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Gilcrease Museum unveiled renderings today for their upcoming expansion. The museum will close to the public after July 4th, and an entire new building will take its place. The project may take over three years and is already funded.

Gilcrease Museum Executive Director Susan Neal and Project Leader Mayor G.T. Bynum showed community members and Tulsa officials the concept design for the plans to re-imagine the museum from the ground up.

“One of the three goals that Mayor Bynum stated early on was to make Tulsa a nationally competitive city, and I think you will have to agree with me and see why and how Gilcrease Museum plays an important role in that goal and ambition,” Executive Director Neal said.

Plans outgrow old space

The current museum can’t support the climate and environment required to operate mass tourism and house a world-class fine art collection. This week was the first time for the workers of this project to be together in person in 15 months due to the pandemic. Executive Director Neal and Mayor Bynum thanked everyone for their hard work and support before addressing the importance of preserving history.

“If you’re going to be the kind of city that I think everyone in this room wants Tulsa to be, every generation has a responsibility to live up to what has been given to us by those who came before us and build on that for future generations,” Mayor Bynum said. 

“We want to play our part in making sure that that museum facility is worthy of the greatest collection of American Art History in the country that the federal government doesn’t own and approved a $65 million initiative for this facility.” the Mayor added.

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Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum discusses the unveiling of plans for an expansion of Gilcrease Museum. (Lauryn Terry / The Black Wall Street Times)

Mayor deflects away from question about inherited wealth

The Vision Tulsa Program, passed in 2016, was the largest economic development capital improvements program in the history of the city. The new Gilcrease Museum is the largest part in that program that the Mayor was a part of creating. They had 300 town hall meetings in all parts of the city on the topic of this expansion.

“It expands the facilities so that we can display more of our collection, and we will be the first Museum in the entire state of Oklahoma capable of handling major traveling exhibits,” Mayor Bynum said.

The Black Wall Street Times attempted to ask Mayor Bynum a follow-up question about whether each generation should also acknowledge or take accountability for their ancestor’s controversial history, not just the pretty parts. He diverted and talked about how it is our responsibility to build on what is inherited. The Mayor was then pulled away by his aid before he could answer whether it’s also important to recognize and acknowledge the controversial nature of inherited wealth.

Bynum, who has continually refused to support reparations in the form of direct cash payments to survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre if it comes from taxpayer dollars. The Black Wall Street Times recently uncovered Bynum’s family legacy of owning nearly 1,000 enslaved Black people and broke the news to MSNBC.

Cultural connectivity

The only part of the future museum that is not yet funded is a longer term master plan that over time will incorporate more into the visitor’s experience. Their design team created a master plan for the 400-plus acre grounds to include a number of additional amenities to better serve the community, and to ensure the museum eventually maximizes its ability to serve Tulsa as a major attraction and cultural destination. There will also be a 13-mile mountain bike and hiking trail that connects Gilcrease and Stewart Park.

“This cultural connectivity will be another big step forward for Gilcrease, North Tulsa and our entire city,” Nelson said.”

The building will create new opportunities for Gilcrease to explore broad, complex stories of American history, art and culture. The new exhibits will have 35 tribal nations represented. and collaborators shared their remarks, such as Principal Chief David Hill of the Muscogee Nation.

“I want to thank Mayor Bynum for being proactive in strengthening our relationship and for realizing that representation matters, and that our fullest potential can be reached when our two governments are working together,” Chief Hill said.

Introducing art to a younger generation

Community advisory board representative Quraysh Ali Lansana gave his remarks as well. He is the director of the Center for Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation at OSU-Tulsa, member of the Tri-City Collective, represented the Gilcrease Community Advisory Council, and represented the North Tulsa Advisory Council.

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Quraysh Ali Lansana speaking at the Gilcrease expansion unveiling. (Lauryn Terry / The Black Wall Street Times)

“Down the street there’s a huge community with a Black population that often drives by this facility and doesn’t know what’s in here, and that must be rectified,” Ali Lansana said. “That is critical to the future of introducing art to our young people and young people to art, which is the future of our city and our country.”

Representatives from the design teams, SmithGroup and Gallagher and Associates, provided an overview of the building design and new gallery exhibition concepts. The theme was about reconnecting man with nature. There are two color palettes. The first is an earth palette that resembles Oklahoma sandstone, and the second is a sky palette with light to dark blues.

The re-envisioned museum will present a much-improved visitor experience and state-of-the-art exhibition space meeting today’s standards for care of the collection and touring exhibitions. Lead Architect and Designer Ivan O’Garro with SmithGroup shared the renderings of the museum’s future floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views of the land.

“It’s about reintroducing something that you all know very well but showing it framed in a different light,” O’Garro said.

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...

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