With four cities to see in one day, we had to hustle after seeing the OKC Memorial & Museum and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Ashlyn and I ran by the Oklahoma City (OKC) Museum of Art to see a single piece: a beautiful (and large) work by glass artist Dale Chihuly.
Following that stop, we drove by the Oklahoma State Capitol building. We picked up our cohorts and food, and had lunch in the car. The lunch from Kitchen 324 was very good.
Philbrook Museum of Art
by Morgan Robertson
After a grab & go lunch, we ventured out of OKC, heading northeast toward Tulsa and the Philbrook Museum of Art. Before becoming a museum, the Philbrook Italian Renaissance Villa was once a once a home to a wealthy oilman and his family. In 1938, it was gifted by the owners to the City of Tulsa to be an art center. And what an amazing space it is!
Despite the heat, some of the more persistent flowers were still in bloom across the 25 acres of gardens at the home. Water features and angled sidewalks cast a viewer’s eye directly towards the gazebo at the base of the hill.
We descended through the gardens while capturing photos. (And I made sure to snap a few of my favorite, sunflowers!)
Almost hidden in the greenery, was an Allan Houser statue of a Native American with outstretched arms, gazing towards the sky.
We had intended to find this and were pleased that we did!
We had to make our visit at the Philbrook brief, but we still made time to see some important pieces. Displayed with glass vases and other small sculptures, Yvette found her favorite: an early James Surls that was a wooden axe!
The museum exhibits and pieces varied widely: an exhibition on Mexican art, several regionalist pieces, and even a Picasso – one of Jessica’s favorites.
In addition, we saw works by Thomas Moran, our newly discovered Kehinde Wiley, and Alexandre Hogue.
Sometimes, our own Ambassadors think they are a work of art…
…really, though, they are just a piece of work.
Sometimes, though, they created some art of their own, as in this cool photograph by Yvette.
Bartlesville, Oklahoma (Jessica Cuevas)
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower and the Price Tower Arts Center
Frank Lloyd Wright (“FLW”) was a unique and famous architect, mostly known for his revolutionary approach to American architecture, which incorporated timeless aspects of geometry into his work as well as site-specific structures that blended with the environment.
So, after our short stop at the Philbrook in Tulsa, we made our way to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to see and tour the only skyscraper designed by Wright. Yes, you read that right—in Bartlesville, Oklahoma!
Wright’s definition of a skyscraper was a building that met several requirements. It had to have residential spaces; retail spaces; and commercial spaces, as well as reach a certain number of stories…all of which the Price Tower had when it opened, and it still has to this date!
Designed in 1952, with construction starting in 1953, the Price Tower didn’t open its doors until 1956. We toured three of the 19 floors of the Price Tower, getting a good look at the first…
…17th, and 18th floors, with lots of detailed information on the architectural elements by our tour guide, Mr. Price Conner.
As is usual with Wright’s designs and commissions, Price Tower went considerably over budget. Wright was nothing if not true to his design, so once he had an idea or design, there was no deviation. This can even be seen in the (tiny) elevators.
We rode a small honeycomb-shaped elevator up (in groups of three, so it took two rides), to see two spaces – an apartment and a corporate office. Wright liked to hide or minimize things that distracted from his intent of a space, even if it made them less functional, so the apartment’s kitchen and powder room, staircases, and other things were made as small as possible. The office, meanwhile, had its own impeccable designs, including wall art that complemented the motifs of the building.
With the Price Tower, Wright heavily used and reinforced use of the triangle, both inside and outside, along with other motifs.
The Price Tower was designed to emulate a tree on the plains. No side of the skyscraper is the same, but somehow the whole remains cohesive. Compared to the surrounding area, the Price Tower stands like an ancient tree, weathered by time.
We then strolled (through Unity Square) to the Bartlesville Community Center. The public outdoor space contains a small sculpture garden featuring Robert Indiana’s 66, along with xeriscaping, and a modern statu3 that may have caused some consternation when it was installed.
Although not a Frank Lloyd Wright design, the Community Center has similar architectural elements, probably because it was designed by one of Wright’s protégés, William Wesley Peters (who also became FLW’s son-in-law). Peters, who was chief Architect at Taliesin West, designed the Community Center, infusing the interior design with round, circular shapes throughout, bringing in the exterior shape to the interior, including the door handles, windows, and staircases.
The Center’s director, Liz Callaghan, provided a lovely tour with many little stories of the not-little space – it soars with wonderful details.
(We were only able to peek into the main stage, as rehearsals were going on, but we were all amazed at the space. The Bartlesville Community Center can seat 1,692 people, five times our own Old Town Theatre seats!)
We enjoyed making many other comparisons and connections between the Community Center and the Price Tower and other FLW spaces we’ve seen, taking in the detail and uniqueness of the Center. (Wright demanded nothing less than his own ideas for his students, so it’s no wonder that a student and scholar of Wright’s would pay attention to such detail!) As one small example, the mural in the lobby of the Community Center, designed by Heloise Swaback, was designed to complement the color scheme of the Price Tower, while reinforcing the colors of the Bartlesville Community Center space and its own curvilinear shapes. It is the “world’s largest cloisonne art work, a mural that is 25-feet long which depicts a stylized northeastern Oklahoma landscape“.
The Community Center has certainly been doing its job: providing space and events and activities to bring the town together!
At Ms. Callagher’s suggestion, we wended through the park to return to our car. We had fun with the landscape, enjoying it’s beauty, and the unique way the park, the Price Tower, and the Bartlesville Community Center beautified–and strengthened–a welcoming community.
Great Plains Nature Center (Professor Mike Yawn)
The LEAP Center tries to plan trips around specific learning experiences–in this the Midwest Council of State Governments’ Conference–and then builds multi-disciplinary learning opportunities around that central event. So, on this day, we learned about art, terrorism, architecture, community assets, and, in our last stop of the day, the natural environment. Thus it was that we found ourselves at the beautiful Great Plains Nature Center, nestled in Wichita, KS.
The Park is almost 300 acres, and it has 2.5 miles of paved trails–and we covered a good portion of them! The setting was beautiful…
…and it brought us across bridges, into wooded areas, across water features, and into restored prairies.
It also brought us into view of wildlife. We saw a snake, a turtle, an Great Horned Owl, many ducks, and a heron.
We also saw several deer, at least one of which seemed to not care that we were walking within a few steps of its space.
Yvette had managed a beautiful shot of a Red-Tailed Hawk earlier in the day…
…. and the cumulative experience of the day had provided us with a fairly comprehensive education–a theme, we hope, that will continue throughout the trip.