weatherford democrat front page aug 1 2020 W

Here is the full story:

Board member asks city for reaffirmation of support on Chandor project

By Autumn Owens   

Chandor Gardens has been a staple in the Parker County community for decades and with recent changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a board member highlighted the importance of moving forward with the gardens’ expansion project.

The City of Weatherford acquired Chandor Gardens in 2002 — its vision was kept alive by Melody and Chuck Bradford who purchased it in 1994 following the owners’ passings.

“We feel it is imperative to ask for reaffirmation of support due to the recent staffing decisions. The most concerning to us is eliminating the dedicated manager at Chandor Gardens. Ironically, this is the opposite of the recommendation given in the city-commissioned consulting report of August of 2019. It states that eliminating the position would, and I quote, ‘Do more harm than any short-term savings and result in long-term negative implications for the quality of programs and visitor experience,’” Chandor Gardens Foundation Board Treasurer Bill Warren — who addressed the city council this week — said. “This decision has already created a perception within the community that the city has decided it is no longer interested in making Chandor Gardens an arts and cultural venue and instead would rather relegate it to be just another municipal park.”

Chandor Gardens, which was once White Shadows, was created by Douglas Chandor and his wife Ina Kuteman in 1936. They settled and built their home on the current property in 1934 and it was under Chandor’s care until his death in 1953. Ina changed the name to Chandor Gardens as a tribute to her husband and kept it open to the public until 1978 when she passed away.

Warren said it was important to move forward in partnership on the gardens’ expansion project, which was approved unanimously by the city council in October of 2014. The plan has been to develop 13.5 acres west of the current Chandor Gardens property in partnership with the city of Weatherford.

“We received your support by unanimous vote on Oct. 13, 2014, for our first phase. The foundation would like to stress the word partnership in our mission statement and say thank you for the support the city and the council has given us. In fact, the partnership has been a defining part of the accomplishments of Chandor Gardens and the Foundation,” Warren said. 

Warden listed some examples of the partnership, including scheduled garden tours; assigning volunteers to all rooms of the open house events and supplementing city staff at other events; providing funding, marketing and volunteer staff at multiple arts and cultural events; and "over 20 events in the last two years have included diverse speakers, locally and nationally recognized art events and internationally recognized artists,” he said.

The expansion plan included an outdoor pavilion, an art studio, restaurant catering services, a small amphitheater and some natural trails.

Weatherford resident Christie Tull addressed the city council saying she looked forward to the expansion.

“I moved into the city of Weatherford after I retired four years ago and at that time I became aware of Chandor Gardens and all of the things they were doing. I joined as a friend of Chandor Gardens and have participated in some — but couldn’t possibly attend all — of the things they do,” Tull said. “There’s everything from garden appreciation to the great Cliburn presentation, the chamber music, literature, readings from living authors, children’s programs [and] paint programs. I was disappointed that I couldn’t take part in the Shakespeare program and also a portraiture program I was enrolled in because of the virus, but I am looking forward to these things resuming and I urge the city to realize what a cultural and recreational place they have to develop in an almost unlimited way. 

"They have the room, they have the stature, they have the history and the citizens are certainly behind it. I just wanted to let [the council] know, from an average person here in Weatherford, that I want to enjoy the gardens and see it’s there for everyone.”

Warren implored the city to think strategically about the gardens.

“Chandor Gardens is a national register property, it’s an invaluable asset to the city, it’s an icon for the city, it represents the city’s diverse history and culture and it is an oasis that has the proven ability to provide art and cultural experience to all ages and demographics,” Warren said. “Given the rapid urbanization of Parker County, we implore you to think strategically about the gardens, have it documented in the General Plan and make future financial commitments to make this a reality.”

The presentation at Tuesday's city council meeting was a non-action item.