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Art in quarantine: Gilcrease showcases local art created in crisis

The term “artist in residence” has taken on new meaning as the populace continues to confront the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s probably safe to say that every artist these days is an artist in residence since they are having to stay at home just like everyone else,” said Lauren Rogers, communications specialist at Gilcrease Museum.

It was during a discussion about how Gilcrease, which is closed to the public in accor

“A Warrior’s Role” by Travis Mammedaty. Part of Gilcrease Museum’s #ArtistsinQuarantine project. Courtesy/Travis Mammedaty

dance with the city’s policies in halting the spread of the disease, might still find ways to connect with audiences during this time.

“One of our staff members, Calvin Frank, came up with the idea of reaching out to artists we have worked with before and have them submit work that was about how they felt about the current situation and share that with the public,” Rogers said. “I sort of hijacked the idea and said that, instead of limiting it to certain groups, let’s open it up to everyone.”

“Medicine Man” is a work by Larry W. Carter. Courtesy/Larry W. Carter

The first call for artists to contribute to the “#ArtistsinQuarantine” project went out March 20, and so far, more than 50 artists have responded. Gilcrease staff members selected certain images that it features regularly on its various social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Gilcrease Museum Executive Director Susan Neal said, “Our plan to engage the community during this crisis was to focus on what we call ‘The Three Cs’ â€" feeling calm, connected and creative. And I thought this idea ticked all the boxes.

“Unnamed Bison” by Heath Lane. Part of Gilcrease Museum’s #ArtistsinQuarantine project. Courtesy/Heath Lane

“Enjoying a work of art can’t help but give one a personal sense of calm, and offering this outlet for area artists is a way of helping them stay connected and engaged with the museum,” she said.

Other online programs include “Maker’s Moments,” videos of artists guiding viewers through art projects that can be done with everyday objects, and “Soothing Scenes,” images from the museum’s collection that offer a touch of tranquility.

For some of the artists whose work has been chosen to be featured, the #ArtistsinQuarantine” project has been a unique opportunity.

“Reservation Quarantine” is by Larry W. Carter. Courtesy/Larry W. Carter

“I know a lot of artists, including myself, have had to cancel shows due to COVID-19,” Travis Mammedaty said. “Submitting a piece of my work is a way for it to be seen on a large platform and to show that we artists are still out there making art, even in the most trying times.”

“I’m self-taught and have been making art for about two years now,” Heath Lane said. “I hope my work can maybe inspire someone else to try (to make art of their own), especially with all the potential free time many of us have.”

Roy Boney, a Cherokee artist from Tahlequah who also works in the Cherokee Nation’s language revitalization program, used an image of Sequoyah as a starting point.

“I decided to transform the famous portrait of Sequoyah by Charles Bird King into a public service announcement,” Boney said. “The tablet Sequoyah is holding in my mixed-media drawing says, in Cherokee, ‘Help stop the spread of germs.’ He is wearing a mask so emblematic of our current situation.

“Help stop the spread of germs” by Roy Boney, Jr. Part of Gilcrease Museum’s #ArtistsinQuarantine project. Courtesy/Roy Boney Jr.

“I submitted the image to the Gilcrease Facebook page because several artist friends of mine pointed me to the project,” he said. “The Gilcrease has such a long history with native artists in Oklahoma so I thought it was a good match. I also hope it might provide some health advice and expose people to a bit of Cherokee language.”

Rogers said artists wishing to submit their work for the “#ArtistsinQuarantine” project may do so on any of the museum’s social media sites. Submissions must include the “#ArtistsinQuarantine” hashtag.

“Most of what we’ve received so far has been paintings, but we’re open to anything,” Rogers said. “Songs, dance, video, you name it. We want to see what artists of all types are doing.”

“Quarantine Week 1,” by Clay Horton. Part of Gilcrease Museum’s #ArtistsinQuarantine project. Courtesy/Clay Horton

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