Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

The Sid Winter Count

Historically, some indigenous communities shared their history through oral tradition. But sometimes, they used other tools to help them remember their long and complex histories. Among Northern Plains Indians, one of those tools was a winter count, which helped keep track of the passage of years. In this case, the year was not measured from January through December, but rather from first snowfall to the following year’s snowfall. Different groups from the Northern Plains region sometimes referred to this entire year as a winter.

At the end of the year, elders in the various communities would meet to discuss the things that happened since the first snowfall. Among those events they chose one particular incident to serve as a historical reminder for the whole year. The year would then be forever named after that chosen event. It was then the responsibility of one person in that community, known as the keeper, to design a symbol, or pictograph, onto a buffalo hide, which included the pictographs of each year, like a calendar. That hide was known as the winter count. The winter count served as a mnemonic device to help the storyteller tell their communities history to others.

Lone Dog Winter Count, National Museum of the American Indian, Cultural Resource Center, Catalog 21.8701

Here at the Sid, we’ve had several major events that have occurred over the past year, making it difficult to select just one to represent 2017.

The Sid, along with many partners around the city of Fort Worth, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail with our exhibit Hide & Horn on the Chisholm Trail. Starting down in South Texas and moving north all the way up to the railheads of Kansas, the Chisholm Trail helped facilitate the greatest migration of livestock in world history. Predating the arrival of the train and discovery of oil, the Chisholm Trail era was an indispensable, early chapter in Fort Worth’s history. Being a waypoint along the trail spurred the city’s early growth and helped define its Western heritage, which even today differentiates Fort Worth from any other city.

Kansas Pacific Railway Company | The Best and Shortest Cattle Trail from Texas | 1873 | Map | The Rees-Jones Collection

Hide & Horn on the Chisholm Trail was part of our Guests of Honor focus exhibition series, which assemble a small selection from the permanent collection with loaned works from other collections. We had the opportunity to put Remington in the spotlight with another 2017 Guest of Honor exhibit, Frederic Remington: Altered States. This small focus exhibit features artworks with alterations made either by the artist, or by others, and explores the ways in which scholarship and scientific conservation methods have contributed to the discovery of those alterations.

It was not uncommon for Remington to alter his work, finding ways to improve upon his compositions. However, others took advantage of the marketability of Remington’s work, resulting in some fraudulent practices. For example, the exhibit features a black & white oil by Remington that was later painted over in color, likely to increase the work’s market value. Through scholarship and a quick visit to a conservation lab, a section of the color painting was then removed to reveal the original painting underneath, which serves now as a demonstration of how original works of art can be compromised by those with fraudulent intentions.

Frederic Remington | He Rushed The Pony Right to the Barricade | c. 1900 | Oil on canvas, b & w | 27 1/8 inches x 40 1/8 inches

Beyond exhibits, the staff here at The Sid have experienced some major events, including a field trip with our docent volunteers down to Orange, Texas to visit the Stark Museum of Art, where we toured a fabulous exhibit about the imagery found in fine art and film that branded the visual representation of the American West.

Sid Richardson Museum staff & docents at the Stark Museum of Art.

Another big staff event this year includes the welcoming of our new Director of School & Family Programs, Shelby Orr. Starting in August, Shelby quickly settled into her new role, adapting her talents as a former elementary art school teacher as she welcomed to The Sid students from schools all over FWISD. We’re looking forward to all of the great educational programs Shelby has planned for our children, teen, and family visitors.

Shelby Orr, Director of School & Family Programs, demonstrating how to create a landscape painting to a group of 3rd grade students.

Finally, a major achievement for the museum and foundation is the certification as a Blue Zones Project approved worksite. What began as a New York Times bestseller by National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner has evolved into a global movement that’s inspiring people to live longer, more active lives with lower rates of chronic disease. Fort Worth is the first city in Texas to implement the Blue Zones Project. In order to qualify as a blue Zones approved worksite, we had to meet a long list of criteria, including creating an employee garden, which has provided not only some beautiful greenery to the office, but also some fresh herbs to add to our daily lunches.

The Sid Herb Garden


As you can see, a lot can happen in one year. If you could only pick one personal event to serve as a historical reminder for the whole year, what you would choose to add to your winter count?

