By Karen Borta

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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – North Texas is a mecca for the arts. There are dozens of museums in the area, but only one has the distinction of being the first.

You may be surprised to learn that the oldest art museum in the entire state — and one of the oldest in the country — is the one with the least-likely sounding name: The Modern.

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is currently in its 125th year, and it’s all due to the efforts of some long-ago society wives.

“In 1892, Fort Worth was obviously a little bit of a western, cowpoke kind of town,” explained Dustin Van Orne, visitor services and media relations manager at The Modern. “There was some money starting to come into Texas with oil and cattle, and the wives and some of the society families in Texas decided that Fort Worth needed a little bit of culture.”

The women approached philanthropist and steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie and asked for a grant. The money lead to the formation of the Fort Worth Public Library and the Fort Worth Art Association.

“Texas is a great state for women leadership,” said Van Orne, “and so we’ve always had that great tradition of progressive thinking and how can we be the next idea or the next important place.” The museum has been in continuous operation since that original charter, despite having gone through several name changes.

One of the museum’s first acquisitions was “Approaching Storm”, which was painted by George Inness in 1875.

“At that time, it was a relatively new painting. It was a new idea that was happening in American painting, so for sure we’ve always been contemporary or modern art, it’s just we’ve had to move that definition over the course of time,” Van Orne said.

The museum’s current definition of modern is post-World War II and there are as many interpretations of that art as there are people who view it. From abstract and minimalist pieces, to pop art by the legendary Andy Warhol, The Modern can tempt even the most determined critic.

“We have incredible works of art here, and people are sometimes afraid of modern art. But I would encourage people to give us a shot and set aside those fears because there really is something for everybody.”

Even the building and its surroundings are works of art. Speaking about the grounds, Van Orne said, “We have this beautiful greenspace and artificial lake. We have ducks every spring that come in and roost and bring their ducklings. So, it’s a nice opportunity to commune with nature, but also see some really important works of art.”

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is open Tuesday through Sunday, and admission on Sundays is free.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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