The Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s roots trace to early statehood efforts of the Oklahoma Art League and Art Renaissance Club, organizations concerned with art education for a young city. Over time, more formal efforts began with a works Progress Administration (WPA) Experimental Gallery, which was open to the public. The Museum transitioned from a federally funded gallery to a private institution when it was incorporated on May 18, 1945.
The Museum today is the synthesis of two predecessors, the Oklahoma Art Center, itself an outgrowth of the WPA Experimental Gallery, and the Oklahoma Museum of Art. Although both institutions were committed to collecting, public programs, and exhibitions, a depressed economy following the downturn in the energy industry during the 1980s challenged the city’s ability to support two institutions and led to a merger of the two museums in 1989. Museum leaders seized the opportunity to bring a new Oklahoma City Museum of Art to maturation as a single, financially secure entity.
Led by a $14.5 million capital grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and by an extraordinary outpouring of support from more the 500 foundations, corporations, and individual donors, the $40 million goal was reached to build and endow the new museum, entirely with private funds. In March of 2002, the Oklahoma City museum of Art, Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center, opened to critical acclaim. The Museum now attracts over 125,000 visitors each year with its permanent collection, cycle of temporary exhibitions, inventive education opportunities, international film program, Museum Store, and Museum Cafe.