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OKLAHOMA OUTBACK: ART ROAD TRIP OF WESTERN OKLAHOMA
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Oklahoma Outback: Art Road Trip Planner for Western Oklahoma
AIRS SEPT 1 & EVERY THURSDAY NIGHT IN SEPTEMBER


Few travel road trip itineraries, much less art-based ones, dwell much in Western Oklahoma. Alas. It’s where the plains take over, and the big skies loom – Route 66 is out here too. But art? Well, yes art. Of course, art.

Gallery America’sOklahoma Outback: An Art Road Trip of Western Oklahoma” aims to expand the notion Oklahomans, and anyone coming through, has a big region of the state where less than one-fifth of the people live. And it’s easy to find surprise and wonder once you get off the interstate. Here’s some of the places Gallery’s travel crew (Robert Reid and Jonathan Thompson) ventured to (and a few they haven’t reached yet) while researching this episode in the OETA #ArtVan.


ROUTE 66 MUFFLER MEN

A trio of 18-feet cut-out figures lines a lonely stretch of Route 66, just east of Calumet. 

They were 2019 additions to the mother road, created by artist John Cerney, to tribute the ‘60s-era roadside figures.

Directions: Exit I-40 for Calumet, then go east on Route 66 just north of the interstate. They’re a couple miles down the road.
 

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HINTON HISTORICAL MUSEUM (Hinton)
South of I-40, the wee town of Hinton is best known for its Red Rock Canyon, but this museum makes a great two-fer of any visit. And it sprawls bigger than what its outside appearance suggests. It’s run by Art Peters, who regularly takes metal detectors to find relics from years way past (as you can see in exhibits – he once uncovered a massacre site, fascinating finds). 
 

Much of the first part of the museum centers around present-day Oklahoma’s first real national highway, the Southern Trail, which connected Fort Smith, Arkansas with Santa Fe. It was big with wagonfolk heading out during the Gold Rush in the mid 1800s, and was used up through WWI.

The reason we visited was an 1853 sketch by a German artist of the Rock Mary formation shown in our episode. It ranks as one of the first natural formations in present-day Oklahoma ever seen outside the region.

(A few years ago, our host Robert made a rather playful video on the mounds found west of Hinton that you can see here.) 

WEST OK COOP (Clinton)

The West OK Co-Op in Clinton is mostly a private studio space for local artists, but follow them on Instagram (www.instagram.com/westokcoop/) for updates on classes and concerts. And they have plans to add a separate venue too.
 

Meanwhile, check out some of the murals local artists made off downtown, in the alley just southeast of Frisco Ave and S 6th Street.
 

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ELVIS’ MOTEL ROOM (Clinton)

Clinton’s Trade Winds Inn (2128 W Gary Blvd) won’t be mistaken for a W Hotel anytime soon (those Google Maps reviews!). But the King slept here more than once. And they’ve left his room, Room 215, as it was – sort of a time-travel look into the 1960s.

GALLERY @ 112 (Sayre) 

Suzanne Hylton of this gallery on Route 66 had the idea to have an arts center to support Western Oklahoma artists and hosts events (like seniors’ painting nights) in 2012. “People thought we were crazy,” she told us on a prior visit. But support was immediate. We didn’t make it there for this episode, but we will go back.
 

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MURALS (Anadarko)

In the 1930s, Kiowa Six painter Stephen Mopope added the impressive array of 16 murals depicting traditional Kiowa life that you can visit freely at the Anadarko Post Office (120 S 1st St). Each use the bold, flat, colorful style that the Kiowa painters developed, particularly while at OU. (Read more here.
 

Meanwhile, J Nicole Hatfield – who’s based in Enid – created the wonderful mural in the little alley pocket park downtown (209 W Broadway Ave).

SIA (Cyril)
Named for the Comanche word for “feather,” Sia is a one-of-a-kind center that cares for eagles, hawks and other birds of prey, as works to expand cultural understanding of Comanche culture. In addition, Sia has a unique federal permit allowing them distribute eagle feathers to 144 tribes nationwide. One highlight is the shrine of rescued religious items, including a Torah saved from Nazi Germany.
 

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CHISHOLM TRAIL

Following long-dead cattle on backroads might not suit every family member as a road trip dreamscape. But it certainly has its moments for history buffs in particular: little town museum, unique markers, mom ’n’ pop eateries. Our host Robert wrote about it for Oklahoma Today during the trail’s 150th anniversary a few years ago. 
 

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MURALS (Enid)

The Garfield County Courthouse (114 W Broadway Ave)  is not a fun place to be if you’re in trouble. But it’s totally a joy if you’re going for the 1136-feet of ultra-colorful, Ruth Monroe Augur murals lining common-space walls. The WPA-era project retells local history, from passing conquistadors to the Chisholm Trail.