Orange You Glad It’s Western Art

Last week we took a group of our docent volunteers on a journey down to Orange, Texas. About a 6 hour drive from Fort Worth, Orange is a town nestled into southeast Texas, not far from the Louisiana border. Although Orange is small, it packs a lot of punch when it comes to its cultural attractions.

Sid Richardson Museum staff & docents at the Stark Museum of Art

The impetus for our trip was to visit the Stark Museum of Art, which houses one of the finest collections of art of the American West and Southwest. In addition to their fabulous permanent collection, the museum is currently the site for the traveling exhibit, Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900 – 1950. The exhibition explores paintings and imagery of the American West as presented by Western artists like Frederic Remington, as well as members of the Taos Society of Artists and the California-based artist Maynard Dixon, and through films of the era.

Dr. Sarah Boehme, curator, welcomes our group to the Stark Museum of Art

Dr. Boehme guides our group through the exhibit, “Branding the American West.”

Near the Stark Museum of Art is the W.H. Stark House, a house museum and childhood home of H.J. Lutcher Stark, whose vision and collection grew into what is now the art museum. Like Sid Richardson, Lutcher Stark and his wife, Nelda, established a foundation to serve and enrich the lives in Southeast Texas through arts and education.

Another wonderful legacy of the Stark family is the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. Lutcher Stark created this beautiful oasis on some of his private land located along a bayou. Stark opened his private gardens to the public, and its beauty has touched the lives of many visitors since major restoration efforts in 2002.

Despite the brevity of the trip, the impressions of our experience in Orange are long-lasting. Should you find yourself in the far southeast reaches of the Lone Star state, take some time to visit these gems of Orange, Texas. You will not be disappointed!

Whoa, We’re Halfway There

This fall, the Sid Richardson Museum embarked on a new class of docents. Having started our extensive docent training in September, I’m happy to report that we’re halfway through our course! What have we learned so far?


Our new docent class leading mini tours on the first day of training!

Eleven future docents were introduced to the museum collection & staff, and jumped right in to their new role by sharing what they learned about Sid Richardson through various pieces in the museum collection.

The docent class had the great fortunate to learn about the artwork and time period represented in our collection through various prestigious visiting speakers. Dr. Brian Dippie, one of the preeminent scholars on Charles Russell and author of the Sid Richardson Museum collection book, traveled across the border to speak with us all the way from Canada. Likewise, Peter Hassrick, editor of the recently published Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné II, sojourned from his post as Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming to speak with our docents about the iconic Western artist. Most recently, we learned more about the era of transformation during the late 19th and early 20th centuries from Dr. Mark Thistlethwaite, the Kay and Velma Kimbell Chair of Art History at Texas Christian University, who helped us situate Remington & Russell within the broader context of American art history.


Dr. Brian Dippie discussing Charles Russell with our new docent class.

Dr. Brian Dippie discussing Charles Russell with our new docent class.

In addition to scholarship, we’ve been learning all different tools of the trade like conversational interpretation, or how to talk with visitors about the artworks on display. We also had a fun “speed dating” class in which our docents had a chance to do each of the studio activities that are offered to our student visitor during their school tours at the Sid. We have some talented artists in our midst!

Kenny Haussenteuffel guiding our docents on best practices for working with ELL students.

Kenny Haussenteuffel guiding our docents on best practices for working with ELL students.

This week, we stepped into the shoes of English Language Learners, as Kenny Hassenteuffel, a former dual language school teacher, led a discussion of artworks from our collection in Spanish. Through this exercise, Mr. Hassenteuffel was able to demonstrate ways in which we can help create meaningful museum experiences for our ELL visitors. And we learned a little Spanish along the way!

Although we’ve covered quite a lot of material, we still have 7 more weeks of training to go. Our docents will learn things like cultural awareness in art museums, child development, tour themes, and how to craft a tour. Each new docent will end their training with a practice tour presentation. We can’t wait to let them shine!

Dedicated Docents: Nancy C.

As we gear up for a new class of docents this fall, we want to shine the spotlight on our volunteers who continue to dedicate their time serving the community through the museum.  On today’s “Dedicated Docent” blog series, I’d like to introduce you to Nancy C.nancy C
: What drew you to the Sid Richardson Museum?

