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Plans For New Gilcrease Museum Seek To Better Incorporate Natural Surroundings

Plans for the new Gilcrease Museum show a modern facility meant to reconnect people to its natural surroundings.

That includes color palettes drawn from architectural styles in Tulsa that match natural tones, a design that matches the building’s lower level to the earth and its upper level to the sky, and a three-story atrium that offers a view of the Osage Hills not available before inside the museum.

"And it's about introducing the visitor to an old friend, and that old friend is the land. It's about reintroducing something that you all know very well but showing it framed and in a different light," said SmithGroup lead designer Ivan O'Garro.

Construction on the new, 83,000-square foot Gilcrease should start next year and be done by the end of 2024. When it opens, it will feature state-of-the art gallery space allowing more of the permanent collection to be on display at one time. Gallagher & Associates Creative Director Clare Brown said exhibits will encourage visitors to look at pieces from the perspectives of the maker, historical context and current relevance.

"And the design will help the museum to move forward, to be relevant, inclusive and accessible well into the 21st Century and beyond," Brown said.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said at any given time now, most of the museum’s $2 billion collection is in storage.

"We want to make more of this world-class collection accessible to more people. We also want to be able to appreciate that we're not in a vacuum here in this museum. This museum is sited on one of the most beautiful vistas and museum campuses that you will find anywhere in the world," Bynum said.

Gilcrease Executive Director Susan Neal said there’s also a new master plan to make greater use of the museum’s more than 400 acres, including an outdoor amphitheater, sculpture garden and 13 miles of trails connecting to networks throughout Tulsa.

"The amenities in this longer-term vision, these are not paid for. But, they do reflect a community's even larger vision for something that is already so precious and wonderful," Neal said.

Voters approved $65 million for a Gilcrease Museum expansion as part of the Vision Tulsa sales tax package passed in 2016. SmithGroup recommended a completely new facility rather than a fifth addition to the existing museum. Buildings were constructed at various times from 1913 to 1987.

Gilcrease Museum will close at the end of the day July 4.

Note: Gilcrease is operated by the University of Tulsa, which also holds the broadcast license for KWGS.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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