public. Over 5,000 people attended the three-day opening, which included demonstrations of calf roping, a dinner and a dance.

Today the museum is known as the Museum of Western Art, and is ably led by Dr. Darrell Beauchamp. Among the various celebrations planned for this weekend are a new exhibition, called “40 Years of Western Art.”

If you’ve never visited the museum, this Sunday, April 23, 2023, from noon to 5 pm, the museum will be open to the public, and admission will be free. If you’re around the museum at 1 pm, they’ll be serving cake and mimosas to mark the official 40th birthday of the museum. The address of the museum is 1550 Bandera Highway, Kerrville.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has enjoyed his many visits to the Museum of Western Art. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 22, 2013.

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1 comment:

  1. This is such a beautifully designed and crafted building. We're lucky to have a great O'Neil Ford project in our community.


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