Nancy: This museum is a wonderful smaller museum that houses amazing Western Art by Charles Russell and Frederic Remington with other western painters.  I have the privilege to know the Director of the Museum and another docent, and they got me interested in discovering more about this museum by becoming a docent.

SRM: What do you want visitors to get out of the tour?

Nancy: I want the visitors to the Sid Richardson Museum to learn about the past.  What the “wild west” or “the old west” eras were about.  Russell and Remington were there and they painted the times they knew were no longer going to be there.  The school students have so much fun, they get to experience art and create an art project during their visit to the museum.

SRM: What are some of your most memorable tour moments?

Nancy: Our students who visit are my favorite!  Some have never been to an art museum; the science museum perhaps but not here.  We have the opportunity to open their minds and hearts and create a new experience for them.  They learn that our paintings tell stories, and are pictures of what our history is about.  It is very rewarding when they learn that by using their imagination they can understand that the paintings have sound, light and movement.  I also participate in the museum’s special events and adult tours.  These groups have a different take on art, and I have the opportunity to share with them the best of what I know about the art we have.

SRM: How has being a docent changed you?

Nancy: Being a docent I have learned many new things:  how bronze statues were created in the late 19th century, how to view art though children’s eyes, and most of all how to just enjoy art.  Art doesn’t always need to be analyzed. Does the art move me? Just enjoy art for art’s sake.

SRM: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Nancy: My favorite part of being a docent is learning new things, new projects, new ways to view history, new ways to teach children about art, and being part of a wonderful museum such as the Sid Richardson Museum.


If you are interested in becoming a docent and are curious to learn more about the docent program, please join us next Monday, August 8th @10am for a Prospective Docent Coffee. Our next Docent Class begins September 12. Applications are due by August 12.

Farewell, Gus and Captain Call!

On Sunday, Fort Worth bid farewell to Gus and Captain Call and the Lonesome Dove Reunion and Trail.End of LD Wagon2h

Thanks to Mayor Betsy Price’s vision, our community has had numerous opportunities this spring to enjoy treasures from the Lonesome Dove Collection, permanently held at the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University (TSU) in San Marcos. TSU, the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau and generous sponsors and partners brought the beloved Western Lonesome Dove to our city via exhibits, screenings and panel discussions with cast and crew. The Trail featured costumes, props, and photographs from the Lonesome Dove Production Archive.

The Sid Richardson Museum in Sundance Square was the Trail’s kickoff site and host for the exhibition Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story. More than 27,000 visitors from 50 states and 22 countries traced the path of Lonesome Dove, from Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to the movie script, and they explored the American West through Frederic Remington and Charles Russell artworks, a cowboy’s cattle-drive diary, and objects from the Lonesome Dove archives.

If you missed this exceptional opportunity, the Trail continues at the Old Jail Art Center in Albany, Texas, through July 23. It’ll be worth the ride!

Mary E. Burke, Director

Dedicated Docents: Jim

The Sid Richardson Museum docents are a special group of volunteers. In any given week, they may give a guided tour to a group of students, share our collection with a visiting group of adults, help lead activities during children’s programs, or enlighten guests during a special event.

The museum is starting up a new class of docents in Fall 2016. If you’re interested in joining our team, we will be posting more information on our website soon. Stay tuned!

For now, let’s continue our “Dedicated Docents” blog series. Today I’d like to feature our docent Jim.


SRM: What drew you to the Sid Richardson Museum?

Jim: I ran across an invitation posted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for docents and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn more about western art and share that with others!’

SRM: What do you want visitors to get out of the tour?

Jim: I would like to hope that visitors would learn more about the museum, the benefactor, the artists, the stories and the history the art tells us and what the period of the Old West was like.

SRM: What are some of your most memorable tour moments?

Jim: Tours are memorable and rewarding when the visitor(s) become involved with the moment and offer questions and responses.

SRM: How has being a docent changed you?

Jim: The docent experience has allowed me to grow in my appreciation of art – even toward modern art – and gives me fleeting thoughts to try painting.

SRM: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Jim: Continuing to learn every day and having the opportunity to share that new knowledge with others.

