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Why Did Burnett Plaza Replace the Medical Arts Building?


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#1 Fort Worthology

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 05:13 PM

QUOTE(Prairie Pup @ Feb 22 2006, 04:34 PM) View Post

The tall building on the more panoramic of the photos was the Medical Arts Building, and yes, the "big Cheese" sits on that spot now.


Imploding the Medical Arts Building to put up Burnett Plaza is, in my opinion, easily the worst mistake ever made with respect to the Fort Worth skyline. Now, I don't think that Burnett Plaza is the ugliest building in downtown (that would be the SBC building), but tearing down that gorgeous old building to build Burnett Plaza was an insult to every human being with good taste.

My grandmother worked in the Medical Arts Building in the '40s, I should get her to describe it in detail and post it on here.

#2 DrkLts

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 05:42 PM

My question is...
Why was the Medical Arts building replaced with Burnett Plaza in the 1st place??? It's not like FW at the time (or now for that matter) was overcrowded with skyscrapers and limited space. Why not just simply find a nearby vacant spot? Makes no sense. What made the Med Arts lot so HOT anyways???

#3 Fort Worthology

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 05:55 PM

QUOTE(DrkLts @ Feb 22 2006, 05:42 PM) View Post

My question is...
Why was the Medical Arts building replaced with Burnett Plaza in the 1st place??? It's not like FW at the time (or now for that matter) was overcrowded with skyscrapers and limited space. Why not just simply find a nearby vacant spot? Makes no sense. What made the Med Arts lot so HOT anyways???


Not to get too far off-topic, but my girlfriend and I were discussing this today. We were thinking - why couldn't Burnett Plaza just have been built on top of the BP parking garage they built across Cherry street (I mean, it's not like Burnett Plaza has any ground-floor pedestrian draw at all, so what difference would it make?)? Or in some other arrangement in the area? My girlfriend's mom remembers that her dentist was in the Medical Arts Building in the '70s, and that he had to move due to the implosion. Yep, the MA was not abandoned - it was still in use at the time of its demise, which just seems to add insult to injury in my opinion.

I don't want to come across as obsessed about this, and I really don't mean to throw the thread off-track, but good grief. It's things like that that really get under my skin. I don't have a problem with Burnett Plaza existing - I don't think it's a good-looking building, but it's not the worst in town. I appreciate that it provides lots of office space - heck, I work there! It just irks me that we had to lose one of our true architectural gems to have it - and that said architectural gem was replaced by a big, bland concrete slab with virtually no interesting architectural details of any kind (aside from the elevator cores on the west side, and even those are only very mildly interesting).

#4 RD Milhollin

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 07:49 PM

QUOTE(DrkLts @ Feb 22 2006, 07:42 PM) View Post

My question is...
Why was the Medical Arts building replaced with Burnett Plaza in the 1st place??? It's not like FW at the time (or now for that matter) was overcrowded with skyscrapers and limited space. Why not just simply find a nearby vacant spot? Makes no sense. What made the Med Arts lot so HOT anyways???


I would venture a guess that the proximity to Burnett Park is what makes the location special. In an urban setting, even in lil' ole Fort Worth, a green space makes a special space. This makes a good argument for transforming the Landmark Bldg. block into an urban park, it would help to add that same sort of feel to the cool buildings facing it, particularly the Fort Worth Club and the newly restored Baker Bldg. and Executive Tower.

Open space in an otherwise closely built, dense urban area is like a breath of fresh air, have you ever been to Charleston, SC where avery few blocks there is a small block sized park? I would support such a plan in Fort Worth to help keep the pedestrian-friendly environment.

Uh oh, did this go off-topic in another direction?

#5 John T Roberts

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 10:13 PM

QUOTE(Atomic Glee @ Feb 22 2006, 05:13 PM) View Post

Imploding the Medical Arts Building to put up Burnett Plaza is, in my opinion, easily the worst mistake ever made with respect to the Fort Worth skyline.


Personally, I think imploding all of the buildings that we did in the 1970's to put up their replacements was collectively one of the worst mistakes ever made for downtown. I will leave my comment there, because I think that could be the generation of another interesting thread and possibly a poll.

