Some folks do a good job of promoting Fort Worth by putting on tall boots and a big hat. Others do it in boardrooms and legislative chambers, in front of grand pianos, or on sports fields. For 40 years, Bill and Pam Campbell have gone another route.
With the Campbells’ help, Fort Worth artists and their works have made their way into highly respected museums as well as major private and corporate collections, to internationally known venues like the Venice Biennale — and into the homes of middle-class folks who’ve found a welcome in a world they’d never belonged to before.
Simply put, the Campbells are the heart and soul of Fort Worth’s contemporary gallery scene.
“They stoke the boiler not just for Texas artists but for the cause of art to be taken seriously in general,” said artist JT Grant. “They make Fort Worth legitimate in the national discussion of art.”
The Campbells have done it, not by any blindingly successful single show or artist represented or genre specialized in, but, local artists and art connoisseurs say, by consistently going the extra mile.
“In a sense, they have always placed the artists before themselves and the business,” said Jenny Conn, public art collection manager for the Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.
Bill Campbell might call it “process” — something he learned to appreciate as a student of sculpture at Texas Christian University.
“I’m interested in artists who establish early on that they know how to use their materials,” he said. “Pam and I have been sensitive to artists who’ve created an individual style,” regardless of school or genre.
These days, the Campbells, both 68 and in good health, are contemplating a different sort of process — that of figuring out how, perhaps, to take a step back from the running of the gallery that has been their passion for so many years.
They’re in no hurry.
“We’re playing it by ear,” Pam said.