An Artful Farewell
By Meda Kessler
Photo by Ron Jenkins
The future is a blank canvas for the founders of Fort Worth’s iconic contemporary gallery.
Pam and Bill Campbell are amazed at the amount of stuff two people can collect at the office in 46 years.
Selling their gallery late in 2020 meant not only packing up a lot of memories but also books, papers and much more. Their typically immaculate Fort Worth home, which resembles a contemporary gallery thanks to their personal art collection, is filled with a lot of cardboard boxes.
We talked to the couple as they were just starting to transition into “civilian” life. As founders of William Campbell Contemporary Art and the Fort Worth Art Dealers Association, their lives have been hyper-focused on the buying, selling and promoting of art.
Both native Texans, Bill was a fine arts major at TCU and Pam was a fashion merchandising major with her hopes set on owning a shop (she eventually worked at Neiman Marcus). After they met, he introduced her to his passion, contemporary art, through dates at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
Bill’s military service also expanded his horizons, as he visited galleries and museums on the East Coast during his basic training.
Back in Texas, Bill worked at various art-related jobs, but after a layoff and the birth of their son, he decided to open his own gallery in Fort Worth in 1974. He leased a small space off Fort Worth’s Camp Bowie Boulevard and named it Gallery One. Pam, who used her executive management training from Neiman’s, helped him run it. They focused on contemporary art and also offered framing services, which were part of the gallery purchase as well.
They moved to the Byers Avenue location in 1981, slowly building a roster of artists from around the country, many of whom they’ve visited in person. They established relationships with other dealers through art fairs such as the one in Dallas while at the same time giving the gallery more exposure.
Although WCCA was a huge part of their lives, they knew change was inevitable. But they also had a good reputation — and a lot of artists — they wanted to protect.
“Peeler Howell came into our lives three years ago,” says Bill. “He walked into the gallery one day and said he wanted a change of profession. He had the right background, and we needed someone.”
So, when Howell and the other partners approached the couple about buying the gallery, they took the offer seriously. “Honestly, our alternative was to close it for good,” says Pam, who is staying busy with her art appraisal work.
They contacted every artist they represented. “All of them were supportive. And they have fresh ideas, a lot of connections in the area and are just a lot younger than we are,“ says Bill, with a smile. “It’s been a great life, but it’s also been a very smooth transition.”
While the pandemic has kept the Campbells close to home, they are busy hanging out with their borzoi, Kazi, who used to go to work them, as well as doing various house projects and unpacking boxes, of course. “We’ll miss our clients, but we’re excited about having more freedom to do what we want,” says Pam.