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A Land Both Far and Near

by | Museum

A Land Both Far and Near


Searching for that perfect spot where the beauty of nature, history, and art collide in a decades-old estate situated on a hill that feels more like a thousand miles from a large busy city that is only minutes away from downtown Tulsa?  Here is the place!  Just a short drive from downtown are the gates of the Gilcrease Museum, quickly reminding the guest that sometimes a true sanctuary of wonder can be found in Tulsa and only minutes away from Tulsa’s surrounding areas. Don’t live in Tulsa?  Gilcrease Museum is definitely worth the trip whether driving from the farthest corners of Oklahoma or visiting from another state.

The Museum founded in the ’40s by Thomas Gilcrease, who was of Creek Indian Ancestry, and an oil man who had a deep appreciation of art.  Without a doubt, that appreciation led to the current collection that is maintained at Gilcrease Museum and is a nationally recognized museum by patrons of the art world for its extensive collection of American West Art, Native American Art, Historical documents, and artifacts dating back thousands of years.  In addition to the treasures to be found inside the main museum building, The Helmerich Center for American Research is only steps away.  Here is found what seems to be unending information that has been collected and stored making it possible to literally spend months pouring over the extensive collection of books, documents, and historical maps.    

Usually, when reading an article about any museum, the article always covers the art collection and sometimes even the architecture will be noted.  However, Gilcrease is not just “any” museum, and simply pointing out the beauty of the art collections or the histories communicated through the artwork, artifacts, and documents would not sufficiently tell the whole story of what will be encountered during a visit to Gilcrease Museum.  This particular experience starts before reaching the parking area, driving through the monogrammed gates, with the car winding upward through the sandstone gardens. 

Breathtaking are the views atop this hill where the museum, and former home of Thomas Gilcrease and his family lived. The Gilcrease family house still stands today.  This incredibly cared for, and preserved estate is not only where the family lived, but the final resting place of the immediate family. The grounds of the museum are situated and surrounded by thick, lush, beautifully landscaped gardens, beautiful trees, complete with grassy areas, sculptures scattered throughout the property.  For the enjoyment of these gardens and the surroundings outside of the museum, park benches are pristinely located in the exact perfect spot.  Benches which offer the visitor the opportunity to sit quietly soaking in the scenery where the only sounds are the birds singing, crickets chirping, or the occasional croaking frog. The grounds are the perfect place to become lost within the natural beauty of an estate of a former era.

Preserved, and delicately cared for is this gift of unique gardens, with all the majesty of densely populated plants, trees, and billowing flowers.  These unique spaces are without a doubt, the perfect spot for photographers, sketchers, and painters.  Whether the plan is to create a personal masterpiece or to simply tour the museum, planning extra time to enjoy the surrounding gardens, sculptures, and extraordinary views, will be an important part of the visit.

Once the magical walk that starts on the main level is underway, moving from piece to piece, identifying only one “favorite” among the thousands of pieces available to view will be a difficult task.  Found in the permanent collection in the upper galleries are eloquent and beautiful art depicting the Old American West and Native American life.  The stunning oil paintings adorning the gallery walls brings art to life as if there is no other world existing beyond. The feelings that are stirred inside are similar to feelings of a new love affair. An affair that grows, and changes, so it is with each piece of art absorbed along the way.

It’s hard not to fall in love with all of Thomas Moran’s work or that of George Catlin.  The most spectacular and emotional stirring will surely be the experience when the oil on canvas painted by Catlin in 1854 is examined.  This painting meaningfully named, “Buffaloes” will undoubtedly be fully appreciated as to the unsettling, seemingly real interaction with the buffalo that appears to be speaking directly to the soul through its eyes.  A direct gaze, so real that this it would be indistinguishable from what could ever be captured in a photograph.  Soon, after taking in all of the extraordinary pieces on the plaza level, awaiting in a gallery below are pieces steeped in the rich history of times long, long passed.

Tucked away downstairs is a gallery full of beautiful, and breathtaking artifacts, tools, woven baskets, and pottery that have a date range from BCE to the 1700s. So numerous are these pieces on display in this gallery, that the creation of a digital tablet system allows for the viewer to absorb the full experience, and abundant details surrounding each piece located in this gallery.  Once downstairs, the 70 tablets are immediately in view on the wall, and available to help aid the visitor in acquiring a full understanding of the art and artifacts in this gallery. These tablets brilliantly allow for information about each object to be easily displayed on the screen by using an alpha/numeric system located next to each item on the shelves and within the drawers.

Shelves, and shelves house pottery, woven baskets, and artifacts created by the different tribes and from different times throughout history.  Each piece has a label beside it containing letters and or numbers that allow for the input into the tablet which displays the details about each piece. Situated under the glassed encased shelves are pull out drawers, also numbered providing the information about a particular piece.  In these drawers are found tools, art, and artifacts some dating back centuries. Each piece providing a glimpse into a distant unknown past.

This gallery below tells a story about objects created not only as art, but tools that were created hundreds, sometimes thousands of years ago, that enlightens the imagination to the ways of life of various cultures, and to the ways in which survival was achieved.  Both the tools, and the art that was created tells a story about particular cultures, and how life was lived in various regions of the world.
The permanent collections in this museum cover thousands of years of history with the historical richness on display ripe with stories of antiquity depicted through art, and artifacts helping to bridge the distant past to current times, and how the contributions of the various cultures have shaped and overlapped with one another ultimately creating this current world.
Gilcrease Museum, just as it has for decades, will continue to contribute to the education and understanding of various cultures of the past by making available its vast collections on display for the enjoyment of the guests of today, and generations of tomorrow.  Gilcrease Museum subtly stirs a new understanding and appreciation of Native American and American West Art. For more information about the museum, and the spectacular, exhibits please refer to the website for all the current dates of exhibits and events.

Kris Duenner

Author, Business Development

“I am very proud to be a part of the talent at Uniquelahoma, an online magazine that is a place to learn about the rich history of Oklahoma, as well as unique stories about amazing people, places and exciting events happening statewide.  Previously, I worked in oil and gas, and after living in DC and Houston, I moved back to Oklahoma.  Currently, I stay busy writing for, working for a nonprofit, and working in retail.” 

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Kris Duenner

Kris Duenner



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