I do remember that the Medical Arts Building was occupied shortly before it was demolished. Those demolitions are the hardest for me to deal with when an occupied historic skyscraper is purchased, the tenants are evicted, and then it is demolished.

Here is what I remember about the Burnett Plaza project. It was the early 1970's and the occupied Medical Arts Building was up for sale and the First National Bank of Fort Worth was already interested in expanding their bank. All of these details are kind of sketchy, because I either in middle school or just starting high school when this all started. I think they purchased the property in 1972. In 1973, the bank evicted the tenants and annouced that in the future, they would be building a new bank headquarters on the site. That summer, the Medical Arts Building was imploded. It was designed by Wyatt C. Hedrick and it opened in 1926. Until this year, it was the tallest building ever demolished in the city at 280 feet. For those of you who are interested, I have a listing of all of the tallest buildings and their heights in the City of Fort Worth at http://www.fortworth....com/fwtall.htm. The listing includes the imploded skyscrapers and their placement by height with the current skyscrapers. If the Medical Arts Building were still standing and all of the buildings from the 1980's boom were also constructed, it would be the city's 11th Tallest Building today. The future became reality in 1980 or 81 when construction started on Burnett Plaza.

The reason the Medical Arts was considered hot property was that the First National wanted to have an office complex around Burnett Park. It sort of makes sense to have a building complex surrounding the city's only large downtown green space at the time. Also at that time, the park was a fairly popular place for office workers. IMHO, the building and the garage could have been moved one block west. In hind sight, it probably would have worked due to the bank takeovers, failures, and mergers that happened in the 1980's. The bank never moved into that building.

Pup, I have been to Charleston, SC and I love the plan they executed for the city. The little parks make the city friendly and walkable. Another place that I have been, that I like because of the plazas and squares is Washington, DC. Also note about DC -- no skyscrapers, and yet I love the city.

#6 JBB

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 10:40 PM

Could another anciallary reason to those listed above is the fact that there was less appreciation for historical buildings in the 70's and 80's?

#7 John T Roberts

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 10:48 PM

Yes, I would say so.

#8 cjyoung

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 12:38 PM

I wished we would have kept that building, but I wouldn't want to lose our tallest building either. Not every skyscraper in every city is going to be an architectural masterpiece, so I think Burnett Plaza is just fine. They should have built Burnett Plaza in the spot taken by the Fort Worth Plaza hotel.

#9 gotutex

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 05:18 PM


Going on memory here (not guaranteed) . . . it seems that publicity from just before the time of the implosion justified the dynamite on the grounds that re-plumbing and air-conditioning the building was -- at the time -- off the economic scale, if not technically impossible.

Further, I'm recalling that occupancy was reported to be dropping like a rock, with professional tenant prospects opting for more comfortable environs with reliable plumbing.

Sad story for that memorable structure.

#10 John T Roberts

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 05:54 PM

G.O., I vaguely remember something like that being stated at that time. However, most of us probably can't remember if the bank was influencing the occupancy rate by not renewing leases or jacking up the rents. As for the MEP systems, it could very well be that in the early 1970's, when preservation wasn't anything in which building owners were interested, the costs of upgrading could have been prohibitive. I think if the building were standing today, it probably would have been saved and converted into lofts.

#11 Fort Worthology

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 07:47 PM

One of the things I dislike about Burnett Plaza is how wide & slab-like it is. It's too wide on the sides parallel to the park, and too narrow on the ends parallel to 7th street. It's out of proportion.

If it had to be built, I would have kept the MA building, and built Burnett Plaza next to it, or something like that. I'd have less width to play with, which would mean making Burnett Plaza narrower - and if I'd wanted to keep the volume similar, I could have built it taller. It would have come out a much less odd-looking, more proportionate, less overpowering building IMHO.

Too bad I'm not omnipotent.

#12 DrkLts

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 08:13 PM

I agree, too wide and short. Looks better if it was narrower and taller.

