Art and culture is something that the Northside does extremely well. Mr. Niño, the celebrated mariachi teacher from Northside High School attended this 3rd Noches de Horchata as an advocate and example of a successful member of the arts community in our city. The mariachi, Espuelas de Plata, has been nationally recognized as one of the best high school mariachis in the United States ( Spanish version of Star-Telegram Article) (English KERA Art&Seek Article). Northside High School itself is a hub of creativity in a city that boasts institutions such as the Kimbell Art Museum, Amon Carter Museum, and The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. A question that needs to be explored however is, does Fort Worth have a place to further foster the talent of these extremely talented and accomplished students? If we look at careers and opportunities in the arts, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra comes to mind. Back in 2016, the symphony ended a three-month strike due to pay cuts to musicians according to this article. What other professional opportunities does Fort Worth, Texas offer its talented and diverse population? We will need an answer for that soon for a new cultural hub is in the making, and it is taking place in non-other than the Northside of Fort Worth.
While the city figures out what careers and opportunities it affords to ALL of its citizens (and not just legacy families and well-to-do networked people) we will be busy creating a space for our voices to be heard, for our creativity to flourish, and for our local Northside economy to grow. However, this requires the active and conscious participation of our community members. Now, many people have seen my posts about Franko’s Market on social media and may be wondering what is going on with that.
Franko’s Market is a local landmark full of history and stories. Those of us who grew up around this 3rd generation family-owned business, have fond memories of shopping, paying our bills, or simply visiting this corner market. As hard as it is to believe, the above photograph is Franko’s Market circa 1960’s. This is Franko’s Market now:
There are many sides to a story, and while some people blame the current owners of Franko’s Market for its appearance and “letting-go,” it is important to explore ALL sides to the story because if you look around, you’ll notice that Franko’s is not the only abandoned-looking building. This falling apart phenomenon has plagued and still plagues our culturally rich neighborhood, along with other minority populations in our city of Fort Worth. Coincidence? I think not.
A little over two years ago, soon after Comunidad 27’s inception, I approached Pat Franko who is one of two brothers currently running the store. I approached him not knowing how to say “Hey, your store is kind of an eye-sore and could use some upkeep.” My intentions were not to be critical, but rather to invite him to join our community’s efforts to take charge and make changes. As an artist, I saw potential to transform Franko’s. To what extent, I did not yet have an idea, but I could not sit there and watch as one of my childhood destinations, and member of our community, fell into further despair. What is happening to Franko’s is a symptom of what is happening to our society. This is where Franko’s story of unfortunate events comes in.
Over the years, mega corporations like Wal-Mart came into our communities and completely disrupted and even destroyed our local economy. There have been documentaries on this topic. Add to that crime in our neighborhood and the way we treat our local businesses. It is no secret that hard drugs (ex: meth and cocaine) and gunshots are a constant and even normalized behavior in the Northside. You hear and see comments on social media defending or dismissing this behavior as “That’s Northside,” or “welcome to Northside.” For the record, it is not normal behavior, and the origins of this orchestrated criminal market, once again in a minority community, is an intricate trap that ultimately destroys our communities. This website provides insight.
Back to how this has affected us locally, one of the Franko brothers was murdered in Franko’s Market. Later, a vehicle crashed into the left window display at Franko’s, which prompted a wall to replace the destroyed window structure. More recently, teenagers threw a brick at the last intact window at Franko’s, completely shattering it and forcing the owners to board it up. One has to step into Franko’s shoes for a minute and imagine what it must feel like to be a long standing local business with that kind of history. I’d say it is quite traumatic. To add insult to injury, we as a community trash their property as evidenced by this picture posted by a concerned Northsider:
However, let us not dwell in misery and instead seek solutions and create a better future for ourselves and ALL members of our community. Out with the old and in with the new. A whole generation of talent and hopeful people depends on it. Let us create the Northside it was meant to be. With or without the city’s help, we can do this, TOGETHER. Participate in our community meetings, hear and share stories, and let’s take one step at a time.
In the coming months, Comunidad 27 ( a local crime prevention group) and any other concerned and enthusiastic members of our community, will be painting murals (funded by Make Art With Purpose), hosting events, and creating varied arts&culture programming (funded in part by the Nasher Sculpture Center’s microgrant) within Franko’s Market. Supporting the local economy along with having a space where we can meet and create solutions and opportunities for all of us, are some of the goals. This is possible and there are people rooting for us so let’s believe in ourselves.
Take a look at more historic Franko’s Market photographs: