My home-base city of Fort Worth, Texas, has since the 1950s, complicated its countrified essence with a set of class-and-culture bearings that range from the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition – America’s “So, there!” riposte to Khruschev and/or Tchaikowsky, dating from a peak-period of the Cold War – to four heavy-duty art museums of international appeal and influence. The local-boosterism flacks crow about “Cowboys ’n’ Culture!” at every opportunity, with or without provocation. But apart from the self-evident truths that Old Money (oil ’n’ cattle) fuels the high-cultural impulse and that the cow-honker sector finds chronic solace in the Amon Carter and Sid Richardson museums’ arrays of works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, these communities seldom cross paths with one another.
The détente was tested beyond reasonable limits in 2001, when a yee-haw country-music promoter moved a mob-scene outdoor festival from the Fort Worth Stockyards to the fashionable downtown area – at precisely the moment the Cliburn Competition was settling into the nearby Bass Performance Hall, itself a grand assertion of an Old World civilizing stimulus for the New Linoleum. I mean, Millennium.
Yes, and the juxtaposition of clashing tribal imperatives scarcely could have been more emphatically pronounced. I should add, speaking of Horrors Beyond Forgetting, that it wasn’t the Cliburn audience that left that mound of shattered beer bottles in the City Center Parking Garage. Never the twang shall meet.
We can skip over a lot of the rest. (This all-purpose transition comes from Steve Gerber. Just so you know.)
Despite the persistence of “Cowboys ’n’ Culture!” as a rallying cry for the tourism racket, either element fares very well without the other’s interference. The North Side’s Stockyards area has Billy Bob’s Texas and the restless ghosts of the meat-packing industry. The West Side’s Cultural District has, well, its notions of Culture. And so who gets to call it “Art,” anyhow?