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ALABASTER CAVERNS (Freedom)

A wonderful natural highlight – and accessible no matter what the season or temperatures outside – is the Alabaster Caverns State Park. It’s the only such cave that’s open to the public in the US, and the biggest one worldwide. Historically, alabaster – a type of gypsum – was used by sculptors to create art from Ancient Egypt to the Nottingham alabasters a few centuries ago. This cave’s first own, Charles Sharp, gave it a try too – but apparently his creations were so crude the park didn’t save many. Tours are well worthwhile – and you’re likely to see some of the 23,000 bats who live here. 

 

Other natural highlights nearby include the Gloss Mountain State Park, with a short hike up, and the Great Salt Plains, where you can dig for selenite crystal.

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LARRY K HILL STUDIOS (Woodward)

Larry K Hill paints local scenes on ceiling tins, canvas and selenite. And he does it from a giant window on Woodward’s Main Street, inviting passerby to watch or come in and ask about art, or anything. There are also ceramics classes here and a “Court of Colors” around back, with a burgeoning mural scene. 

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WINDMILL MUSEUM (Shattuck)

You don’t just stumble onto this little miracle in Shattuck. You either come here, specifically here (about a half-hour west of Woodward), or you don’t see it. But the open-air Windmill Museum is one of Oklahoma’s great attractions, even if few know about it. A looping recording of “Windmill Willie” on a local radio station will make you care about the windmill’s role in developing the west, and many styles and colors are on display of the dozens of century-old windmills brought here from around the country. 
 

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METCALFE MUSEUM (Durham)

Augusta Metcalfe was a “sage brush” artist here at the turn of the last century. You can see her pioneer-era art in her original homestead. We are definitely planning to go the next time we’re in the area.
 

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JONES & PLUMMER TRAIL MUSEUM (Beaver)

It may not be decent to say this, but we’re a little bit in love with this museum. Everything about the town and county of Beaver you can imagine is here – local art, old saddles, 1873 pianos, displays of banks and dentist’s offices – and the state’s longest-running newspaper (Beaver Herald-Democrat, thankyouverymuch). Not to mention the glowing dishware made of uranium. 

You have to go. 
 

(And if you do go, ask what the Jones & Plummer Trail was, since we didn’t.)
 

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BEAVER COUNTY STOCKYARDS (Beaver)

It’s been here nine decades, with oodles of historic signs and plenty of seats around the cattle pouring through every Tuesday morning. Plus there’s an adjoining café that offers the best burgers in the county. Owner Jeff Slatten told us “it’s the best place in America, ought to be a tourist attraction.” 

 

And if you know Jeff at all, you never doubt Jeff

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WHEN IT’S COW-CHIP THROWING TIME

Beaver’s claim-to-fame is its annual cow chip throwing contest, hello in April. In 1982, a local preacher wrote a song for it (which we tried to sing to questionable success). Here’s a ramped-up version and video, sung by Chipper the, um, cow chip.

NO MAN’S LAND MUSEUM (Goodwell)

Right on the Panhandle State campus  in this small town southwest of Guymon, the No Man’s Land features exhibits on the Dust Bowl and local art, as well as some surprising critters including a stuffed pet skunk from the 1930s and the museum’s claim-to-fame two-headed calf.

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CIMARRON HERITAGE CENTER (Boise City)

The town is small – population 1000 – but the museum is giant. It’s fronted by an enormous, 35’ tall, iron sculpture of an Apatosaurus dinosaur named “Cimmy.” And the museum begins in the living room of a 1948 home by renowned Oklahoma architect Bruce Goff. He was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, and it shows. Now it’s fill with all sorts of other random memorabilia, including chairs donated by a certain “Grandma Brandt” (which the resident dog Dixie is quite fond of). It’s free. Well worth getting lost in its collection of yesteryear.

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BLACK MESA STATE PARK (Kenton) 

The 8.5-mile hike (return) climbs 730 feet and reaches the state’s highest point at Black Mesa. Don’t expect much shade out here. During summer, hikers are advised to take a gallon of water each and get back by 10:30am before the heat really rises. There is some water to be found after the two-mile marker, but don’t rely on it.  
 

The tiny town of Kenton has a little museum (sometimes you’ll need to track down the caretaker), but no gas station, groceries or restaurants. Pack your food up. The Black Mesa B&B, run by the Roberts family, is a dreamy overnight spot with a host of friendly pets and an outdoor grill. 

One last tip for driving out here: Always take the detour.

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