Cowboys and Indians will again illustrate the local landscape as two of the city's largest cultural events attract national audiences.
The Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival starts Friday and runs throughout the weekend, with the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum's Prix de West event following next week, opening June 12.
Red Earth and Prix de West organizers have joined with the Oklahoma History Center, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art to bring these Western and American Indian-themed exhibitions to the metro area through mid-June.
"Oklahoma City will be the epicenter of Native American art and culture that weekend for the entire country," said Eric Oesch, spokesman for Red Earth. "Last year, we had about 700 dancers in the competition; this year, we'd like to have 1,000. Back in the '90s, we had about 1,500 dancers, so we are working our way back up to that."
Oesch and Chuck Schroeder, executive director of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, agree that the close timing of the events will benefit audiences throughout the metro.
"We believe that giving folks an opportunity to come to Oklahoma City and see art by so many great artists will give collectors a chance to do in one stop what it might otherwise take two to three trips," Schroeder said. "The events will be complementary, rather than competitive."
"A lot of people that come to Red Earth will stay the week and go to Prix de West the next weekend, especially the big art collectors that fly in from places like Santa Fe," Oesch said, in agreement.
Oesch said that American Indian cultural events throughout the country have been feeling the recent economic squeeze, and Red Earth organizers had to make sacrifices to ensure the festival remained an annual event.
"We've had to be extremely watchful of our budget. We have had staff reductions, we have cut our festival budget, we have reduced our office space for financial savings," he said, adding that organizers have worked to make sure visitors "have the same great experiences they had in the past."
THE REST OF THE WEST
Spirit Red: Visions of Native American Artists
6 p.m. Wednesday, Opening Reception
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 555 Elm in Norman
The exhibition features paintings, baskets, pottery, textiles and sculptures from the Rennard Strickland Collection, an Oklahoman of Osage and Cherokee heritage. Strickland was once the curator of Native American Art at the museum, and announced in 2007 that he was donating his collection of work in memory of his mother, Adell Tucker Strickland.
One Hundred Summers: A Kiowa Calendar Record
Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, 2401 Chautauqua in Norman
A century of Kiowa tribal history is featured through the restored pages of a Kiowa calendar. The hand-drawn illustrations are one of two calendars known to exist, as drawn by Kiowa artist Silver Horn.
The calendars were part of the tribe's early process of record-keeping, where tribal elders would discuss and agree upon events to be included into the tribe's history. Calendar keepers like Silver Horn would then produce pictorials to depict those events, which would be protected and maintained. The exhibition will feature more than 200 drawings on 80 pages.
Unconquered: Allan Houser and the Legacy of One Apache Family
Oklahoma History Center, 2401 N. Laird
Monumental bronze and steel pieces by Allan Houser and his sons, Phillip and Bob Haozous, reflect the lives of their ancestors with the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. The tribe originated in New Mexico and Arizona, but were removed and relocated to a series of military forts, ultimately ending up in Oklahoma.
Among the 80 pieces of sculpture, art and artifacts is "Lodge" by Bob Haozous, which stands 35 feet tall.