Larry Eubank celebrates 50 years at the Kimbell
The operations manager looks forward to celebrating the museum's 50th anniversary later this year.
In the latest installment of Fort Worth Report's conversation series with the city's newsmakers, Arts and Culture Editor Marcheta Fornoff spoke with Larry Eubank, operations manager at the Kimbell Art Museum. Eubank, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary at the museum, talked about the construction of the Kahn Building and making exhibits more accessible. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Marcheta Fornoff: Congratulations on your 50th year here. Do you remember the first time you heard about the Kimbell?
Larry Eubank: The first time I showed up here was probably in the summer of 1970. The building was under construction then, the Kahn Building. Construction started in ’69, and my dad was a carpenter here. I needed a summer job, so I came out here and went to work for Thomas S. Byrne’s company and was working as a carpenter’s helper on the project. And so that was the first time I had heard about the museum.
Fornoff: Do you remember what you thought of it when that construction period was finished?
Eubank: It was kind of a special project and different. The cycloid vaults, constructing those and the formwork for that was all something that really hadn’t been done before. And there was a lot of effort into making the concrete look nice and getting everything just right on it.
And then also during the construction job, there were film crews running around quite a bit filming Louis Kahn when he was here or just various other aspects of the construction job. I had worked on a few construction jobs before that, and I had nothing like that.
Fornoff: It sounds like you were really interested in the trades. Did you ever think that you might end up at a museum and especially end up at a museum for so much of your career?
Eubank: No, not really. It was a construction job, and that’s what I was working on. Late in the project, I was going to school out at UTA, working part time here, too. (I) was going for engineering, so it kind of fit in with that. But no, I never even thought about working at a museum. But you know, it turned out pretty good for me (laughs).
Fornoff: I mean, I’d say. Fifty years is quite a run. So what is it that kept you here?
Eubank: Well, I started out, I was hired as assistant building manager. E.B. Brown was the museum’s representative on a construction job, and he was to become building manager when the project was over. He saw me working on the construction side and liked the way I worked, and asked me if I wanted to work in helping take care of it and be his assistant. So, on March 20, 1972, he hired me.
Seeing that all the equipment’s running and taking care of the building that I helped build, you know, it’s really been kind of ideal for me. (In) 1985 E.B. Brown. left, and I became building superintendent then, and it was fully my responsibility to take care of it.
I like being able to keep the building up and running and sort of protect it architecturally as well…and then, you know, the mix of the artwork, too. I’m involved in the design of display cases and things like that.
Fornoff: You do a lot of technical physical stuff at the installation and planning for that. I’m curious if you ever step back and watch how the public or guests at the museum interact with what you’ve installed?
Eubank: Oh, I do. After we open an installation, a lot of times I’ll walk through and see if there’s any areas that are congested or too tight or do we need more benches.
One time we had a person who complained about the height of the glare on the labels or glare on the objects. They were in a wheelchair, and so I got in a wheelchair and rolled around through the exhibit trying to see what they were seeing and if there was anything we could do to make it better.
Fornoff: Did that help you for the next time you were designing?
Eubank: Yeah, it gives you a better sense of what different people are seeing.
Fornoff: I imagine that over 50 years you’ve racked up quite a few stories. Do you have a favorite story or memory from your time here?
Eubank: In 2018, I did a lecture on the construction of the Kahn Building with Frank Sherwood, who was the project architect for Preston M. Geren on it, and he and I collaborated on the title “Constructing the Kimbell: An Eyewitness Account.”
Frank has since passed away, but I learned things from him from that lecture that I hadn’t known before. I’ve worked with him all through the years on different projects here, so it was a real pleasure for me to sit and go back and forth with him looking at slides.
Fornoff: What are you looking forward to in the next 50 years?
Eubank: (Laughing) To make it to the next 50 years. Oh, I guess at some point I’ll retire and try to do a little traveling and stuff with my wife. And (I have) grandkids to visit with and see.
Fornoff: But that’s not on the horizon just yet?
Eubank: Well, no. I don’t know. Everybody asks me that, and I say, “Every day is getting closer to that day.” I’ve got a few projects that I’d like to see finished up. And we’re coming up on Oct. 4, which was the opening of this building, and it’ll be the 50th anniversary of it. We’ve got things planned for celebrating that. I started it off there, so I’d like to see it too.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on April 5, 2022, to correct the spelling of Preston M. Geren.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.