#13 DrkLts

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 08:23 PM

If anything, this teaches us a lesson...
MEDICAL ARTS BUILDING for one and a few other imploded buildings of the past and future (Landmark Tower), The Tandy Subway, The Tandy Center Ice Rink/Mall, Reata Resturant being up at the top of the old Bank One Tower, the Calder's Eagle Sculpture in front of the old Bank One Tower, Caravan of Dreams, and from what I hear, Monnings dept Store, and finally the old TXU Electric Smokestacks.
Oh the lesson is...
DON'T GET ATTACHED TO ANYTHING IN DOWNTOWN FORT WORTH! cry.gif

#14 John T Roberts

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 08:40 PM

QUOTE(Atomic Glee @ Feb 27 2006, 07:47 PM) View Post

One of the things I dislike about Burnett Plaza is how wide & slab-like it is. It's too wide on the sides parallel to the park, and too narrow on the ends parallel to 7th street. It's out of proportion.


I agree that it does not have good proportions, but that is actually a result of the shape of the block on which it sits. Burnett Street was closed to build the tower, but that old right-of-way was incorporated into the park instead of the building site. Yes, it is set back a little from Cherry Street, but that is also probably a result of the offset core. The canilevers at the tops of the elevator shafts also couldn't be too great; therefore, the width of the building is determined by that distance.

QUOTE(Atomic Glee @ Feb 27 2006, 07:47 PM) View Post

If it had to be built, I would have kept the MA building, and built Burnett Plaza next to it, or something like that. I'd have less width to play with, which would mean making Burnett Plaza narrower - and if I'd wanted to keep the volume similar, I could have built it taller. It would have come out a much less odd-looking, more proportionate, less overpowering building IMHO.

Too bad I'm not omnipotent.


If my memory serves me correctly, the Medical Arts Building had a long 2 story base that extended 2/3 of the length of the block to the north. That would have left about 100' x 100' to build Burnett Plaza. In today's office standards, that wouldn't have been large enough. Placing Burnett Plaza one block to the west would have made more sense.

#15 Fort Worthology

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 10:10 PM

QUOTE(John T Roberts @ Feb 27 2006, 08:40 PM) View Post
If my memory serves me correctly, the Medical Arts Building had a long 2 story base that extended 2/3 of the length of the block to the north. That would have left about 100' x 100' to build Burnett Plaza. In today's office standards, that wouldn't have been large enough. Placing Burnett Plaza one block to the west would have made more sense.


I agree. And if the MA survived, I'd make a Burnett Plaza that was as complimentary of the Medical Arts building as it was 500 West 7th, like this laughably crude super-quickie Photoshop mockup I just threw together:

IPB Image

My crude rendering is 57 stories, give-or-take. The blue dots at irregular spots on the elevator cores are external cars for the elevators on the outermost side. smile.gif

(Yeah, I know, it's not much of an image. Just a for-fun quickie. Don't everybody judge me too much by it! smile.gif )

Now, I'm not a fan of the modern architectural style that characterises 500 W. 7th and Burnett Plaza. If it were up to me, I'd build a Burnett Plaza that was in keeping with older architectural styles. The above is simply a bit of "well, if they were bent on making BP in the bland detail-less style of the times, here's an idea of how they could have spiced it up a bit."

#16 johnlp

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 10:29 PM

hmmmmmmmmm not bad! smile.gif

#17 DrkLts

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 11:40 PM

I'd trade Burnett Plaza for that anyday! Awesome!

#18 cjyoung

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 09:29 AM

QUOTE(DrkLts @ Feb 27 2006, 11:40 PM) View Post

I'd trade Burnett Plaza for that anyday! Awesome!


Me too! cheeburga.gif

#19 Giraffe

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 09:01 PM

I remember watching the implosion of the Medical Arts Building. It was in 1973, IIRC, and I was just a tiny little kid. I think it came down on a weekend morning. My dad says I was sitting on his shoulders and that I nearly tore his hair out trying to hang on to him as he and everybody else ran like hell down the street as the dust cloud rushed toward them.

In a strange way, the Medical Arts Building still lives on. To this day, Dad still uses a big wooden workbench and a couple of metal garbage cans he bought from a "get-rid-of-everything-before-we-tear-it-down" sale they had. Dad's ham radio station has sat on that workbench for over 30 years.

