Prior to the start of the Oklahoma Capitol Restoration Project, the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC) removed, housed, cleaned and restored hundreds of art pieces. With the construction phase coming to a close, it’s time for the art to be reinstalled. Two collections managed by the OAC are the Oklahoma State Capitol Art Collection and the Oklahoma State Art Collection. 

“There are 500 plus works of art on five floors,” says Amber Sharples, executive director of the OAC. “It is an exciting time.”

Capitol Art Collection

Located throughout the Capitol’s hallways, rotunda and grounds, this collection contains sculptures, portraits, murals and paintings. These works tell Oklahoma’s story through the events, land and people of Oklahoma. Included are paintings of Jim Thorpe and Sequoyah, by Wilson Hurley, and the Guardian sculpture by Enoch Kelly Haney, which tops the Capitol dome.

State Art Collection

This collection represents the world perspective from the view of Oklahoma artists. With hundreds of items, only select works are displayed at any given time in the Betty Price Gallery. This gallery, which was opened in 2007 as part of Oklahoma’s centennial celebration, includes contemporary art like Bowling Ball by pop art icon Ed Ruscha.

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Additional Galleries

Shows by current Oklahoma artists, curated by the OAC, are displayed in the North, East and Governor’s Galleries. The shows will rotate every sixty days. The North Gallery features fiber art, photography and works on paper while mixed media art and paintings are on view in the Governor’s Gallery. Because of the renovation, this is the first time that 3D and fiber art such as woven baskets are on display. The East Gallery has paintings and mixed media. Artists may submit their applications for features at arts.ok.gov.

The renovation better highlights the Capitol’s art collection, which contains new works on subjects including the Spiral Mounds, Black Wall Street and the Code Talkers. 

Sharples comments that the Capitol collection displays a “full spectrum of mediums” and is Oklahoma’s “largest art museum; it is the people’s museum.”

Take A Tour

A guided tour of the Capitol reveals, for example, that Oklahoma is the only Capitol with a working well on its grounds. During the free, 45-minute tour, one can discover the history of the building and its art. The Capitol, which is Greco-Roman architecture, has 650 rooms. Along the tour, visitors will see marble floors and stairs, hand-painted ceilings and portraits of famous Oklahomans such as Will Rogers and Robert S. Kerr by artist Wilson Hurley.

“The tour is a combination of history, civics and artwork,” says Bill Parks, Capitol Complex tour guide.

Parks, who has given tours for 20 years, says the building was finished in 1917. Since this was during WWI, there was no grand opening. Parks expects this grand opening will be big. Sharples estimates that the art installation will be completed on statehood day in November. In the meantime, there is still plenty to see. In April, approximately 3,500 youth attended tours. To schedule one Monday through Friday, call 405-521-3356.