Friday, February 27, 2015

In with the Old! Antique & Art Show Comes to Cowtown this Week

In with the Old!
     Revised for 2015 from the original on Jan. 1, 2010

“He uses his old inkpot and his old brush, but he paints new things.”
                                    -- translated from a Japanese scroll hanging in my laundry room

It’s a lot easier to start something new than to re-make something old. That’s why there are so many new churches…so many new houses…new gizmos…new nations…new beginnings. This blog will tell the story of taking a well-loved decades-old antique show in Fort Worth, Texas and re-making it into a shining star for the future.

You have to be a pretty good antique show to throw open your doors for 52 years. The founding family of the show, Dolly and Rip Johnson and their daughter, “JJ” Frambes, nurtured this show as a small, prestigious, high-quality Americana show at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, where Rip Johnson was the General Manager for many years.

From what I know of their feisty spirits, I think that the Johnson family would cheer on the changes that I have made to their show, along with the help of the unsinkable Cissy Thompson, Associate Show Director, and my family, my friends, the dealers, the show staff, the media and just about anyone else who would listen to me.

F. David Gibson offered in "Art Dept." 2015
The first change was to re-name the show to reflect the presence of the fabulous ART that was always the secret strength of the show. That first year we moved the show to a larger exhibit hall at Will Rogers, growing from 45 to 75 dealers, and welcomed antiques and art of all eras and styles, from Pilgrim Century to Mid-Century Modern. At that first show for me in 2010, there were art and antiques from France, England and Italy. There was American Colonial and Spanish Colonial. And Garden, Industrial, Retro, Textiles and Jewelry, as well the top-quality American primitives and western antiques for which the show had been loved all those years by a strong regional audience.    

Over the last six years, much has changed, but the things that have stayed the same are the quality and sense of adventure of both the exhibitors and the customers. To have a spunky, excited audience, you have to offer spunky, exciting exhibits. Mid-Century Modern and art are now the largest categories in the show, but right next to them you’ll find crusty and rusty and re-purposed and glitzy and glamour and authenticity and character of all styles and eras.

We put in the shoe leather and miles to seek our exhibitors from many places and from many levels of the antiques and art world. That means that the Fort Worth Show is uniquely created for DFW with a range of merchandise and merchants who are never together under one roof again. 

We have had annual themes from flowers to stars to re-purposing to "mixing it up." A few years ago we celebrated the 175th anniversary of Texas, everyone singing happy birthday to Texas across the show. We have featured special exhibits from a trunk that traveled on the Mayflower to a 1960s "Gold Nugget" Ford Mustang for the show's 50th golden anniversary to a visit from our friends at the incomparable Uncommon Objects in Austin, TX. Now we produce a fashion show with merchandise from the exhibitors, paraded down the aisles by Fort Worth super star models. 
Over the last years, we have hosted Benefit Booths for important and dedicated non-profit organizations in Fort Worth and Dallas. And we like Happy Hour Parties!

At 150 exhibitors in 2015, we see the birth of the new “Art Dept.” with art from early through contemporary artists. We're amping up the art. Thank you to the artists and dealers and gallery owners and the museum community and everyone who has helped chart this new direction. Thank you to my parents for raising children with art. With a little help from our friends and family, and with a lot of luck and pluck, we evolve.

Why Me?

I first exhibited at the show in 1998 as Hot Tamale Antiques. It was difficult to get into. JJ was tough. She vetted every dealer for authenticity and quality. I just barely made the cut. About 2004 I started writing press releases for JJ and, simply because JJ Frambes was so much fun to work with, I gradually became more and more involved with promoting the show. 

Since 1998 I have also served as the Staff Writer for the magnificent Marburger Farm Antique Show in Round Top, Texas. This January I wrote my 68th Marburger Farm press release, chronicling the cow pasture that became a blockbuster international antique show.

Before 1998 I was a Presbyterian pastor in New York City. While some ministers yearned to start shiny new churches, my passion was to re-develop old churches and to bring them into a new sense of mission and purpose, building on the best of their history and traditions and memories. I was lucky enough to serve two such churches over 19 years, the West-Park Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side and the Jan Hus Presbyterian Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  I can tell you a thing or two about antique plumbing, ancient boilers and how to help an old community find new life and end up dancing in the aisles on Easter Sunday.