#20 JOCOguy

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 06:15 PM

My memories of the Medical Arts building were when I was around three to five years old in the early 60's. My mother took me there once a week for allergy shots. The doctor was an older man Dr. Terrell. I think he owned the building or was part owner. He did own the Terrell Labs in the lower floors.
In those days they did not have disposable syringes and the shots were painful. Sometimes several nurses would have to hold me down.
Even at an early age I was fascinated by skyscrapers. One time after an ordeal of the shot, he asked me if there was anything I wanted. I told him I wanted to see the top of the building. He instructed the elevator operator to take me to the upper level. It was a walkway that had carved stone walls, just below the green tiled roof.
I'm close to fifty, but I still remember the way the building looked inside. The lighting fixtures and terrazzo floor. I also remember my mother would take some bread crumbs to feed the fish and have a coke on the granite wall of the fish pond in Burk Burnett Park. I also remember watching them build the First National Bank (Bank of America) and seeing several Christmas trees.
My God, I sound like some old relic on each one of my posts. Such nostalgic memories of FW, I miss it so much.
It was a remarkable building. My aunt was friends of Wyatt Hedricks daughter, she gave me a really cool print of the building.


#21 ramjet

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 06:24 PM

If nothing else, the owners could spark up Burnett Plaza with an interesting lighting scheme at night. (Something other than those poorly maintained yellow string lights around the perimeter - FIX 'EM OR NIX 'EM!)

#22 Fort Worthology

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 03:38 PM

QUOTE (ramjet @ Jan 3 2008, 06:24 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
If nothing else, the owners could spark up Burnett Plaza with an interesting lighting scheme at night. (Something other than those poorly maintained yellow string lights around the perimeter - FIX 'EM OR NIX 'EM!)


They already did nix 'em. After the new owners took over Burnett Plaza, they redid the lighting to rope lights for about five minutes, but have since turned them off completely.

#23 muppetkiller

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 11:01 PM

QUOTE (Atomic Glee @ Feb 22 2006, 06:55 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (DrkLts @ Feb 22 2006, 05:42 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>

My question is...
Why was the Medical Arts building replaced with Burnett Plaza in the 1st place??? It's not like FW at the time (or now for that matter) was overcrowded with skyscrapers and limited space. Why not just simply find a nearby vacant spot? Makes no sense. What made the Med Arts lot so HOT anyways???


Not to get too far off-topic, but my girlfriend and I were discussing this today. We were thinking - why couldn't Burnett Plaza just have been built on top of the BP parking garage they built across Cherry street (I mean, it's not like Burnett Plaza has any ground-floor pedestrian draw at all, so what difference would it make?)? Or in some other arrangement in the area? My girlfriend's mom remembers that her dentist was in the Medical Arts Building in the '70s, and that he had to move due to the implosion. Yep, the MA was not abandoned - it was still in use at the time of its demise, which just seems to add insult to injury in my opinion.

I don't want to come across as obsessed about this, and I really don't mean to throw the thread off-track, but good grief. It's things like that that really get under my skin. I don't have a problem with Burnett Plaza existing - I don't think it's a good-looking building, but it's not the worst in town. I appreciate that it provides lots of office space - heck, I work there! It just irks me that we had to lose one of our true architectural gems to have it - and that said architectural gem was replaced by a big, bland concrete slab with virtually no interesting architectural details of any kind (aside from the elevator cores on the west side, and even those are only very mildly interesting).
I have a problem with the whole thing! We replace art with some 30 foot monstrosity! I can appreciate protecting art, to save it. If we can blow up the UPR bldg and replace it, along with that crappy statue, remove it all!
I"d rather have a fake in the park, than that briefcase crap. Put the original in the Kimball. I'm certain natives would feel the same.


#24 muppetkiller

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 11:14 PM

May I smack the person who installed "The businessman"?

#25 muppetkiller

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 11:18 PM

QUOTE (muppetkiller @ Oct 12 2008, 12:14 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
May I smack the person who installed "The businessman"?
Who did that? I really want to know who thought the steel businessman was a fair trade?


#26 Owen

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 11:41 PM

I remember the old Medical Arts Building; had my ophthalmologist, optometrist, and dentist there up through the mid-50s. I've read discussions on why they demolished it, and I don't think the reasoning quite washes. That thing they have there now is definitely not an improvement, IMHO, and never mind the statuary.

