Going Once …
Principal Olga Pavlova cut a graceful figure in MCB’s latest productions.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A local art collector finds a steal on eBay — and promptly donates it.
By JEFF PRINCE
Several watercolor paintings recently donated to the Juneteenth Museum on Rosedale Street obviously weren’t rendered by a master, but they were painted with love and skill by one Fort Worth’s most influential African-American women.
Manet Harrison Fowler, born in 1895, helped shape Fort Worth’s early African-American community. Fowler graduated from Tuskegee Institute in 1913 after studying under George Washington Carver and helped establish the Texas chapter of the National Association of Negro Musicians. In the 1920s, she opened the Mwalimu School in Fort Worth to share her love of African music and art; she would later move it to Harlem and become an active member of the Harlem Renaissance art movement in the 1930s. Fowler died in 1976.
A local art collector, who asked to remain anonymous, was browsing eBay recently and noticed a handful of Fowler paintings being sold by a New York dealer.
“I always scroll for Fort Worth artists when I’m looking, and I usually don’t find anything, and this day all these paintings popped up, and it was kind of shocking,” the collector said. “They were cheap. I bought five of them, and they ranged from about $20 to $50 each.”
Not a bad price, considering Fowler’s impact on early Fort Worth black history — and the fact that a different eBay dealer is currently listing one particular Fowler painting at $753. The anonymous collector had never heard of Fowler — “You don’t ever hear anything about early black artists around here,” she said — and so she called Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders, who referred her to East Side activist Opal Lee. The collector introduced herself to Lee and, after a pleasant visit, offered the paintings to Lee at no charge for inclusion in the Juneteenth Museum, a small and unheralded facility that opened six years ago.
“Mrs. Fowler was a musician extraordinaire and an artist,” Lee said.
Fowler’s daughter, Manet Helen Fowler, is heralded as the first black woman to receive a doctoral degree in anthropology. Manet never forgot her Fort Worth roots and would often return to her hometown to help the community, Lee said.
“She was interested in our Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society,” Lee said. “She did a lot of genealogy for us.”
Manet Helen Fowler died recently, and part of her estate, including paintings by her mother, is being auctioned on eBay by New York-based BBN&P Antiques. As of Tuesday afternoon, several of the paintings were still listed with buy-it-now prices under $40. (Search for the items under the artist’s name or the seller’s user name: bbnp-antiques.)
Fort Worth ‘Boo!’s
As Halloween is the season, Fort dwellers might want to ponder the spectral entities in their own backyard. Mitchel Whitington’s Ghosts of North Texas from Republic of Texas Press contains at least as much local history as supernatural discovery. The author is an amateur ghost-hunter and a decidedly non-dramatic fellow — he insists that lucky witnesses of the paranormal rarely experience anything more terrifying than frigid spots in a room or fleeting images in their peripheral vision. This will disappoint movie lovers who crave more spectacular hauntings like disembodied voices that thunder “Get out! Get out!” or monstrous old oaks that shatter bedroom windows and snatch children.
Oh, well. Whitington devotes a sizable chapter to Fort Worth ghosts in his 220-page book, with information culled from his own interviews and research. The creepiest may reside in the Lone Star Room at the Texas White House Bed and Breakfast, where the spirit of its long-dead original owner, Mr. Newkirk, allegedly hangs out. One female guest reported waking in the middle of the night with the feeling that she was spooning with an invisible, uninvited presence. When she finally had the courage to turn around, she felt Casper the Overly Friendly Ghost move off the bed.
According to Whitington, the Main Street location of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse was a bathhouse in the late 19th century. One of its cowboy roughneck patrons was shot through the back of the head while enjoying a steam. Fast-forward to the early 21st century, and some on the Del Frisco’s staff have reported hearing mysterious footsteps all around the restaurant after closing time and receive an occasional tap on the shoulder while they’re alone in a room.
The Stockyards Hotel might host at least two ghosts, one of whom is a deceased former employee named Jake, a houseman in charge of delivering messages to guests who supposedly had a voice like Lurch’s from The Addams Family TV series. During his postmortem rounds, empty elevators are said to travel up and down the hotel floors. Jake also has been known to call the front desk and leave odd messages from unoccupied rooms.
More Cowtown apparitions are described in Ghosts of North Texas, but they’re generally as friendly and laid-back as the city. A cannibalistic family of Satan worshipers who stalk Sundance Square would be more thrilling, but Whitington’s anecdotal book is still worth skimming through on these chilly autumn nights.
— Jimmy Fowler
It takes guts for a small company like Metropolitan Classical Ballet to try to mount a convincing production of a Soviet-era blockbuster like Spartacus, but the group met the challenge earlier this week in Bass Performance Hall.
MCB first tackled the three-act Bolshoi Ballet original in 2004, condensing the classic into two longish acts and using guest principals. This time around, regular company dancers took on the outsized solos, with the young Shea Johnson — who turned 22 the day after the performance — as the rebellious Roman slave. While he doesn’t own the role yet, like he does Acteon from Diana and Acteon, he gave a bold outline of the anguished fighter and danced enthusiastically along the way. His love duet with fellow slave Phrygia, exquisitely performed by Olga Pavlova, had strength to spare in the one-arm lifts and aerial flights. But the overall partnering seemed cautious and rough at times.
Andrey Prikhodko was a commanding Crassus, the Roman general who eventually puts down the slave revolt, and Marina Goshko was a properly sensuous Aegina, an ambitious courtesan who seeks to control the general for her own advancement.
Co-artistic director Alexander Vetrov, who performed Crassus many times during his 15-year career at the Bolshoi, staged the work. Unlike the Moscow company, MCB didn’t have 100-plus dancers to convey the piece’s epic sweep, though Vetrov managed admirably with his corps of nine women and six men — all handsomely turned out in rented Bolshoi costumes — to suggest the pageantry and power of the original. Aram Khachaturian’s film-score-like musical accompaniment was energetically conducted by Bernard Rubenstein.
The evening concluded with a revival of co-artistic director Paul Mejia’s Eight by Adler, a suite of vintage Broadway tunes that showcased Pavlova.
— Leonard Eureka
Contact Kultur at email@example.com.
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