Fort Worth, TX

Former Dallas-based KKK headquarters being converted into an arts center after being purchased by a non-profit coalition

Jalyn Smoot

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Texas artists plan to renovate and transform former KKK site into a center of arts and healingTimothy Brestowski/Courtesy of Transform 1012 N. Main Street

Just over a century ago, in 1921, Fred Rouse, a Black butcher, was brutally lynched in Fort Worth, Texas in front of a crowd of over 100 onlookers.

Rouse was first assaulted with iron bars by a mob of White union workers, who accused him of breaking their strike. The white mob then went to the hospital room where Rouse was receiving treatment, beat and dragged him out of the building, before lynching him in the public eye.

His death was the first-ever reported lynching in the state of Texas.

Last year, nearly a century after his death, the Equal Justice Initiative and the Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice created a memorial for the slain man.

Rouse will be honored even further with a new initiative coming soon.

Transform 1012 N. Main St., a coalition of nonprofits, has bought the former Klavern No. 101 auditorium with plans to turn it into the Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing.

Klavern No.101 is a former Dallas-based KKK headquarters and one of the largest reminders of a very racist, not-so-distant time in Texas. Seeing the building be renovated and restructured is a welcome sight to see, especially in naming the building after a victim of the racist ideals once popularized with the klansman that previously owned the building.

“Fort Worth has a history of racism and racial violence that in the words of the very first person who I told about the project, who is a member of one of the founding families of Fort Worth, it has never dealt with, it has never reckoned with. So this building becomes an opportunity,” says Daniel Banks, board chair of Transform 1012 and co-founder of the arts and service group DNAWORKS, which is based in the city.

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Former KKK site being transformed into center of arts and healingTimothy Brestowski/Courtesy of Transform 1012 N. Main Street

Located about a mile northwest of downtown Fort Worth, the building is fairly large at about 20,000-square-foot. The site formerly hosted minstrel shows, marching practice, and other KKK events in the mid to late 1920s, but will now put on more light-hearted art exhibitions.

The initiative began when Adam W. McKinney began researching the Rouse murder. McKinney, a dance instructor and classically trained ballet dancer, learned about the hate group’s former headquarters in Fort Worth and discovered that it was still standing.

McKinney and his partner Daniel Banks, who co-founded the DNAWORKS arts and service organization, saw an opportunity to breathe new, productive life into a building that once fueled so much hate.

“We intuitively understood the power of transforming a monument to hate and violence into a space for reparative justice,” Banks tells Hyperallergic’s Elaine Velie.

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An artistic rendering of the proposed Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community HealingCourtesy of Transform 1012 N. Main Street

The former owner donated part of the cost, according to Banks, but he won’t say how much Transform 1012, organized in 2019, wound up paying. A bid at that time to stabilize the building, bringing it up to code, was $1.62 million, he says. The hard cost to turn it into the coalition’s vision is about $35 million.

Plans for the building are still being finalized, but the current vision includes performance space, arts training, social services, an exhibit, a meeting workspace for artists and entrepreneurs-in-residence, and an agriculture and artisan marketplace.

“I envision a crossroads where all of Fort Worth can gather, where every cultural group feels a sense of belonging, of being seen, represented, and listened to,” Banks says. “This is an opportunity for healing on a massive scale.”

Currently, the building is quite dilapidated and is in desperate need of renovations, so it is still a ways off from being open to the public, but it's nice to know that change is underway.

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I write about Dallas and Collin County sports, politics, interesting people, and environmental issues. I strive to shine a light on issues that are still in the dark and help to give a voice to the voiceless

Dallas, TX
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