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Gilcrease Museum Breaks Ground on New Building

This article was archived on 8/3/2022

TULSA, Okla. – Gilcrease Museum officials and City leaders broke ground on Tuesday, May 3, on a new state-of-the-art building for Tulsa’s most treasured cultural asset. The new building was designed with and for the community to provide a museum worthy of the Gilcrease collection, better serve Tulsans and deliver a 21st century visitor experience.

Construction of the new facility will begin in summer 2022 and is expected to take 2-3 years. The previous museum structure – a collection of several aging buildings pieced together over many decades – was demolished earlier this year.

Once completed, the re-envisioned 91,000-square-foot structure will boast a much-improved space that meets contemporary standards for care of Gilcrease’s extensive collection and touring exhibitions and community spaces not currently available in the immediate area.

“We’re excited to reach this milestone and look forward to seeing the new Gilcrease provide incredible experiences for Tulsans and the entire region,” said Susan Neal, Executive Director, Gilcrease Museum. “We’re creating a cultural home for our community, a place that gives us the opportunity to share relevant stories of American history, art and culture with as broad an audience as possible.”

“In Gilcrease Museum, Tulsans own the greatest collection of American art and history outside of the federal government,” said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. “Mr. Gilcrease and other donors assembled it and gave it to us, but this generation of Tulsans is holding our own. We have chosen to build a new museum facility worthy of that unparalleled collection, and I am grateful for the support the citizens of Tulsa and private donors have given to this once-in-a-century project. It is exciting for construction to be under way.”

The project also will incorporate 460 acres of grounds into the visitor experience by offering 14 miles of biking and hiking trails and other amenities in the beautiful Osage Hills, positioning Gilcrease to serve Tulsa as a significant cultural attraction for Tulsans and tourists alike.

“This milestone for Gilcrease Museum is a celebration of a new future-focused home for an extraordinary collection, impactful learning moments, and a center for the Tulsa community at the crossroads of history, art and nature,” said Jame Anderson, principal for SmithGroup, the Washington, DC-based integrated design firm that designed the new Gilcrease museum building. “We are humbled to work on this land, around these manifestations of the human spirit, and within this place that connects our past with our present and our future.”

“Gilcrease Museum is such a unique institution, and the new facility will do much for the Tulsa community,” added Ivan O’Garro, the project’s lead designer for SmithGroup. “The new museum will create an experience that will bring communities together and reconnect them to that common thread—the land.”

“The new installations will celebrate the significance of these rich and dynamic collections,” said Patrick Gallagher, president of Gallagher & Associates, the international firm that has designed the museum’s new exhibitions and galleries. “What will truly be unique is the combination of the historic materials held in the Helmerich Center for American Research to create dynamic storytelling and a new appreciation of these deeply important holdings.”

Gilcrease Museum houses more than 350 years of American painting and sculpture, including the world’s largest public holding of art of the American West, a comprehensive collection of Indigenous objects from 12,000 BCE to the 21st century, and more than 100,000 manuscripts, photographs, maps, rare books and other material related to the history of the Americas from the 15th–20th centuries as part of the Helmerich Center for American Research.

The new Gilcrease is funded through a combination of public and private sources. The City of Tulsa is contributing $65 million approved by voters as part of Vision Tulsa. The A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Foundation has provided a lead gift of $10 million for the new structure.

In addition, $26.2 million has been raised since the museum’s master plan was revealed in June. The museum will continue to raise additional funds for the implementation of its master capital expansion plan and endowment, and museum officials said there has been a generous response to the project especially as costs have escalated due to pandemic supply chain issues and materials scarcity. 

Neal added that a number of key donors – the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Foundation, the Helmerich Trust, the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation and the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation, the Sherman E. Smith Charitable Trust/ Williams S. Smith Charitable Trust – have led the way with major gifts of $5 million or more and their engagement has been a driving force behind Gilcrease for a number of years.

Donors who have given $1 Million or more include:

Gilcrease Museum was established by Tulsa oilman Thomas Gilcrease in 1949 as a private museum and built on the site of Gilcrease’s personal home five minutes northwest of downtown Tulsa. The City of Tulsa took ownership of the museum and its collection in the 1950s.