Michael Anderson was out of town on March 16, 2002, when the The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has opened its new home downtown to the public.
But as the CEO of the museumhe knows how monumental this move was.
“It was completely transformative. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art and its predecessors … have mounted sizable exhibits at the (OKC) Exhibition Center and their other locations over the years. But with the move downtown, the museum was able to really gain notoriety. It led to a number of major acquisitions, so much so that we have more than twice as many new works in our collection as when we moved here 20 years ago,” said Anderson, who joined the museum staff in 2014.
“It was a game-changer in every way.”
The museum celebrates the 20th anniversary of its downtown home, the Donald W. Reynolds Center for the Visual Artsfeaturing a week of free Family Days featuring special activities, new and upcoming exhibitions celebrating its growing collection, and a preview of its 2022-2023 season of special exhibitions, including a tribute to legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head.
“We had our 75th birthday in 2020. Now we have another big milestone in 2022, and this time I think we can celebrate a little more vigorously and also in person in a way that was difficult in 2020,” Anderson said.
Spring Break Brings Family Week to the OKC Museum of Art
Staff members were preparing for one of the Sonic Free Family Days from the museum in March 2020 when the The COVID-19 pandemic forced the institution to temporarily close. Although the museum reopening soonhe hasn’t given away one of his free days since.
But the museum is marking spring break this year by hosting its first Sonic Family Discovery Week from March 16-20, with special activities including appearances from the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, a concert by the popular OKC duo Sugar Free Allstars and a special screening of the film “The Sandlot”.
“If you’ve attended our Free Family Days in recent years, you know they can get very crowded, as we open the museum for free to welcome our entire community. … For safety reasons, we have decided to limit capacity and allow for social distancing, so we spread it out throughout the week,” said Becky Weintz, the museum’s director of marketing and communications.
To attend, visitors must obtain free passes – admission to the museum regularly costs $12 for adults, while children 17 and under are always admitted free — by March 15 at one of five Metropolitan Library locations: Alamonte, Capitol Hill, Del City, Ralph Ellison, and Southern Oaks.
Many Discovery Week activities will focus on “The Perfect Shot: Walter Iooss Jr. and the Art of Sports Photography” exhibit, a new retrospective of 85 photographs by the famed sports photographer, who worked for Sports Illustrated for over 50 years old.
“Almost all of them are part of our permanent collection. … Most of them only arrived in 2019 and 2020, so this is the first time they’ve all been displayed here,” said museum curator Bryn Schockmel.
“He was lucky enough to work with all the greatest athletes: Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Michelle Kwan, Mary Lou Retton, all these amazing people.”
‘Dale Chihuly: Magic & Light’ closes to make way for new exhibit
When the OKC Art Museum opened in its downtown home in 2002, the “Dale Chihuly: an inaugural exhibition” of 2,400 pieces debuted with the new building. It proved so popular that the museum raised over $3.2 million to purchase the glass art exhibit in 2004.
“It continues to be extremely popular and a major draw to the museum…and glass has become a focal point as an area to grow our collection,” museum curator Catherine Shotick told The Oklahoman.
A decade after its debut, the Chihuly Exhibition was reconfigured and reinstalled in 2011 on the third floor of the museum. The exhibition, titled “Dale Chihuly: magic and light”, has remained the same since its grand reopening on New Years Eve 2012.
But “Magic & Light” will close on March 27 to make way for the new exhibition “Chihuly Then and Now: The Collection at Twenty” in its new home on the first floor of the museum. Opening June 18, “Chihuly Then and Now” will include new works on loan from Chihuly Studio in Seattle as well as familiar favorites from the OKC Museum’s permanent collection.
“I enjoyed the process of revisiting the collection…and adding new facilities,” Chihuly said in a statement. “A lot can happen in 20 years, and I can’t wait to see how visitors react to more recent works such as ‘Chihuly Merletto’, ‘Rotolo’ and ‘Glass on Glass’ – none of which have been previously shown in Oklahoma City.”
In addition, the museum announced last fall a major gift of glass art from the Jerome V. and Judith G. Rose family glass collection. The giveaway includes more than 100 works of art, and the “Highlights from the Rose Family Glass Collection” exhibit will begin Sept. 4 on the second floor of the museum.
“The Rose Glass Collection is just a perfect addition to what we already have. It really establishes that this museum is a regional leader for studio glass,” Anderson said.
“Before we acquired the collection (from Chihuly) in 2004, we had a very limited number of glass pieces in our collection. So that really changed the thinking about what the museum’s collection was. It was perhaps peripheral to what we did as an institution as a whole, and now it’s one of our flagship collections.”
An upcoming season to showcase the art of Iran in Mississippi
Although much of the museum’s 2022 programming focuses on showcasing aspects of its permanent collection, its 2022-2023 exhibition season will bring art from Iran, Mississippi and Hollywood to OKC.
Opening October 15, “Abbas Kiarostami: Beyond the Frame” is a multimedia investigation into the work of the late Iranian filmmaker, photographer and visual artist Abbas Kiarostamidied in 2016 at the age of 76.
Organized by the OKC Museum in partnership with Kiarostami’s family, the retrospective will remain on view until January 23 and will range from the acclaimed artist’s early children’s films and graphic design work to his latest short films and photographs of the late period.
“We want to show a number of different types of art over the next year, so glass, film, painting and sculpture, photography, costume design… but also artists from a number of different cultures and backgrounds,” says Anderson.
The spring 2023 exhibition “Art and militancy in Tougaloo Collegewill feature artwork from the collection of the historically black Mississippi college, which played a pivotal role in the 1960s civil rights movement and the struggle for racial equality.
“In this exhibition, there are both these European modernist artists like Picasso but also artists like Robert Duncanson and Alma Thomas, black artists who really advanced the art form in the 19th and 20th centuries,” Anderson said.
In the summer of 2023, the museum will pay tribute to a great behind-the-scenes film artist with “Edith’s head: The Golden Age of Hollywood Costume Design.” Organized by the OKC Museum, the retrospective will highlight costumes worn by stars like Audrey Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Shirley MacLaine, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. It will cover all six decades of Head’s storied career (1897-1981), which earned her 35 Academy Award nominations and eight Academy Awards – more than any other woman to date.
“We have two exhibitions centered on cinema on the program…partly because of the Historic Center Theater, which is now the Samuel Roberts Noble Theater in our museum. Of course we have the Chihuly Tower as our most important feature, but the other truly timeless aspect of this structure is that it was built around a historic movie theater. So we are doing exhibitions where there will be very important theatrical elements to accompany what you see in the galleries,” Anderson said.
“These are exhibits that I think relate and dialogue not only with our collection, but also with what we do as an institution…as we enter our next 20 years downtown.”
SONIC FAMILY DISCOVERY WEEK
When: March 16-20.
Or: Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive.
Admission: Free but passes are required and can be picked up at select Metropolitan Library System locations.