Dedicated Docents: Ginger

Every week our galleries are filled with students, many of whom are experiencing their first visit to an art museum. Thanks to our group of volunteer docents, these children have an opportunity to discover how fun art can be!

Let’s continue our “Dedicated Docents” blog series. Today I’d like to feature our docent Ginger.

SRM: What drew you to the Sid Richardson Museum?

Ginger: I had been a docent at the Amon Carter Museum in years past and in retirement knew I would enjoy being a docent again.

SRM: What do you want visitors to get out of the tour?

Ginger: I want adult visitors to know and appreciate Sid Richardson – the paintings in his collection, his love of the west, and his interesting life.  I want to offer school children the idea of looking at stories our collection tells, the way the west was and how it has changed, and knowing that they can have fun with art.

SRM: What are some of your most memorable tour moments?

Ginger: Just about any time I see a young hand raised, when a student is so very eager to tell me something they see about the painting.  One of the most rewarding experiences was perhaps a visiting group of visually impaired teens who enjoyed our museum so much and took such an interest in the artwork during our tour.

SRM: How has being a docent changed you?

Ginger: I believe that I am more proud of living in our western city because of what I have learned about the paintings and of the American West.

SRM: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Ginger: Getting to know and make friends with our group of docents – people perhaps I might never have had a chance to meet otherwise.  The Sid is my happy place.

Dedicated Docents: Mark

Each of our volunteer docents are unique individuals with an array of varied interests and skills. Continuing our blog series dedicated to our docents, today I’d like to introduce you to Mark.mark flute

SRM:  What drew you to the Sid Richardson Art Museum?

Mark: One day after returning from out-of-state exile (I’m a native Texan), I looked through the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and noticed a small ad for prospective docents at the Sid Richardson Museum. It sounded interesting, and since I had always liked western art, Remington, and Russell, I thought, “Why not?”

SRM:  What do you want visitors to get out of the tour?

Mark: In addition to observing up close some of the best, original western art, I want visitors to realize that life in early America was significantly different. I try to provide a glimpse into both the historical and cultural context of the subjects depicted in the art, as well as the social and cultural milieu surrounding the artists themselves.

SRM:  What are some of your most memorable tour moments?

Mark: During one of our daily school visits, one student group was told about Indians using every part of the buffalo, and that the hunter who killed the animal got a special prize.  When the docent asked what they thought that prize might be (correct answer: the tongue), one girl suggested, “A buffalo sweater!”

Another memorable moment was in early 2010 when we tested a Saturday program called “Music at the Museum,” in which we presented a musical “soundtrack” of the art of the Old West.  We featured music by Stephen Foster (a composer who was popular when Russell and Remington were born), cowboy songs, music of various American Indian tribes, classical music influenced by the West, other genres from the artists’ lifetimes, and songs that we know Russell or Remington knew.  As both a docent and a musician, it was fun to research and perform the program.

SRM:  Tell me more about your music research as it relates to the Sid Richardson Museum.

Mark: I’m a musician, and as a result, my main interest at the museum is “the soundtrack of the Old West.”  More specifically, I’m interested in American music as it pertains to the SRM collection.  That covers a wide span of music, for example:

  • Songs that the artists knew, and music that was popular during their lifetimes
  • Cowboy songs
  • Military bugle calls
  • American Indian music transcription and cylinder recordings by 19th century ethnomusicologists
  • Later “Parlor” or “Tin Pan Alley” songs about Indians, cowboys, cowgirls, and frontier life
  • Ragtime and blues, as influenced by the West
  • Classical music of the era (Nocturnes, the Indianists, Dvořák’s New World Symphony, 1893)

Over the last few years, I’ve assembled a fairly large collection of first edition ethnomusicology publications, original sheet music (most with very colorful covers), and references on American music history, as well as several American Indian drums, flutes, rattles, etc., many that I made myself.  Whenever appropriate and possible, I incorporate music into my tours.IMG_6290IMG_6294

SRM:  What’s your favorite part of the job?

Mark: What I have enjoyed most about being a docent at SRM is freedom. We have freedom to pursue our own varied interests, and research any topic that pertains to the museum collection.  We are encouraged to share the results of our research with the other docents, and incorporate interesting new information into our tours.  We also have the freedom (and responsibility) to plan our own tours, taking multiple factors into consideration:  e.g., who the tour is for, what their interests and needs are, and what the classroom activity will be.

