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Mingle with the Masters

Nearly 200,000 visitors come to the Philbrook Museum of Art every year, including many during the holidays, to view its splendor, beauty and both modern and classic masterpieces.

Article
Rob Harmon
Photos
Marc Rains
Posted
October 29, 2017

The holiday season can be the most wonderful time in Tulsa for so many reasons. Fabulous food, get-togethers with family and friends, and fantastic decorations of all sorts are scattered about homes and throughout Tulsa. And for decades, The Philbrook Museum of Art’s Holiday Festival has been a significant contributor to Green Country’s tradition of holiday wonder and delight.

The Philbrook is a pleasure to visit at any time of year, not only for its impressive art collections and beautiful grounds, but also for its place in Tulsa’s history.

Almost 80 years ago, oil tycoon Waite Phillips bestowed upon Green Country one of the country’s most beautiful art museums by gifting to the city his 72-room mansion and the surrounding acreage. Phillips and his wife, Genevieve, knew the citizens of Tulsa would preserve Philbrook as a perfect environment for an art museum.

But they probably had no idea how much of an impact it would make.

Through the generosity of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, charitable trustees and honorable donors, Philbrook retains the architectural and landscaping designs that harken back to when it was first built. Over 160,000 visitors from around the world come to Philbrook every year, including many during the holidays, to view its splendor and to enjoy its beauty. Masterpieces of both modern and classic styles, as well as brilliant Native American artwork are always on display.

Almost 80 years ago, oil tycoon Waite Phillips bestowed upon Green Country one of the country’s most beautiful art museums by gifting to the city his 72-room mansion and the surrounding acreage. (Photo: Marc Rains)
Almost 80 years ago, oil tycoon Waite Phillips bestowed upon Green Country one of the country’s most beautiful art museums by gifting to the city his 72-room mansion and the surrounding acreage. (Photo: Marc Rains)

Philbrook is a wonderfully preserved reminder of Tulsa’s rich and storied past, but it is also a place that strives to lead the city culturally into the future. Just over four years ago, a satellite facility, Philbrook Downtown, was opened in the Tulsa Arts District. Featuring modern and contemporary art, as well as highlights from the museum’s extensive Native American collection, Philbrook Downtown is the perfect space for attracting those who haven’t had many opportunities to experience art in its many forms.

The Philbrook’s festive holiday display of gorgeously decorated trees by artists from all over Green Country, adorned with spectacular lights and unique ornaments, bring this special season to life. Tens of thousands of lights illuminate the museum grounds. In years past, the festival has brought visitors an expansive village of gingerbread houses of every style and size, created by Tulsa-area school children and scout troops.

This year, the tradition of inviting children to be among the art exhibitors has a twist. Rather than the traditional gingerbread village, the Philbrook Festival will pay homage to the rapidly growing phenomenon of Lego building. Visitors will enjoy an immense Lego village containing designs of all manners and styles, created by talented local master builders from area schools, scout groups, and churches, as well as individual contributors. There will be no short supply of holiday magic when Lego creations of Art Deco buildings, winter scenes and pop culture figures of mammoth sizes are brilliantly displayed for all to marvel over.

Philbrook is a wonderfully preserved reminder of Tulsa’s rich and storied past, but it is also a place that strives to lead the city culturally into the future. (Photo: Marc Rains)
Philbrook is a wonderfully preserved reminder of Tulsa’s rich and storied past, but it is also a place that strives to lead the city culturally into the future. (Photo: Marc Rains)

“We’re taking Philbrook in a 21st century direction,” says Jeff Martin, Philbrook’s communications manager. “Our new director, Scott Stulen, has really brought some fun changes to the museum, and that’s continuing with how the festival is evolving.” In 2016, Stulen left his role as a curator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, replacing Randall Suffolk.

The season festivities kick off Nov. 17 with holiday lights throughout Philbrook’s 25 acres of gardens. In order for people to fully see the lights at night, hours will be extended, with the museum staying open every Friday until 9 p.m. During the festival nights, various local bands will be scattered throughout the grounds performing live music. Expect to hear a wide variety of genres, from choirs to rock bands, string quartets and more, says Martin.

The Philbrook Drawing Rally, which made a successful debut during the festival in 2016, also returns. A few dozen local artists will gather to create art for people to observe and interact. To help support local artists, visitors are encouraged to purchase the art for an across-the-board price of $35 per creation. The drawing rally will happen twice during the festival — once at the original Philbrook (Nov. 17) and the other at Philbrook Downtown (Dec. 1).

“It gives people a chance to walk away with some great art for an excellent price, but also to be part of the experience,” says Martin.

Although the museum makes tremendous efforts year after year to keep the festival current, some things will never change. For example, the annual commemorative pin — a collector’s favorite — will be available for purchase. For as long as there has been a Philbrook holiday festival, there’s been a commemorative pin, created by a local artist. This year’s pin, designed by local artisan Briana Hefley Shepherd, is an intricate, quilted-looking piece, that will be a nice addition to any pin collection.

“Philbrook is not just a place for ‘looking’; it’s also a place for doing things,” says Martin. “The museum changes weekly, monthly, and yearly. It’s a living thing. It’s not just some place with the same stuff on the walls.”

LOCATOR
Philbrook Museum of Art
2727 S. Rockford Road | Tulsa
918-749-7941
philbrook.org

Philbrook Downtown
116 E. M.B. Brady St. | Tulsa
918-938-6742

August 2019 Cover