"To walk inside Woolaroc's doors is to breathe the Old West."Those words of mine introduce the article "Keepers of the Frontier," which I wrote for the latest issue of the state magazine, Oklahoma Today, its Cowboy issue.
For that article I toured four museums--Woolaroc near Bartlesville, Gilcrease at Tulsa, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, and The Fred Jones Jr. Museum at OU in Norman.
It's not an article about the museums though. Editor Steffie Cocoran wanted a story on the importance of Western Art in Oklahoma. I discovered that those collections, containing about 75 percent of the great Western art in the world, make the state the epicenter of such, a crossroads of Western Art and history.
Each of the museums is different, has a different atmosphere, and different approach to two subjects dear to me--the West, and art. While Woolaroc is rustic, Gilcrease is sedate, the National Cowboy reflects our automobile world, and Fred Jones is ultra modern on the outside.
I've been to all the museums before, but something happened on these trips and journey of writing. It's a great job where you can walk through those doors, spend time talking to curators, and try to weave a story about the art and its importance in our state. It was a difficult story for many reasons, and that first sentence was a long time coming.
I fell in love with the spirit at Woolaroc. I am subdued and inspired at Gilcrease. I am awed at the size of the art at the Cowboy. At Fred Jones Jr., especially in the Southwestern art, I am just at home.
I'm aware that no words can do justice to the art, or the emotions and stories involved. I'm not an art critic, but a journalist and observer who finds himself in these places. They enrich me and Oklahoma. They help tell the stories of who I am, who we are.
It's not by accident I think, that fellow blogger Alan Bates of Tulsa recently posted a lot of photos of Woolaroc on his blog, "Yogi's Den." Check out his post from Monday, Our World.
If that doesn't inspire you to go this weekend or sometime soon, I don't know what will. And go pick up a copy of Oklahoma Today, look at the photos of the art, and read the article. And the rest of this issue is stunning.
I could show you other photos, but instead, here are the four websites.
Fred Jones Jr.
Go, and breathe the West.