Vaquero Statue Installed Following Gun Belt Controversy

Project took nearly 10 years to complete

The long-awaited "Vaquero de Fort Worth" statute is finally greeting visitors to North Fort Worth.

The $206,000 sculpture was installed at its prominent stand in a small plaza at North Main Street and Central Avenue.

Thomas Bustos, one of the artists on the project, said he was proud to see his work finally displayed. His partner on the piece, David Newton, was out of town.

"I've always been written up as an 'upcoming artist,' and today I feel like an artist," Bustos. "I'm here; I have a bronze piece here."

There was a time where the project looked to be in jeopardy. After the piece was cast in bronze at the foundry, the Fort Worth Public Art Commission objected to a gun belt and pistol added by the artists.

The commission ruled it an unapproved change, saying it was a major departure from the approved model. The issue was forwarded to city staff and the City Council.

"The city and the artists have come to a settlement," said Alida Labbe, Fort Worth public arts manager. "The pistol is obviously included, it's wonderfully crafted, and we're just thrilled that it's being installed."

Bustos said he was glad the issue was settled.

"I didn't understand that, because we have gone to the Stockyards and seen gun shows, and there are several statues here with the gun," he said.

The finished piece's installation comes after several years of funding, design and construction. The city and the Public Art Commission first became involved with the project in 2003, as the Vaquero Committee was looking for help in getting the statue funded.

A handful of onlookers watched as a crane moved the statue into place Monday and workers affixed it into its final spot.

"I think everybody is happy with the design of it," said Frank Valtierra, of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which has kept a model of the sculpture throughout the project's duration. "It's a big plus for the Northside. [I'm] just finally glad it's taking place."

The statue cost $206,000, with $111,000 coming from donations to the city and the commission. The Vaquero statue is 10 feet tall, 4 feet wide and weighs 2,500 pounds.

A formal dedication for the statue will take place in September during Hispanic Heritage Month. By then, two additional bronze plaques talking about the history of the vaquero in Fort Worth and honoring those who contributed to the sculpture's efforts will be on display.

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