Dedicated Docents: Fay

Docent. do·cent /do’sent/ 1 : a person who leads guided tours, especially through a museum or art gallery.

At the Sid Richardson Art Museum, prospective docents attend an intensive training process through which the volunteers learn about the museum, our collection, and good communication and interpretation skills by which to engage with our visitors, both children and adults.

Continuing our blog series dedicated to our docents, today I’d like to introduce you to Fay.Fay

SRM: What drew you to the Sid Richardson Art Museum?

Fay:  Having grown up with the Western genre, I was naturally drawn to the SRM after moving here January 2004.  Since I was very young, I have loved the old West and stories of the pioneers – I grew up watching all of the Western television shows, which I still enjoy. I’m particularly fond of the Native American way of life. I would love to travel back in time to experience a period somewhere between the Revolutionary era to the mid-1850s, if only for a few weeks.

SRM:  What do you want visitors to get out of the tour?

Fay:  For both adult visitors and children on a school tour, I want them to learn about the museum and the stories behind the paintings in the collection as well as the artists’ lives, and develop an appreciation for Remington and Russell as recorders of history. And, hopefully for the students, to leave with an impression of the fun they had learning about the paintings, which might foster a continued interest in art and want to return to art museums when they are older.  I always tell them I hope they will return with their parents and tell their parents about the stories of the paintings.

SRM: What are some of your most memorable tour moments?

Fay:  While on a tour with a group of kindergartners, I was sharing a book titled Home on the Range. During the story, a little boy looks out the window and sees stars in the shape of a cowboy hat. When I pointed to this image and asked the kids what the hat in the sky was made of, all said stars, with one exception.  One boy said “A constellation.”  He was in kindergarten!!!

During another school tour with first graders, my docent partner Mark and I had the kids join in singing Home on the Range.  Mark displayed his hands in the position of the musical conductor to end the music and asked what that hand signal meant.  Most of the students said “stop,” but one girl said, “Zip it!”  We thought that was so funny.

SRM: How has being a docent changed you?

Fay:  Being a docent has increased my knowledge of art.  I have no formal background in art, but I have a great appreciation for it.

I now have a new admiration for all museum docents and the studies required to become a docent. Likewise, I appreciate the time and effort docents volunteer to remain informed through continuing education, in which docents learn new information about the permanent collection or upcoming special exhibitions at the museum.

SRM: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Fay: Working with the children is my favorite part of the job. I enjoy the children’s curiosity, enthusiasm, and their general excitement about being at the museum.  The younger ones always seem to have that “ah, wow, look at this” moment when first entering our museum galleries. It is simply wonderful listening to these young minds and what they have to offer.

National Volunteer Week

This week is National Volunteer Week. We are so thankful to have a dedicated group of docents who volunteer their time to share their passion about art and history with others. It is because of our docents that we are able to connect with so many school children and visitors every year at the Sid Richardson Museum.

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we’d like to kick off a new blog series dedicated to our docents. Today I’d like to introduce you to Phyllis.Phyllis

SRM: What drew you to the Sid Richardson Museum?

Phyllis: My father-in-law was a board member at Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve in Oklahoma for more than 50 years. My family went to the museum every time we were in Bartlesville.  I really enjoyed viewing the western art in their collection and had always wanted to learn more about Charles Russell and Frederic Remington.

SRM: What do you want visitors to get out of your adult tours?

Phyllis: I enjoy telling visitors information that they would not learn by reading the Gallery Guide – something surprising or interesting.

SRM: What are some of your most memorable tour moments?

Phyllis: During our school tours, seeing the expressions on the children’s faces and hearing their comments about a story produces the more memorable experiences for me. We have a painting by Russell titled Utica. One of my favorite activities with this paintings is asking the students to recreate the sounds, or “music,” one would hear from this lively scene. It’s so much fun!

SRM: How has being a docent changed you?

Phyllis: Since retiring, I feel that continuing learning about the art collection and new exhibits at the museum has definitely made me a more interesting person. And I have made some friends with people I would not have had the opportunity to meet.

SRM: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Phyllis: My favorite part of the job is sharing the art with the children groups.