This past February marked a turning point for Gilcrease Museum and the Helmerich Center for American Research (HCAR). The first exhibition generated by scholars who conducted research on the museum’s collection is now on view at the museum, Plains Indian Art: Created in Community.
The exhibition explores the unparalleled talent of certain individuals and the special role of Plains artists in their communities. Plains Indian Art: Created in Community highlights Plains art as an expression of cultural tradition and community vibrancy, focusing specifically on generational change in style and function and the innovative techniques used by various artists.
Some of the finest Plains Indians art of the 19th and early 20th centuries can be found in Tulsa. Gilcrease has about 25,000 ethnographic items, many of which reflect the height of Plains cultural and artistic achievement of the 19th century.
The Visiting Scholars Program at the Helmerich Center for American Research hosted a symposium on November 13, 2015, that focused on the study of the Plains Indian ethnographic collection at Gilcrease Museum and the private collection of Jon Stuart. Six scholars made presentations on a variety of topics related to the theme of “Art and Artistry of Plains Indian Communities,” focusing on recently conducted research.
Cocurators of this exhibition were four presenters at the Plains symposium: Gaylord Torrence, MFA, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Emma Hansen, M.A., Buffalo Bill Historical Center; David Penney, Ph.D., Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian; and Duane King, Ph.D., executive director of HCAR.
The activity at the Helmerich Center demonstrates that Gilcrease Museum in conjunction with TU is building on the museum’s legacy of outstanding scholarship.