OKCMOA at 75

OKCMOA at 75 traces the history of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art from its founding through the present day. Through more than 40 newspaper clippings, photographs, letters, publications and the scrapbooks kept by the Museum’s first director, Nan Sheets, the historical exhibition explores the Museum’s rich past. OKCMOA at 75 will be on view in the Museum’s lobby and is free to visit.

 

Treasures featured in the installation include:

  • Dale Chihuly’s model of The Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower, along with his designs for the installation of his glass art 
  • A copy of a page from the notebook of artist Robert Henri about his painting Bullfight at Pozuelo
  • A hand-written letter from Roberta McCain, Oklahoma native and mother of Senator John McCain, regarding her donation of a portrait by Peter Lely 
  • A newspaper clipping from 1963 about Verna and Raymond Youngs’ collection, which went on to become one of the most substantial donations of art to the then-new Oklahoma City Museum of Art in 2002
  • A letter from artist Paul Cadmus to Director Carolyn Hill, regarding his painting Ricordi Etruschi, also on display
  • An assortment of material related to the painting Soil and Subsoil by Alexandre Hogue, including a letter written by the artist himself

 

History lessons

The story of OKCMOA begins with the opening of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Experimental Gallery in 1936 in downtown Oklahoma City. Two years later, the gallery relocated to the larger Municipal Auditorium in the Civic Center. The Oklahoma Art Center was incorporated on May 19, 1945. Sheets was appointed director of the new center, and over the next 30 years, she helped shape the Museum’s collection into what it is today. 

After two decades in the Municipal Auditorium, the Oklahoma Art Center moved again to its new Fairgrounds location in 1958. In 1968, the OAC purchased the collection of the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, a short-lived contemporary art museum in Washington, D.C. This prompted the formation of the separate Oklahoma Museum of Conservative Art — with a focus on representational works — which relocated to Buttram Mansion in 1977. In 1989, the two museums merged to become the Oklahoma City Art Museum.

Construction on the Museum’s new home at its current site began in 2000, and on March 16, 2002, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art opened its doors. 


Credit: Exterior of the Oklahoma Art Center, a Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, 120 NW 2nd Street, Oklahoma City, ca. 1937