PROJECT HIGHLIGHT | Will Rogers Memorial Center’s Coliseum and Auditorium Tile Murals

The City of Fort Worth is currently having significant community conversations regarding racial equity in our city. In response to a citizen’s concerns regarding the depiction of African-Americans in the 1936 mural on the façade of the Will Rogers Memorial Center Auditorium (section depicted above).  It is anticipated tha tthe  Fort Worth Art Commission will make a recommendation for the historic Will Rogers Memorial Center Coliseum and Auditorium Historic Tile Murals at their next meeting on January 22, 2020, 5:00 p.m. at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden Center, Iris Room, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76107.  Citizens are invited to make comments during that meeting.

At a Special Called Meeting of the Fort Worth Art Commission on November 21, 2019, the City of Fort Worth’s Historic Preservation Officer Murray G. Miller gave a presentation on the historical significance of the Will Rogers Memorial Center, as well as the context in which the murals were created (view the slide presentation below by clicking on the “Play” icon).  Following the presentation, the Art Commission opened a public hearing to gather comments from citizens on this topic.

ABOUT THE MURALS

The Will Rogers Memorial Center was completed in 1936 in celebration of the Texas Centennial. The main facades of the auditorium and coliseum each feature a ceramic tile mural designed by Herman P. Koeppe and modified and fabricated by Kenneth Gale of the Mosaic Tile Company of Zanesville, Ohio. Made of custom glazed 9 by 9-inch square ceramic tile, the two friezes were mounted in a mud base on the steel supported façade.  Each frieze is ten feet tall by 200 feet long.  By October 1, 1936, the tile frieze was installed on the Coliseum. The auditorium mural illustrates the settlement and industrial development of the West, while the coliseum depicts the various settlers who shaped the cultural heritage of the Southwest. The historical subjects were selected by W. J. Hammond, head of the Department of History at Texas Christian University.

City Council accessioned the murals into the Fort Worth Public Art Legacy Collection in 2006.