Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Oklahoma City, OK
(800) 579-9ART and (405) 236-3100
About the Oklahoma City Museum of Art:
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art serves 170,000 visitors annually from all fifty states and over forty foreign countries and hosts special exhibitions drawn from throughout the world. The Museum is home to an extensive permanent collection of European and American art, including the most comprehensive collection of Dale Chihuly glass in the world, and the Midwest's premiere repertoire cinema, which presents the finest international, independent, and classic films. Amenities include the Museum's Library Resource Center, Museum Store, and Museum School, which offers classes for students of all ages as well as fall, winter, and summer camps for youths. The Museum is also home to the Museum Cafe, whose French-fusion cuisine is complemented by a full-service bar complete with cocktails, specialty coffees, and afternoon tea.
A Dream in the Making
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has adhered to the fundamental purpose set forth by its predecessor, the Oklahoma Art League, in 1910: "to foster a love and a taste for art and to establish a permanent museum of art." For more than two decades, the Art League collected paintings and sponsored art exhibitions, and then in January of 1936, President Roosevelt's Works Project Administration helped open the OAL's first gallery, the WPA Experimental Gallery. Nan Sheets, a well-known local artist and OAL member, was named Technical Advisor of the WPA Gallery and almost immediately began a fund drive to procure more space for the Gallery's growing collections and programs. Two years later, in January of 1938, the OAL moved the WPA Gallery into five galleries on the fifth floor of the Municipal Building, and Sheets was named Director of the new Municipal Auditorium Federal Arts Center. Sheets maintained the original WPA Gallery's schedule of changing exhibitions and art classes and opened three extension galleries in local public libraries. Over the next few years, the Arts Center flourished while federal funding for the arts disappeared during WWII. In response, Sheets and Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick, another OAL member, organized the first Beaux Arts Ball to raise funds for the Art Center, and on May 18, 1945, the Oklahoma Art Center was incorporated into perpetual existence.
Taking the High Road
Throughout the 40s and 50s, the Art Center continued to expand its programs and collections, and Nan Sheets again started looking for a more appropriate space for the Center. In 1958, with funds provided by John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick and land and utilities provided by Oklahoma City, a new facility was built on the State Fair Grounds. With the OAL's vision of a permanent museum realized, Nan Sheets retired in 1965, and her long-time friend, Eleanor Kirkpatrick agreed to chair the Museum's Acquisitions Committee. Then in 1968, the Museum's controversial purchase of the Washington Gallery of Modern Art Collection deepened a rift between Oklahoma's "conservative" and "modern" art communities, and the Museum splintered. A separate Museum of Conservative Art was established at the Red Ridge Estate in N.E. Oklahoma City that later moved to the Buttram Mansion and became the Oklahoma Museum of Art. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the Oklahoma art community struggled to maintain two museums, and in 1989, the Oklahoma Museum of Art and the Oklahoma Art Center merged to become the Oklahoma City Art Museum. With over 3,000 works in the combined collections, the Museum again outgrew its building and plans were discussed for a new homefor the Museum.
A New Facility
On March 16, 2002, with the success of a $40 million Legacy Campaign that included a $14.5 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in the Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center opened. This three-story, 110,000 sq. ft. facility features 15 galleries, 3 education rooms, a library/resource center, a store, a cafe, and the 252-seat Noble Theatre. Since relocating to its new facility, the Museum hosts approximately 100,000 visitors annually and has tripled its membership and increased its staff from 8 people in 1994 to over 60 in 2003. The Museum has been accredited by the American Association of Museums and houses an extensive, permanent collection of European, Asian, and American art, featuring such artists as Pierre Auguste Renoir, Gustave Courbet, Maurice de Vlaminck, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Moran, Robert Henri, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, and Frank Stella. The Museum also owns the largest, most comprehensive collection of Chihuly glass in the world, including a 55 foot tall Tower, commissioned for the atrium of the new facility in memory of Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick. Since its small beginning in 1910, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art has worked to fulfill its driving purpose and now, in a new millennium and facility, continues to foster appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts through exhibition, education, collection, and preservation.
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is locaed at 415 Couch Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73102. Please see the Museum's website for hours and admission fees.
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