At the OKPOP Museum, one can become a superhero or experience live music. This innovative museum explores Oklahoma’s history in the arena of popular culture. Located in Tulsa’s Arts District, the 60,000-square-foot museum is visible from historic Route 66 and sits across from the famous Cain’s Ballroom. Under the direction of the Oklahoma Historical Society, OKPOP Museum collects, preserves and shares the state’s pop culture artifacts and collections.
“There are three floors of fully-immersive, interactive space,” says Meg Charron, the museum’s deputy director of marketing and outreach. “We strived to build something to break the traditional museum mold.”
Describing the museum as “tactile and fun,” Charron compares OKPOP’s exhibit space to the immersive Vincent Van Gogh show currently touring the nation. The museum, which is 90% finished, showcases Oklahoma artists and their influence on popular culture around the world.
Bob Wills’ 1948 fully-restored tour bus is a prominent feature here. That bus took the band from Cain’s Ballroom to the West Coast and back numerous times. This floor will also have a rotating exhibit space, an area for live music and a retail space.
On this floor is OKPOP’s Imagined Worlds, an immersive and interactive space dedicated to the visual arts. These include TV, movies, theatre, literature, comics, fashion and art. Visitors can interact with various Hollywood-type sets and can imagine themselves as a superhero in the Hero Lab by creating an image and designing a costume.
This 8,000-square-foot floor focuses on 150 years of Oklahoma music, shining a spotlight on musicians, songwriters and concert venues.
“The entire third floor is music,” says Charron.
The venue features Oklahoma musicians like Norman-native Jesse Ed Davis, a guitarist who had a “massive impact on the industry,” Charron says. Davis, who played with famous musicians like John Lennon and Eric Clapton, is well-known within the music industry but not so much with the general public; this floor strives to fix that.
Additional features include a rooftop terrace, which will have live music and movies projected on surrounding buildings, and an event space that acts as a banquet and theater area.
Designed by Overland Partners Architecture + Urban Design in partnership with Tulsa’s Lily Architects and Nabholz Construction, OKPOP’s grand opening has been delayed due to COVID.
“It will be 12 to 15 months before opening,” Charron estimates.
Several incubator projects include a podcast and radio station. There will be space for students to practice music and a Merchandise Lab where they can learn about designing logos and T-shirts. For local musicians, a full recording studio is planned.
These spots will be “completely accessible to the community,” says Charron. “Inspiring the future generations of artists is the larger mission.
“We are aware that this is our legacy for the community. It will outlive all of us.”