#27 muppetkiller

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 11:56 PM

QUOTE (muppetkiller @ Oct 12 2008, 12:18 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (muppetkiller @ Oct 12 2008, 12:14 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
May I smack the person who installed "The businessman"?
Who did that? I really want to know who thought the steel businessman was a fair trade?


Someone has to responsible for that crap! How did that POS take over a Matisse? Who voted for it?


#28 mbdalton1

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 08:47 AM

I, too, have heard that one of the reasons, if not the main reason, for demolishing the building was because upgrading/replacing the outdated MEP systems was too cost prohibitive.

mb

#29 Fort Worthology

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 07:29 AM

I actually rather like Briefcaseman. I don't have a problem with him. My beef is with the concrete horror towering over him.

#30 RD Milhollin

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 10:04 PM

QUOTE (Atomic Glee @ Oct 13 2008, 07:29 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I actually rather like Briefcaseman. I don't have a problem with him. My beef is with the concrete horror towering over him.


I think BCM is poorly placed, he would would better in the XTO Plaza (above the underground parking structure) or maybe in the roundabout at University/Camp Bowie/7th Street.

#31 cberen1

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Posted 14 October 2008 - 02:33 PM

QUOTE (Prairie Pup @ Oct 13 2008, 11:04 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I think BCM is poorly placed, he would would better in the XTO Plaza (above the underground parking structure) or maybe in the roundabout at University/Camp Bowie/7th Street.


Totally agree, if such a roundabout existed.

I like BCM.

The Matisse needed to go indoors regardless of what replaced it.

#32 cbellomy

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Posted 14 October 2008 - 05:08 PM

BCM is very poorly placed. I'm not sure if I like it or not because it's so poorly placed. I'd be horrified to see it at the six points intersection. Maybe it should center the Texas Wesleyan Law School campus.


#33 360texas

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 10:30 AM

I personally met Thomas Beech, Executive Vice President * and the Artist Jonathan Borofsky Ogunquit Maine* while they were installing the artwork. I think the Briefcase Man project was paid [$800,000] for by the Burnett Foundation. I suspect that is why in 2002* Breifcase Man was installed in the *Burnett Park.

*Manufactured McPherson La Paloma Studio, Sun Valley, Californina. Fabrication: 6 to 8 months. Truck Delivery: 4 days 1,600 miles

*Added or Corrected 20Oct2008

We have photographed Briefcase Man 2 times since 2004 for the University of California at Berkeley web site.

The World Wide Panorama Event June 2004 World Heritage "Business Culture"

"Transversing time from when man bartered for goods and services, to the English Commercial Law in the 1200 to 1300's, and the creation of the Uniform Commercial Code in the late 19th century, international and domestic business and trade are a tapistry of our world development. The Briefcase Man captures the essence of the world wide business culture. Artist:Jonathan Borofsky, Sculpture is 50' h x 22' w x 1' thick 24,000lbs Brushed Aluminum. [17m x 7.3m x 30cm, 10,909kg]"

http://geoimages.ber...veAlbright.html


The World Wide Panorama Event September 2007 Sustenance Public Art Part 2

"Public art has always shown how proud city residents are of their city. When the City council decides to provide addition funding for Public Art it shows that we are proud of our city. It also brings tourists to our city !!! What works.. works well. More sustenance in the form of money for Public Arts is a good thing."

http://geoimages.ber...atAlbright.html

Dave still at

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Visit 360texas.com


#34 Birdland in Handley

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 01:18 AM

Public art, as opposed to museum stuff, should, perhaps be a whole category. Because this discussion has become a Mr. Businessman thread and I'm happy to comment about him.
I like him because, isn't he rather ironic--a one dimensional "Man in the Grey Flannel Suit"--an "Organization Man," right in a businessy part of Downtown. (Though, because of his silhouette fedora, Mr. Birdland once made a remark at a mid- 2000's anti-war rally near the piece: "Why would Fort Worth put up a statue of William S. Burroughs?" which got a few laughs.)
Re: public art, there are way too many bronze pieces in Botanic Gardens.

#35 360texas

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 01:05 PM

I found the saved copy of the Fort Worth Star Telegram August 3, 2002 Section 1A article by Andrew Marton 'Art Critic'. Made adds and corrections above.

Dave still at

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