You can always expect a crush of thousands at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center at the twice-yearly Gallery Night. Expect a larger crowd than usual for Saturday's Spring Gallery Night as the FWCAC celebrates its 10th anniversary with the usual exhibitions and a full slate of entertainers scheduled all afternoon and evening.
After the rounds of galleries have been made, patrons can attend the after-party that begins at 9 p.m. It is a way of thanking the citizens of Fort Worth for the big love that has been bestowed on the center.
When the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth moved out of the building in 2002, the Fort Worth City Council made the space available to local arts organizations and the public. It is a facility unlike any other in the United States, with nine galleries, two theaters and offices for 11 arts-related nonprofit organizations.
Over the past decade, there have been more than 500 exhibitions, with 80 sponsored exhibits displaying more than 10,000 works by numerous artists, and more than 800 performances and events. The center has become a smashing success.
The variety of events is fairly staggering. Major players such as the Fort Worth Opera have staged performances, and the Fort Worth Opera Guild has put on fundraisers for the performances. The center has been the starting line and staging area for the Cowtown Marathon and home to the Fort Worth Biennial, an open-invitation art exhibition for anyone from Tarrant County to display their artwork.
There are dance performances, from the large Texas Ballet Theater to small dance studios' year-end revues. It has been the site of comedy shows, CD release parties and weddings. Children's groups also take advantage of the stages and galleries. Kids Who Care performs regularly in the W.E. Scott Theatre, and there is an after-school program and three summer camps.
It's the most democratic of institutions. Everyone is welcome to use it.
The galleries rent for $350-$925 a month, depending on the room. The charge to use the small black box Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre is $400 for the first day and $300 for subsequent days. The larger Scott Theatre is $1,070 for the first day and $804 for additional days.
Weddings, receptions and parties are held in the galleries; the rates vary from $1,500 to $2,500, depending on the number of people expected, says Marla Owen, the center's business development manager.
This rental income is what keeps the doors open, as the city provides only a small stipend to help cover maintenance.
"We use every inch of the space at all times," says Owen.
Some of the galleries are already reserved well into 2015, but there is still one small one available in two months' time. Owen is not concerned about blank pages in her calendar of reservations. "It will get rented. They always do," she says.
Someone always needs a place to hold an event, she says, citing a wedding that lost its location a week before the ceremony. Owen was able to calm a hysterical bride; the ceremony took place as scheduled at the FWCAC.
"There is always a party of some kind going on," she says.
And the one Saturday night should be huge.
Gaile Robinson is the Star-Telegram art and design critic, 817-390-7113