News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What is the deal with the art billboards around Fort Worth?

Gold Hands by Stephen Lapthisophon is located near East Lancaster Avenue and is part of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s MODERN BILLINGS program.
Courtesy photo
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Gold Hands by Stephen Lapthisophon is located near East Lancaster Avenue and is part of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s MODERN BILLINGS program.

If you drive around Fort Worth long enough, you’ll likely see billboards with artwork instead of advertisements.

These billboards are part of a Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth program called “MODERN BILLINGS.” The program started in 2018 after a conversation between Tiffany Smith, an assistant curator of education at the Modern, and Director of Communications Kendal Lake about an empty billboard space when they went to check out progress on a mural being painted by Arnoldo Hurtado and North Side High School alumni.

Lake had a good relationship with Clear Channel Outdoor, Smith said, and the Modern was offered free use of six billboards for six weeks. It was an opportunity they had to jump at.

“I’ve only seen a couple of these billboards around town, but I wondered what they were and where they came from,” Fort Worth resident Myrian Hernandez said.

Fort Worth resident Myrian Hernandez is one resident who noticed them while driving. She felt intrigued and puzzled, trying to determine what it meant, or if it was for an upcoming movie.

The billboards are stationed along Jacksboro Highway and Lancaster Avenue. The program is another avenue for established and local artists like Francisco Josué Alvarado Araujo, to showcase their art to the community.

Jesse Barnett, assistant curator of education at the Modern, is thrilled that the program is able to interject art into residents’ daily drives.

“Occasionally, we’ll get some letters from some of (the) viewership, but I think for us, it’s successful if (‘MODERN BILLINGS’) remains this ambiguous thing that no one can quite define,” Barnett said.

The latest edition of “MODERN BILLINGS” features past works of Dallas-based artist Stephen Lapthisophon. He was declared legally blind in 1994 after undergoing intensive medical treatment for a neurological disorder. His work spans many genres — from paintings to installations to books — and is informed by his experience of being visually impaired.

“It’s like a mini-review of some things I’ve done in the past,” Lapthisophon said.

The current edition of “MODERN BILLINGS” will remain up until February when it will be replaced by works from Khalil Irvingthat will also be on display at the Modern’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror: Art and the Digital Screen” exhibition.

The end dates on the billboards are soft and stay up until somebody initiates a contract for the billboard, which means that some works stay up for months past their deadline, assistant curator Smith said. They enjoy the flexibility of the program and how the billboards can be used in various ways, such as for student programming or workshops.

Students at Dunbar High School were allowed to highlight their personal works, too. MODERN BILLINGS XII was to celebrate how well the students did during the Modern Collaborative Studies.

The Modern Fw“Jessie and I aren’t operating as curators,” Smith said. “We think about this being something, not only just giving an opportunity to artists that we work with on the regular but also being able to have our students get their artwork out into the community.”

Hallee Turner, an adjunct art professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, remembers seeing a billboard about plastics killing an estimated 100,000 marine animals annually, by artist Karley Adrion.

“I thought the design was really strong,” Turner said. “It’s a cool concept for billboards and great exposure for local artists.”

The billboards are a landmark for residents like Hernandez. She said that it’s crucial to spread art throughout the community.

“When I would see Survival Symbolsright on Jacksboro Highway, after a long drive, I knew I was home,” Hernandez said. “Seeing all the different billboards makes me want to drive out and see them all. I’ll definitely have my eyes peeled next time I’m driving through town.”

Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at or onTwitter.

Juan Salinas II previously worked at the Fort Worth Report as a reporting fellow. He is a Tarrant County College transfer student who is currently studying journalism at the University of Texas at Arlington. He was born and raised in the North Side of Fort Worth. He hopes for an opportunity to do meaningful news coverage during his time at KERA.