Learn about Keith House, where visitors can gather to contemplate, meditate and celebrate
By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ralph Lauer
A family’s legacy to create an inviting place to contemplate or celebrate comes to life
As construction began to change the look of The Trailhead at Clearfork, along the Trinity River, the big question arose: What is that building?
The answer(s) is that it’s a very special house and an equally special art installation.
Keith House is a modern-day meeting house, a nonsectarian space where visitors can gather to contemplate, meditate and celebrate. It will be available for public and private events such as weddings, memorials, lectures and performances.
The art installation, known as The Keith House Skyspace, is by James Turrell, whose mediums are light and space. A dome in the roof will open to allow interaction of the changing light in the sky with light installed around the perimeter of the ceiling at sunrise and sunset, weather permitting.
Turrell’s commissions can be found around the world, including Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, and Rice University and the Live Oak Friends Meeting house in Houston.
Adelaide Leavens is excited to give us a closer look at a project that has been nine years in the making. She gingerly steps through the wet construction site to the concrete foundation. Her loafers are caked in muck.
Leavens is the onetime director of Streams and Valleys, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the Trinity River. Her mother founded the Meta Alice Keith Bratten Foundation, which led to the formation of the nonprofit Entrada of Texas in 2020. When Bratten died in 2007, she left her estate to the foundation with the wish that the money be used to improve Fort Worth through music, art or the outdoors. Entrada of Texas, run by Leavens, is making sure that wish comes true. The word “entrada” translates to “an expedition or journey into unexplored territory.” Says Leavens: “That’s exactly what we want to do with Keith House.”
She says she had hoped that the Trinity River would be part of Keith House, although they looked at several sites in Fort Worth.
It was Crawford Edwards, president of Cassco Development Co., who stepped up. Edwards has been very deliberate about the development of the Clearfork property and is providing the land and 2 wooded acres for Keith House.
“There will be direct access from the Trinity Trails as well as a new entrance from the trailhead parking lot,” says Leavens.
“The mission of Keith House is not only to provide a spiritual but nondenominational place where people gather but to include a significant piece of art in a public place.”
While the early design of the building looked to be a contemporary build, renderings from architectural firm Bennett Partners show a more traditional design. The exterior will be clad in stone from a home on Leavens’ family ranch in Wichita Falls. The house burned down but the rock was saved and cut into uniform pieces. A deep covered porch wraps around the meetinghouse. Inside, moveable pews will face toward the center of the room, which can hold 120 people. Wood doors on each end of the building are being built by a Fort Worth artisan.
In choosing the artist for the installation, Leavens and Elaine Petrus, an Entrada board member, traveled to Houston, where Turrell has gallery representation. “We figured we should go big or go home.” After the completion of Keith House, Leavens plans to support more art installations around the city.
“This project is about honoring my mother and her family,” she says. “We broke ground July 11, which was her birthday. I think she would approve and appreciate what we’re doing for Fort Worth.”
Keith House The meeting house and installation are expected to be finished late spring-summer of 2023. Principals are: Bennett Partners, architects; SpawGlass, general contractor; The Projects Group, project managers. To learn more, check out keithhouse.org.