I first learned about antique show promotion by organizing benefit shows for the church in New York City, with the help of the Stella Show Management Company. The Stella team is, in my view, the best antique show promotion company in the world. Once again, I got lucky.

And now I find myself in the position of owning a 52 year old antique and art show in the town where I grew up. Or perhaps it owns me.

Why Antiques?

On this winter day, there are wars and the threats of terror, climate, disease, and the parking fee at Will Rogers Memorial Center. On top of all that, there are ads in every direction that scream “out with the old and buy something new, new, new.” Yet still, I got lucky.

Why? Because I get to spend my energies in the community of those who buy, sell, live with and love antiques and all things vintage. We are those who would rather re-imagine and re-make the old than lust after the new. We are the lovers and re-purposers of the material culture of the past.

On the Christmas Eve of the year that our family bought the Antique & Art Show, we had a severe snowstorm in North Texas. In our old farmhouse on the prairie, the Orr-Harters were snowed-in. We could not get to the mall, even if we wanted to. We could not even go to my sister’s party where there was shrimp and tenderloin, which we definitely wanted to.

Still, we were lucky. Our home was warm and the snowy landscape cast a light into the house that helped me to see our old things in a new way. Except for our computers and TVs, the Orr-Harter family lives only with antiques. From any spot in the house, I can see our history in the stories of each chair. At last count, we have 53 chairs, indoors and out, and I can remember where each one came from. We use them all, except for the 2 Danish Modern ones in the store-room that came from Tom’s mother. We have saved those for our young architect son.

On Christmas Eve, I sat by the fireplace in the rocker that we bought at a roadside flea market in Maine and carried home in a Honda Civic. I saw the mission oak settee that the future architect son bought so proudly at an upstate New York auction for $25, theoretically for his tree house. Our 10 year old daughter sat in one of the old chairs around the kitchen table. Tom and I were sitting in those kitchen chairs when we decided to try to conceive this very child.   

In case you think we have only ample seating, on Christmas Eve I also studied each piece of vintage art on the walls--- the scene of trees and cows that hung over the sofa in my grandparents’ home, the metal Wonder Bread sign that I gave to mother and that she re-gifted to me, the big primitive painting of a cowboy playing a harmonica on his horse in starlight. I lugged it all over America before accepting that no one would buy it. So there it is in our kitchen; it reminds me of my still-harmonica-playing father. There is a hooked rug of an exuberant butterfly hanging on the living room wall and a seven foot tall bottle tree in the bedroom. With a collection of old cobalt blue Pepto-Bismol bottles, it is a memorial to a friend. When I wake up each morning, I see a 1950s poster of a cowboy on a bronc and a painting of trees that once read faintly on the back, “painted in exchange for lunch and overalls.” Under the painting stands a table made by Tom's ancestor in the 1830s. These things inspire me to seize the day.

I got lucky. I have the love of a sweet and healthy family and of friends and dogs who put up with me.  And it all happens in a home where antiques are used every day, for both utility and for memory, for practicality and for comfort and joy. What I realized about antiques that Christmas Eve is that the comfort and joy that they bring us are in fact very practical and necessary. We have created a new nest out of old things. This comforts us. Bring on the snow. 

That’s more than enough about me.  
Let us hear how you love and live with antiques and why.

Whatever your style, you will find it at the
52nd Annual Fort Worth Show of Antiques & Art
This week, Thursday, Friday & Saturday March 5,6,7, 2015
150 Top Exhibitors of Art & Antiques of all Styles, Eras and Prices.

Bring a couple of friends and you can even get a parking refund!
Details at

Enjoy these Fort Worth Show Photos by Doug Stanley

 See you soon at the Fort Worth Show
Thurs, Fri, Sat  March 5,6,7, 2015



  1. GREAT thoughts and wisdom, Jan!! So happy to be a part of this endeavor with you!!! This year will be the best ever!!!

  2. Ann, we are blessed by you in creating the new "Art Dept." Start your engine! Jan


It's east to leave a comment. What do you love about antiques? Hope to see you at the show!