Aug. 31—Lawmakers in the region deserve praise for protecting state treasures.
The latest effort was in Oklahoma, where the 110-piece Capitol Art Collection is being restored after a multimillion-dollar renovation. The work includes renowned artists such as Charles Banks Wilson, and portraits of Oklahoma heroes including Ralph Ellison, Will Rogers, Jim Thorpe, Sequoyah, Robert S. Kerr, Woody Guthrie and Te Ata.
(In 1943, Wilson began teaching night classes at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College at Miami, Oklahoma. He later became chair of the art department there, which he established in 1946 and continued to oversee for 16 years. He died in 2013. In 2017, his estate gifted $1.1 million to NEO to support artists and art education.)
Twenty-one new pieces are being added to the Oklahoma Capitol at the same time the old is being returned.
While the Capitol restoration was taking place, art experts cleaned the existing works.
"We want people to come in and be able to learn more about Oklahoma, learn more about artists in Oklahoma, and really gain an appreciation of how we're telling the story of the history, the land, our events, our people, through this artwork," said Jarica Walsh, Oklahoma Arts Council visual and public art director.
Missouri, too, has taken pains in recent years to protect the state art treasures at the Capitol in Jefferson City. This includes the works by Neosho-born artist Thomas Hart Benton — most famously his "A Social History of the State of Missouri" — as well as paintings by N.C. Wyeth.
Recently, Benton's murals also were cleaned and restored.
Dana Rademan Miller, chair of the Capitol Commission and chief clerk of the Missouri House of Representatives, told us a few years ago when restoration began that murals in the Missouri Capitol building make it unique, and putting forth the effort to conserve and restore the work is important for preserving the "snapshots in time" painted there.
"It's something that is a legacy really for the future, for those who come after us," she told us.
Missouri's capitol also includes a large painting in the Missouri House chamber, "The Glory of Missouri at War." Its artist, Frenchman Charles Hoffbauer, wanted to honor the Missouri 35th, "who broke the Hindenburg line" during World War I.
Kansas, too, has famous art in Topeka, including that of John Steuart Curry, whose "Tragic Prelude" mural may be the most famous mural in any state Capitol building. It depicts abolitionist John Brown waving a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other, framed by tornadoes, fires and battle scenes of the Civil War. Contrast that with his peaceful "Kansas Pastoral" on the second floor rotunda.
We appreciate the investment lawmakers are making in their artwork, and encourage residents to make a point to see some of the best art museums in the Midwest, and all of them free.