The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has announced the upcoming retirement of Terri Thornton, who has served as the Curator of Education for nearly 30 years.
Ms. Thornton, who is also a practicing artist, joined the Modern in 1994, after having held teaching positions at University of Texas at Arlington, Texas Christian University, the University of Dallas, and Newman Smith High School in Carrollton. She holds an MFA from the University of Dallas (1992) and a BFA from the University of North Texas (1980).
In her long career at the Modern, Ms. Thornton led the education department with a focus on artist-led and art-centered programs. Among her accomplishments, Ms. Thornton launched the museum’s Summer Art Camp and Art Study, which has served thousands of students. She also designed and provided leadership for an array of programs for students, including the Teen Artist/Project, an eight-month program for high school students; Writing to Look, a repeat-visit program for middle school students; and Sundays with the Modern, an artist-led gallery tour.
Beyond supporting programs for children, Ms. Thornton also led her team in the development and implementation of tours to reach a wide range of audiences, such as: public tours and architecture-focused tours; Spanish-language tours; and Slow Art tours, an initiative used in many museums that aims to slow down looking by engaging with a limited number of works. She also supported her team in the development of Modern Billings, an initiative that displays artists’ work on underutilized billboards in under-served communities along the periphery of downtown Fort Worth. Additionally, she has managed an annual summer film series and exhibition-related reading groups.
Ms. Thornton may be best known for her work programming the Tuesday Evenings at the Modern lecture series, which has been a staple program for the museum for decades, even before Ms. Thornton’s tenure. She has brought in artists such as Trenton Doyle Hancock, Kara Walker, Robyn O’Neil, and Barry McGee to speak to the Modern’s audience. Each season was notable in that Ms. Thornton’s invitees were always wide-ranging: from local artists to under-recognized scholars to blockbuster artists, Ms. Thornton organized a program that ran the gambit, giving the Modern’s audience access to an expansive worldview.
The series is regularly attended by artists, students, and arts professionals, as well as the general public. Some lectures have been so crowded that the museum has had to offer overflow seating. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Thornton pivoted the program to offer remote access to the lectures through the virtual program Being There: Tuesday Evenings with the Modern.
In a press release, Marla Price, Director of the Modern, remarked, “We are grateful to Terri for her significant contributions to the Modern and the arts community. Terri has introduced an enormous number of students to the museum and to the importance of art. Her dedicated work on the Tuesday Evenings at the Modern lecture series will have a lasting impact on generations of art lovers. She has always been a catalyst for creating new ways of experiencing and learning about art and its connection to the world.”
Ms. Thornton commented, “It is the art that has sustained me throughout. Rather than becoming callous to art’s contributions and its connection to our humanity, I believe in its capacity to challenge and connect us even more than when I was wide-eyed and just beginning this amazing journey.”
Ms. Thornton’s retirement will be effective November 10, following the final Tuesday Evening lecture of the fall season, in which she will be in conversation with Helen Molesworth. Ms. Thornton is looking forward to reclaiming time in her studio and continuing her work curating Blind Alley Projects with her husband, artist Cameron Schoepp.