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Entertainment Dickies Arena unveils art: Murals, bas-relief bronzes links new venue with...

Dickies Arena unveils art: Murals, bas-relief bronzes links new venue with historic Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

It officially opens Oct. 26, but Dickies Arena took the wraps off of the artwork that will grace the new venue and link it with the historic, WPA-era art of the nearby Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.

The artwork includes two large-scale glass tile mosaic murals, one on the south side and another on the north; a pair of massive bas-relief bronzes; and other sculptural and decorative elements integrated into the architecture of the building’s exterior and interior.

The public art program of the arena is the result of a gift from the Alice L. Walton Foundation.

The arena itself is designed by architect David M. Schwarz.

On the south façade is a 12-foot tall by 63-foot wide work by Denver-based Western artist William Matthews, who is known for his depictions of working cowboys and the American West.

Titled Los Caballos, the mural commemorates the horse, first brought by the Spanish and now an enduring symbol of the American West, whose introduction to North America transformed the Great Plains and the West for both Native Americans and American pioneers.

Set against an untamed landscape, the piece captures the movement of wild horses running among scrub and brush, set against rolling hills, mesas, and a storm-filled sky.

Matthews’s work was fabricated in the celebrated female-owned studio Mosaicos Venecianos in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where artisans pieced together more than 600,000 hand-cut glass tiles of 570 different colors to realize this scene.

Horses are a key part of the activity set for the new arena, so it’s no surprise to see the artists focusing on the animal that meant so much to Fort Worth and the West.

Flanking Matthews’s mural are two bas-relief sculptures also celebrating the significance of the horse in the history of the American West.

The two 12-foot tall works, cast in bronze, were conceived from Matthews’s original composition drawings and sculpted by Texas-based artist Buckeye Blake, a member of the Cherokee Nation.

To the left of Matthew’s work is a depiction of an early day cowboy of the American West, skilled and confident. On the opposite side is a Comanche, considered the “Lord of the Plains” and master of the horse culture, brave, and graceful.

The building’s north façade features a soaring triptych measuring 10-feet in height by 108-feet in width portraying the roots and icons of Texas culture.

Created by Evergreene Architectural Arts of Brooklyn, the mural was fabricated in Italy using more than 600,000 colored glass tiles. It depicts scenes telling the story of Texas, highlighting early settlers and cowhands, set amidst Texas flora, fauna, and more.

At the center of the mural is a large-scale, bright, shining star of Texas, surrounded by oil wells representing the Texas oil booms of the 20th Century, and several of the state’s quintessential symbols of the natural landscape including prickly pear cacti, pecan trees, wildflowers, bluebonnets, daisies, Texas longhorns, and deer.

Designed in an Art Deco style to pay homage to the adjacent, historic and Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, Dickies Arena’s numerous architectural details depict the culture and flora of Fort Worth, including wildflowers etched in designs and native prairie grasses sculpted in metal inside the building.

Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum was designed by architect Wyatt C. Hedrick for the Texas Centennial celebration in 1936. Thos. S. Byrne was the general contractor.

As the Dickies Arena prepares for its unveiling, Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum’s 209-foot tall Pioneer Tower is also getting a $4 million facelift that should be ready for the arena’s opening. Fort Worth’s Elements of Architecture is working on the project.

“The rehabilitation of the 1936 Pioneer Tower represents a significant reinvestment into an iconic landmark in the community,” interim Public Events Director Richard Zavala said earlier this year.

“As we approach the opening of the Dickies Multi-purpose Arena we are able to celebrate the public/private partnership that served as the genesis of the Will Rogers Memorial Complex over 80 years ago, with the next great public/private partnership that will result in this state-of-the-art arena in 2019. Legacy projects for Fort Worth into the future,” Zavala said.

Facts about Dickies Arena

Seating capacity

Concerts: 12,500 -14,000

Basketball: 13,300

Family Shows & Hockey: 12,200

Horse Shows & Rodeo: 9,300

Cost: Public source funding is capped at $225 million.

Funding sources: A group of private-sector participants (foundations, individuals and organizations) will provide half the cost. Public funding from several dedicated sources will pay the other half.

Completion date: Official opening Oct. 26, in time to host events for the 2020 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

Parking: A nearby parking garage has 2,200 spaces on six levels.

Coliseum: The nearby Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, part of the Will Rogers Memorial Center designed by architect Wyatt C. Hedrick that opened in 1936, will continue to serve as a major equestrian venue.

Architect: HKS, architect of record

Contractor: The Beck Group, lead contractor

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