By Elizabeth Hey
Travelers might not immediately think of making the arts a priority on their Oklahoma itinerary, but they should. Oklahoma City’s Paseo Arts District and the metropolitan area’s variety of museums can fill several days. In nearby Shawnee, the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art’s world-class collection was acquired by Benedictine monks who helped settle the frontier.
Injecting new life into Tulsa’s downtown, the Brady Arts District will have groups swooning over the breadth and depth of art featured. And Tulsa’s excitement about the arts continues to pick up steam; the city’s beloved Philbrook Museum of Art recently opened a downtown annex.
Paseo Arts District
Spanish Revival architecture — original stucco buildings and clay tile roofs — still grace the Paseo Arts District. The gently curved, two-block street was developed as a shopping area in 1929. Today, it’s home to 17 galleries and more than 60 local artists. Most of the artists live in the district and work out of their studios. JRB Art at the Elms, a resident art gallery and studio built in 1920, was the first of its kind in Oklahoma City. Intermingled with the galleries are restaurants, a coffee house and boutiques.
The first annual Paseo Arts Festival was held Memorial Day weekend in 1977. The festival showcases juried works of visual artists, along with performances and live music. The monthly First Friday Gallery Walk features art openings, wine tastings and live music, and spills over to Saturday afternoons.
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Groups will find a well-rounded art experience at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art on the University of Oklahoma’s Norman campus. Nine pyramidal pavilions, affectionately called “huts,” look like separate buildings but are all interconnected. Strengths of the 16,000 objects in the collection range from French impressionism to Native American and contemporary art.
A busy programming schedule dovetails with the changing exhibits, giving groups plenty from which to choose.
Established in 2000, the noteworthy Weitzenhoffer Collection of French impressionism wows art lovers with more than 30 works by Degas, Gauguin, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and others. Two galleries showcase the work as if it were still inside the Weitzenhoffer home. On display are pieces of the family’s original furniture, collectibles and dinnerware.
“It’s a unique experience to see what the artwork would look like inside a collector’s home,” said Michael Bendure, director of communications. “This stellar collection is on continuous display. Other exhibits rotate in and out, but groups can always count on seeing these works.”