Late in April I had the privilege of delivering the keynote address at the 10th Annual Symposium of the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art, or CASETA. This association of collectors, dealers, and scholars has passionately devoted a decade to expanding the understanding of Texas art and art history, focusing on the state’s tremendous regional artistic impact since the late nineteenth century. In the short time that I have been a resident of Texas, I have been impressed with the many discoveries and untold stories of artists as wide ranging as Frank Reagh and Everett Spruce.
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is an institution committed to the story of American art and visual culture, and we want to understand the “regional” in relationship to our larger national story. As we continue to develop plans for the growth of the collection, that relationship—the regional to the national—is vital. I can imagine the day when works by Reagh and Spruce hang beside paintings by George Inness and Grant Wood. Expanding the canon of art in this way inevitably involves the community of collectors of early Texas art.
But how to get started in this partnership, keeping in mind the breadth and quality of this region’s early Texas art? At the Amon Carter we are initiating a plan to educate ourselves and to build those relationships within the community through small exhibitions in our galleries of loaned works that we find to be the strongest art in private collections. Our quest is for the best representation of artists—those who made a significant contribution to the nation’s art history. In other words, we are aiming to find the line where, for us in this great state, the regional becomes national.
This direction involves both an expanding vision and an invitation: the museum’s vision to help elevate the high-quality regional art of the state, and an invitation to such artwork’s collectors. Questions will arise, some challenging, as we expand our collecting vision in this way. Our hope is that collectors will find the Amon Carter a worthy partner in this exploration of Texas art. We recognize that the knowledge and passion, along with the works of art, reside with collectors who have already discovered and come to appreciate the value and beauty inherent in these works.