The next incarnation of Gilcrease Museum will begin after the museum closes its doors July 4, as the city of Tulsa prepares to demolish the current structure and begin construction of a new museum facility on the same site.
Construction of the new building is expected to begin in early 2022, and will take between two and three years to complete. The new facility is expected to cost about $83.6 million, funded in part with $65 million raised for the project through the Vision Tulsa 2016 sales tax package, along with other municipal and private contributions, including a $10 million gift from the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Foundation.
Museum staff members have begun creating the special crates necessary to transport some of the more than 400,000 objects in the Gilcrease collection to off-site storage. The Gilcrease collection, considered one of the finest and most complete collections of art and artifacts of the American West, has been valued at $2 billion.
“We’re excited about this next step toward building the new museum,” said Susan Neal, the museum’s executive director. “The structure and its galleries will provide great new experiences for Tulsans and the entire region as well as a much safer environment to protect Tulsa’s asset.”
Originally, the museum had planned to completely renovate its existing building. But deeper analysis of the museum — a collection of several buildings of varying ages pieced together over the years — proved that it would be more cost-effective to building a completely new museum.
“The citizens of Tulsa own one of the world’s greatest collections of American art and history at Gilcrease Museum,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said in a statement. “Now, we are going to build a museum facility worthy of that collection – a museum that has more space to showcase our world-class collection while also serving as the only facility in the state capable of housing major traveling exhibitions.
“Building the new museum necessarily requires closing the old building,” Bynum said. “But the short-term inconvenience of a closed museum will be worth it for generations to come when the new museum opens.”
“The new building will integrate its beautiful setting into the visitor experience,” Neal added. “And even though our doors won’t be open during construction, Gilcrease will continue to serve the community by offering various programs online and in locations throughout the city in partnership with many local and regional organizations.”
Before the museum closes, Neal said Gilcrease has planned several events and exhibitions for the community:
Gilcrease is currently offering its Music on the Porch live music series 5-8 p.m. each Thursday from the porch of the Gilcrease house through June 24. The socially distanced events feature food truck fare, beer and wine cash bar, outdoor family activities and timed admission to the museum’s galleries. (Tickets are limited and advanced registration is required. Visit gilcrease.org for tickets and information.)
A special document exhibition featuring Gilcrease’s copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation is also scheduled to open in mid-June through July 4.
“Assignment Tulsa,” a photography exhibition highlighting the works of Tulsa photographers, is currently on view through close.
Several special events for museum members will be announced in the coming weeks prior to closing.
“We’re also planning some special ways for Tulsans to share their memories of the current museum,” added Neal. “Gilcrease holds a special memory for many in our community, whether it was their first trip to a museum as a child or their wedding day. We intend to commemorate those moments, and we encourage people to come visit the building one last time before we launch a new chapter in the life of this important Tulsa treasure.”
Neal said the city, in coordination with the design team and museum staff, is finalizing preliminary designs and interpretive plan for the new Gilcrease and will share architectural renderings of the building and galleries later this summer.
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 northwest of Tulsa. The city of Tulsa took ownership of the museum and its collection in 1954, and the last major renovation took place in the late 1980s.
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