FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OKLAHOMA CITY (June 8, 2022) – After nearly six years in storage, more than 500 works of art are finally returning to the Oklahoma State Capitol. They are being joined by almost 20 newly commissioned monumental and life-sized works. The reinstallation of the artwork, representing five separate art collections, began Monday, June 6. It will unfold in phases through the end of the calendar year.
Led by the visual and public art staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council, crews are reinstalling works floor by floor, starting with the fifth floor and progressing down one floor at a time. Depicted in the works are Oklahoma’s historic events, natural resources, and notable people. Along with the return of well-known staples such as Wilson Hurley’s “Centennial Suite,” and Charles Banks Wilson’s portraits of Robert S. Kerr, Sequoyah, Will Rogers, and Jim Thorpe, nearly 20 new works have been commissioned for the Capitol. Most of the new works were made possible through the Oklahoma Art in Public Places Act, which requires the state to invest 1.5 percent of eligible capital improvement project budgets in public art. The Oklahoma Arts Council manages state public art commissions.
As the artwork is returned, a new space for the Betty Price Gallery, home of the Oklahoma State Art Collection, will open on the second floor. Another new space, the Hall of Heroes, commemorating Oklahoma’s distinguished history of military service, will open on the second floor near the Supreme Court chamber.
Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples called the new and returning artwork a crowning moment in the restoration of the Capitol.
“Since the time the artwork was removed from the Capitol, people have asked about its return,” said Sharples. “The Capitol is the state’s largest public museum, and now, beautifully restored and prepared to host an expanding number of art works, it has even greater potential as a space for educating Oklahomans about the history and creativity of our people and drawing visitors from around the world. The restoration of the Capitol presented an opportunity for our team to consider how to give visitors the best possible experience, and now after years of planning, we are already seeing people pause to view, examine, and enjoy the works they have been missing. We look forward to the full schedule of works being displayed in the months ahead.”
The New Artwork and Visitor Experience
In its planning, the Oklahoma Arts Council prioritized the visitor experience, organizing artwork throughout the building according to a chronological and thematic progression. When visitors enter the building through the main entrance on the ground floor, they will be greeted by a video produced by Buffalo Nickel Creative with the help of Sterlin Harjo, co-creator and executive producer of the hit FX on Hulu series “Reservation Dogs.” The greeting will incorporate Native languages from the state’s 39 tribal nations. Artwork on the ground floor will reflect pre-statehood and Native American history in Oklahoma. A centerpiece of the ground floor will be a mural by Yatika Starr Fields depicting the Spiro Mounds as a center of commerce in pre-contact Oklahoma. As visitors ascend floors, they will engage an expanding mix of strategically arranged subjects and themes. Themes of modern commerce and economic development in Oklahoma bring the visitor experience full circle on the fifth floor.
Themes and new works by floor are:
Themes: Pre-statehood and Native American History; Early Statehood and Western Heritage; State Motto
Ceramic wall installation by Anita Fields (Osage Nation); 42” x 74”
“People of the Great Sky, Constellations of the Land” ceiling installation by Dr. Jessica Harjo (Otoe-Missouria/ Osage Nation/Pawnee/Sac & Fox); 75’ x 24’
“Kadohadacho” traditional Caddo tripod vessel by Chase Kahwinhut Earles (Caddo Nation); 24” x 24”
“Oklahoma Dawn” mural by Yatika Starr Fields (Osage Nation/Muscogee Nation/Cherokee Nation); 5’ x 12’
“Chief Allen Wright” bronze bust by LaQuincey Reed; life size
“Indigenous Greetings” video by Buffalo Nickel co-produced by Sterlin Harjo; 10 minutes
“Labor Omnia Vincit,” Oklahoma State Motto suite of four murals by Lucas Simmons; 8.5’ x 10.5’ each
“Oklahoma Boots” by Lisa Sorrell; men’s size 10
Theme: African American Oklahoma History
“Black Wall Street” mural by TBA; 7’ x 16’
“Katz Drug Store Sit-In” mural by TBA; 7’ x 16’
“Clara Luper” bronze by LaQuincey Reed; life size
“Hannah Atkins” bronze by LaQuincey Reed; life size
Themes: Hall of Heroes; Hall of Governors; Oklahoma Cultural Treasures; Oklahoma’s Natural Beauty; Betty Price Gallery/State Art Collection
“Anumpa Luma Anumpuli” Choctaw Code Talkers of WWI painting by Dylan Cavin (Choctaw Nation); 36” x 48”
“Doc Tate Nevaquaya” portrait by Nocona Burgess (Comanche Nation); 48” x 30”
“Making Her Mark” lunette mural by Sara Scribner; 9’ x 22’
“Governor J. Kevin Stitt” bronze bust by John Rule; life size
“Wanda Jackson” portrait by Tracey Harris; 48” x 36”
Theme: Oklahoma Luminaries
Theme: Celebrating Oklahoma’s Legacy
Theme: Roots of Oklahoma Commerce and Economic Development
“Chief Wilma Mankiller” portrait by Starr Hardridge (Muscogee Nation); 36” x 30”
Developing the Plan
To develop the reinstallation plan, the Oklahoma Arts Council performed a comprehensive analysis of the Capitol artwork, held community listening sessions across the state, and met with key Capitol facility stakeholders and legislative leadership. Collaboration with the Senate and House presented opportunities for featuring works from their collections. The plan reflects a visitor-centric and educational-focused approach offering the highest degree of breadth and depth in illustrating Oklahoma history.
Where Was the Art?
Most of the artwork has been in climate-controlled storage in an off-site secure location to protect it during the Capitol restoration project. Several large works of art remained in the public spaces of the Capitol, notably Charles Banks Wilson’s four murals under the dome on the fifth floor depicting Oklahoma history from 1541 to 1906, and Thomas Gilbert White’s “Pro Patria,” which commemorates the tragedies and triumphs of World War I. Works that were not removed from the Capitol were covered to protect them from the harsh construction environment.
Rotating Exhibitions to Return
In addition to the permanent artwork installed throughout the Capitol, the three gallery spaces—the North, East, and Governor’s galleries that are used for displaying rotating exhibitions of work by Oklahoma artists—will reopen in fall 2022. With the reopening of the galleries, the Oklahoma Arts Council will be able to exhibit additional mediums, including 3D works and fiber art. Oklahoma artists can submit their portfolios at arts.ok.gov for consideration to be exhibited in the Capitol galleries.
New Educational Experience to be Offered
Parents, teachers, students, and others will be able to take advantage of a growing roster of educational resources tied to the Capitol art. In addition to relaunching a field trip grant program for schools statewide to bring students to learn about Oklahoma art and history through the Capitol collections, the Oklahoma Arts Council will expand its online curriculum, research opportunities for a formal docent program, present artist talks, and design other educational activities.
About Oklahoma Art in Public Places
Signed into law in 2004, the Oklahoma Art in Public Places Act reserves 1.5 percent of eligible state capital improvement project budgets for investment in public art that represents the history and values of Oklahoma. Administered by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the program advances state economic development goals and enhances public spaces for Oklahoma residents. In managing the program, the Oklahoma Arts Council brings together state government entities, artists, and local citizens in the commissioning or acquisition of artwork reflecting individual communities. Artists for Oklahoma Art in Public Places projects are selected by committees that include representation from the community.
About the Oklahoma Arts Council
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead, cultivate, and amplify the transformative power of the arts for all Oklahomans and their communities. The Oklahoma Arts Council provides hundreds of grants to organizations and schools statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state's arts and cultural industry, and manages the art collections at the Oklahoma state Capitol. Additional information is available at arts.ok.gov.