Arts Fort Worth Names Wesley Gentle Executive Director Amid Uncertainty About the Building’s Future

by Jessica Fuentes May 13, 2023

Arts Fort Worth, a nonprofit art organization, has appointed Wesley Gentle as its new Executive Director & President. Mr. Gentle has held the position of Interim Managing Director since July 2022, following the retirement of Karen Wiley. 

In a press release, Carter Shackelford, Chair of the Arts Fort Worth Board, stated, “Over the past ten months, we have had the opportunity to see all of the leadership qualities, as well as the passion and dedication to the organization, that we believe to be necessary to successfully lead Arts Fort Worth into the future… After viewing the high level of work that Wesley has delivered since taking on the interim role, we no longer believe that an external candidate would add a greater value to the organization than what we have already seen from him.”

A headshot of arts administrator Wesley Gentle.

Wesley Gentle. Photo courtesy of Arts Fort Worth.

Mr. Gentle holds a BA in Music, with minors in Psychology and Writing, from Texas Christian University, and a Master of Music in Opera Performance from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. From 2015 to 2017, Mr. Gentle served as the Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer at the Fort Worth Opera, and then he spent a year as the Institutional Giving Manager at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. 

In 2018, Mr. Gentle joined the Arts Council of Fort Worth as the Advancement Manager, and was promoted to Director of Advancement a year later. In February 2022, the council merged with the Fort Worth Community Arts Center to become Arts Fort Worth, and that summer Ms. Wiley retired from her position as CEO and President of the organization. As Interim Managing Director, Mr. Gentle implemented a new strategic plan, oversaw finances and operations, and bolstered the organization’s partnerships.

However, the last few years for the organization have been marked by uncertainty. In 2022, the architectural firm of Bennett Partners, determined that 1300 Gendy Street, the building that Arts Fort Worth occupies and that is owned by the city, needs approximately $26 million in repairs. Earlier this year, the Fort Worth City Council approved a resolution appointing a task force to assess its existing and potential uses, assess potential funding sources for needed repairs and renovations, and present recommendations to the City Council by June 6, 2023.

The building, designed by Herbert Bayer, first opened to the public in 1954 as home to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. In 1966, the adjacent W.E. Scott Theater and Solarium, designed by Joseph R. Pelich, were added to the structure. Then, ten years later, further additions were made, designed by O’Neil Ford Associates. When The Modern moved into its current building in 2002, designed by Tadao  Ando, the Fort Worth Community Arts Center opened. Over the last two decades, the space has been a thriving arts center for local and regional emerging and established artists.

On Thursday, April 27, a meeting was held which provided an opportunity for community members to speak directly to the task force. More than 300 people attended in support of Arts Fort Worth, and several spoke about the significance of the venue to the city’s art scene. Local artist and real estate agent Bernardo Vallarino pointed out that as a tenant of the city-owned building, Arts Fort Worth should not be penalized for the city’s lack of attention to the building’s repair needs. 

Just days after the community meeting, Arts Fort Worth sent out a newsletter stating that, “While the Task Force members have expressed support for continuing Arts Fort Worth’s mission, in part, to incubate and support local art, the Task Force has decided to move forward with recommending redevelopment plans for the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.” The task force will finalize its recommendation later this month and present a plan to the City Council on June 6.

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