Michael Anderson wasn’t in town on March 16, 2002, when the Oklahoma City Museum of Art opened its new downtown home to the public.
But as the museum’s president and CEO, he knows just how monumental that move has been.
“It was completely transformative. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art and its predecessors … mounted some pretty important exhibitions at the (OKC) Fairgrounds and at their other locations over the years. But with the move downtown, the museum was able to really level up in terms of its prominence. It led to a number of major acquisitions, so much so that we have more than twice as many works now new to our collection than when we moved in here 20 years ago,” said Anderson, who joined the museum’s staff in 2014.
“It was a game-changer in every sense.”
The museum is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its downtown home, the Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center, with a week of free admission family days featuring special activities, new and upcoming exhibits celebrating its growing collection and a look ahead at its 2022-2023 season of special exhibitions, including a tribute to legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head.
“We had our 75th anniversary in 2020. Now we have another milestone in 2022, and this time, I think we’ll be able to celebrate a bit more robustly and also in person in a way that it was difficult during 2020,” Anderson said.
Spring break brings Family Week at OKC Museum of Art
Staffers were preparing for one of the museum’s Sonic Free Family Days in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the institution to temporarily shut down. Although the museum soon reopened, it hasn’t offered one of its free days since.
But the museum is marking spring break this year by hosting its first Sonic Family Discovery Week March 16-20, with special activities including appearances by the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, a concert by popular OKC duo Sugar Free Allstars and a special screening of the movie “The Sandlot.”
“If you’ve attended our Free Family Days in years past, you know that they can get quite crowded, because we open the museum for free to welcome our entire community. … For safety reasons, we’ve decided to limit capacity and allow for social distancing, so we’ve spread it out over the course of the whole week,” said Becky Weintz, the museum’s marketing and communications director.
To attend, visitors must pick up free passes — museum admission regularly costs $12 for adults, while children 17 and younger are always admitted for 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 exhibit “The Perfect Shot: Walter Iooss Jr. and the Art of Sports Photography,” a new retrospective of 85 photographs by the storied sports photographer, who worked for Sports Illustrated for more than 50 years.
“Almost all of them are from our permanent collection. … Most of them we only just got in 2019 and 2020, so this is the first time they’ve all been on display here,” said museum Curator Bryn Schockmel.
“He’s had the chance to work with all of the greatest athletes: Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Michelle Kwan, Mary Lou Retton, all of these incredible people.”
‘Dale Chihuly: Magic & Light’ closing to make way for new exhibit
When the OKC Museum of Art opened in its downtown home in 2002, the 2,400-piece “Dale Chihuly: An Inaugural Exhibition” debuted with the new building. It proved so popular that the museum raised more than $3.2 million to purchase the glass art exhibit in 2004.
“It continues to be extremely popular and a major draw for 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 exhibit was reconfigured and reinstalled in 2011 on the museum’s third floor. The exhibit, titled “Dale Chihuly: Magic & Light,” has stayed the same since its grand reopening on New Year’s Eve 2012.
But “Magic & Light” will close March 27 to make way for the new exhibit “Chihuly Then and Now: The Collection at Twenty” in its new home on the museum’s first floor. Opening June 18, “Chihuly Then and Now” will include new works on loan from the Chihuly Studio in Seattle along with the familiar favorites from the OKC museum’s permanent collection.
“I quite enjoyed the process of revisiting the collection … and adding new installations,” Chihuly said in a statement. “A lot can happen in 20 years, and I can’t wait to see how visitors respond to newer work such as ‘Chihuly Merletto,’ ‘Rotolo’ and ‘Glass on Glass’ — none of which have been previously shown in Oklahoma City.”
Plus, the museum announced last fall a major gift of the glass art from the Jerome V. and Judith G. Rose Family Glass Collection. The gift includes more than 100 artworks, and the exhibit “Highlights from the Rose Family Glass Collection” will debut Sept. 4 on the museum’s second floor.
“The Rose Glass Collection is just a perfect complement to what we already have. It really further establishes this museum is a regional leader for studio glass,” Anderson said.
“Before the acquisition of (the Chihuly) collection in 2004, we had a very limited number of pieces of glass in our collection. So, it really shifted thinking about what the museum’s collection was. Before it was maybe peripheral to what we did overall as an institution, and now it’s one of our key cornerstone collections.“
Upcoming season to showcase art from Iran to 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 Oct. 15, “Abbas Kiarostami: Beyond the Frame” is a multimedia survey of the work of the late Iranian filmmaker, photographer and visual artist Abbas Kiarostami, who died in 2016 at the age of 76.
Organized by the OKC museum in partnership with Kiarostami’s family, the retrospective will remain on view through Jan. 23 and range from the acclaimed artist’s early children’s films and graphic design work to his final completed short films and late-period photography.
“We want to show a number of different types of art over the course of the next year, so glass, film, painting and sculpture, photography, costume design … but then also artists of a number of different cultures and contexts,” Anderson said.
The spring 2023 exhibit “Art and Activism at Tougaloo College” will showcase artworks from the collection of the historically Black Mississippi college, which played a central role in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and the fight for racial equality.
“In this exhibition, there are both these European modernist artists like Picasso but then artists like Robert Duncanson and Alma Thomas, Black artists who really did progress the art form in the 19th and 20th centuries,” Anderson said.
In summer 2023, the museum will pay homage to a late, great behind-the-scenes film artist with “Edith Head: The Golden Age of Hollywood Costume Design.” Organized by the OKC museum, the retrospective will spotlight costumes worn by stars including Audrey Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Shirley MacLaine, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. It will span the six decades of Head’s (1897-1981) legendary career, which earned her 35 Academy Award nominations and eight Oscar wins — more than any other woman to date.
“We have two film-centered exhibitions on the schedule … in part because of the historic Centre Theatre, which is now the Samuel Roberts Noble Theater in our museum. Of course, we have the Chihuly Tower as our most prominent feature, but the other really eternal aspect of this structure is that this was built around a historic movie theater. So, we’re doing exhibitions where there will be very significant theatrical components to go along with what you see in the galleries,” Anderson said.
“It’s exhibitions that, I think, relate to and provide dialogues with not only our collection, but also what we do as an institution … as we move into our next 20 years in downtown.”
SONIC FAMILY DISCOVERY WEEK
When: March 16-20.
Where: 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.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OKC Museum of Art anniversary brings free admission, Dale Chihuly art