A collector's dream: Artwork gifted to OSU Museum of Art on display to help enhance art education

Artwork gifted to OSU Museum of Art on display to help enhance art education
By Tanner Holubar CNHI News Oklahoma
George R. Kravis II was a lifelong fan of art and began collecting at a young age. When he passed away in 2018, he donated more than 700 works of art from his collection to the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art.
Kravis grew up in an art loving family, with as much art adorning the home as possible. The family even gave each other works of art as gifts, which helped spurn a lifelong love of art and all different types of artwork.
The OSU Museum of Art opened its latest exhibition this week, titled “In the Mind of the Collector,” which features a selection of 82 works of art from the collection of Kravis. He was a strong proponent of art education, which is a main feature of this exhibit.
“A lot of what she’s chosen for these exhibitions, there’s so many opportunities for our education to do programming,” said Kristen Duncan, marketing and communications specialist for the OSU Museum of Art. “For programming with the community, with families, and for anyone and everyone to come and do activities. The great thing is, this exhibition will be open through July, but there’s going to be different things that happen throughout the spring. So we’re hoping we can really engage with the community with the different events that will be going on.”
One part of the exhibit delves into how Kravis became an avid art collector, and one piece on display is a record changer, which he purchased when he was about 10 years old. Kravis became involved in radio broadcasting, beginning at a station with the call sign KRAV, and later began collecting radios from the 1930s to the 1950s, with a number of radios on display as part of the exhibit.
Kravis also developed an interest in art that referenced pop culture. A couch is on display at the OSU Museum of Art that is made to represent Marilyn Monroe’s lips. Other pieces were influenced by comic book artwork, as well as works of art developed by working architects.
Arlette Klaric, associate chief curator and curator of collections for the museum, said the OSU Museum of Art is the only museum in Oklahoma that is focusing on modern and contemporary art. She said a focus of this exhibit is to showcase objects that are not only practical use objects, but ones that also serve as artwork.
“This is the first time we’ve had a design collection,” Klaric said. “One of the goals of the show and the project, is just to make people more aware of these objects, not only for their purpose, but for the way they look and for the associations they can have.”
Klaric said with Kravis having been such a backer of art education, the ability for the OSU Museum of Art to try to help educate people about art through his collection has helped create a legacy for the museum.
“It’s amazing. We as a university art museum, our primary purpose is to teach,” Klaric said. “Our audiences also teach in their own way and learn. So he’s given us some really important examples of artwork to share with the community. We got more than 700 objects … and it’s huge. Collections like this don’t come along every day, and especially because we’re only five years old, it’s really helping us create an identity.
“And he’s really created a legacy for the museum with this work. Because it’s a permanent collection, people can come in and make friends with works of art. It’s just an enormous gift to have gotten, and I’m in awe of people who do things like this, because this was a lifetime pursuit for him.”
The goal of this current exhibit is to help educate people in the community about art through multiple different events, which will take place during the 2nd Saturdays with a variety of activities. The first will take place Feb. 8, where people who attend will be able to take part in the 3D Chair Design Challenge.
Patrons will be able to use the museum’s 3D printing pens to try and design and build a miniature chair. The challenge is to see whose chairs will actually be able to stand. The chairs that will actually stand will be put on display in the museum. The pens used are non-heating, which makes them safe and fun to use for kids, as well as anyone who wishes to try the challenge.
Another community activity that is planned is what the museum dubbed “Cherished Possessions.” People can bring cherished objects to be photographed, and the object can be special to the person for a variety of reasons. It could be an object of tremendous sentimental value, or can be an object that people are proud to own. The project will be a Polaroid photo taken of the person holding the item, and the collection of Polaroids will be put on display in the museum’s mini-vault.
It is a project that will evolve over the course of the exhibit being open, as more and more people’s photos will be on display, it will grow to be more impactful, as the stories of people’s objects will create an interesting collage of personal objects from the community. People who attend the opening reception for the exhibit on Jan. 31 can bring an object and be a part of this artistic endeavor.
Other 2nd Saturday events that are planned are “Radio Days” on April 11, where people can come for a day of music and art inspired by pop culture. On May 9 for “Pop Art Day,” people can come and create art inspired by commodities and pop culture.
Klaric said a special thing about the OSU Museum of Art is that it provides the people of Stillwater with a chance to visit an art museum without having to drive into the city to do so.
“For Stillwater, we certainly have the art department gallery, and now we have this,” Klaric said. “For people who are interested or who get interested in art, they don’t have to go 60-something miles to Oklahoma City or Tulsa … they can find it right here. It’s really an important source for the university. It’s one thing to read about the exhibition, but when you come in and see the objects, it’s a different experience.”
The OSU Museum of Art is located at 720 S. Husband St., and is free and open to the public. For more information on the museum or this exhibit, visit museum.okstate.edu.