100 Years Running: Oklahoma Centennial

By Devon Jackson

Model of the Oklahoma Centennial Land Run Monument, a massive, 365-foot-long bronze sculpture to be installed on the Bricktown Canal in Oklahoma City, OK

Shakespeare by Gary Price, Part of Edmond’s Art in Public Places Program

It’s not every year that a state gets to celebrate its 100th birthday. This November 16, Oklahoma, the 46th state, will officially salute its statehood day. There’ll be the usual civic and political events, but Oklahomans plan to recognize the state’s artistic achievements as well, both officially and unofficially.

Some events and artworks are already in progress or have already been completed. Among them are sculptor Paul Moore’s oklahoma centennial land run monument, a massive sculpture featuring 46 heroic-size bronze pieces in downtown Oklahoma City, which is scheduled for completion in 2015. In addition, the Jacobson House in Norman, OK, has recently been renovated; built in 1917, it was the home of Swedish-born Oscar Jacobson, the first director of the School of Art at the University of Oklahoma. The home is regarded by many as the birthplace of the American Indian art movement. And the Oklahoma City Museum of Art acquired a major collection of glass artwork by Dale Chihuly that is now on permanent view.
But on the official end of the many artistic and cultural affairs, none will be as authoritative and all-encompassing as the November 17 opening of the new State Art Collection Gallery on the first floor of the state capitol building in Oklahoma City. Assembling over 100 pieces culled from a collection featuring more than 175 artists who were born in, trained in, or produced a significant portion of their work in Oklahoma, this inaugural exhibit has been organized into five sections: highlights of the collection, recent acquisitions, photography, modern and contemporary art, and sculpture. The highlights include more than 20 works by artists such as Ed Ruscha, Alexandra Alaupovic, Doel Reed, and Nan Sheets, and the collection ranges from basketry to ceramics to paintings by artists both Native and non-Native, from Alexandre Hogue and Jean Richardson to T.C. Cannon, Mavis Doering, Stephen Mopope, and Archie Blackowl.
“A gallery for the State Art Collection has been a dream of mine for more than 20 years,” says Betty Price, executive director of the Oklahoma Arts Council, which curated the exhibit. “As we commemorate our centennial, this gallery gives all Oklahomans a heightened sense of pride in our state and shares our rich culture with the world. By preserving the past, this gallery not only reflects Oklahoma’s history and heritage, it offers a continuing opportunity for future generations of artists to make their mark.”
Established by the Oklahoma Arts and Humanities Council in 1971 to collect and preserve the work of Oklahoma artists, the Oklahoma State Art Collection now has a permanent home and will be the state’s only museum-quality gallery. “The Collection offers a vast representation, and the people who put the show together are really trying to show what Oklahoma artists have to offer, in a variety of works and media,” says Ann Dee Lee of the Oklahoma Arts Council. “It’s a good way to look back at the past 100 years that formed our statehood, and a way to see into our artistic future.”
Though not as Oklahoma-centric as the State Art Collection, and not an official centennial event, the recent news out of the University of Oklahoma seems almost synchronistically preordained: Back in July, the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma in Norman announced that they’d been jointly selected to receive the Eugene B. Adkins collection of art. The Adkins collection, valued at approximately $50 million, ranks as one of the most important private collections of works by both the Taos Society of Artists and various Native American artists, among whom are Maynard Dixon, Andrew Dasburg, Nicolai Fechin, Jerome Tiger, Maria Martinez, and Charles Loloma. In order to accommodate the 3,300 new pieces—paintings, jewelry, pottery, and more—the university museum will add a new 6,500-square-foot gallery complete with its own curator. Other news from the University of Oklahoma includes the publication of Charles M. Russell: A Catalog Raisonné, coming out this fall from the University of Oklahoma Press.
Moving from preservation to installation, the Art in Public Places program in Edmond, OK, is now in its fifth year, having provided its citizens with over 100 sculptures. One of the most recent was made especially for the centennial: A life-size bronze, it depicts Nanitta A.H. “Kentucky” Daisy, the intrepid (and impatient) female reporter who jumped off a moving train back on April 22, 1889. That was the famous day when “The Unassigned Lands,” as the one-time Indian Territory was known back then, were opened up on a first-come, first-stake basis, and the day the future state earned its Sooners nickname.
Spearheaded by gallery owner and former mayor Randel Shadid, Edmond’s public art program has been as well-received as it is permanent. Working on an initial budget of $100,000 per year that’s now twice that, the sculptures and other pieces bought by the city can be found throughout the town of almost 80,000. “I wish more communities would do it,” says Shadid. “It raises the level of civility in the city. And it’s hard to think bad thoughts when you’re looking at beautiful things.”’

Featured in December 2007
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