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Oklahoma Arts Council Announces Return of State Capitol Artwork

Long-awaited homecoming for hundreds of works, with nearly 20 new large-scale works to be unveiled. Visitors can expect a brand-new experience.


OKLAHOMA CITY (June 8, 2022) – After nearly six years in storage, more than 500 works of art are finally returning to the Oklahoma State Capitol. They are being joined by almost 20 newly commissioned monumental and life-sized works. The reinstallation of the artwork, representing five separate art collections, began Monday, June 6. It will unfold in phases through the end of the calendar year.

Led by the visual and public art staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council, crews are reinstalling works floor by floor, starting with the fifth floor and progressing down one floor at a time. Depicted in the works are Oklahoma’s historic events, natural resources, and notable people. Along with the return of well-known staples such as Wilson Hurley’s “Centennial Suite,” and Charles Banks Wilson’s portraits of Robert S. Kerr, Sequoyah, Will Rogers, and Jim Thorpe, nearly 20 new works have been commissioned for the Capitol. Most of the new works were made possible through the Oklahoma Art in Public Places Act, which requires the state to invest 1.5 percent of eligible capital improvement project budgets in public art. The Oklahoma Arts Council manages state public art commissions.

As the artwork is returned, a new space for the Betty Price Gallery, home of the Oklahoma State Art Collection, will open on the second floor. Another new space, the Hall of Heroes, commemorating Oklahoma’s distinguished history of military service, will open on the second floor near the Supreme Court chamber.

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples called the new and returning artwork a crowning moment in the restoration of the Capitol.

“Since the time the artwork was removed from the Capitol, people have asked about its return,” said Sharples. “The Capitol is the state’s largest public museum, and now, beautifully restored and prepared to host an expanding number of art works, it has even greater potential as a space for educating Oklahomans about the history and creativity of our people and drawing visitors from around the world. The restoration of the Capitol presented an opportunity for our team to consider how to give visitors the best possible experience, and now after years of planning, we are already seeing people pause to view, examine, and enjoy the works they have been missing. We look forward to the full schedule of works being displayed in the months ahead.”

The New Artwork and Visitor Experience

In its planning, the Oklahoma Arts Council prioritized the visitor experience, organizing artwork throughout the building according to a chronological and thematic progression. When visitors enter the building through the main entrance on the ground floor, they will be greeted by a video produced by Buffalo Nickel Creative with the help of Sterlin Harjo, co-creator and executive producer of the hit FX on Hulu series “Reservation Dogs.” The greeting will incorporate Native languages from the state’s 39 tribal nations. Artwork on the ground floor will reflect pre-statehood and Native American history in Oklahoma. A centerpiece of the ground floor will be a mural by Yatika Starr Fields depicting the Spiro Mounds as a center of commerce in pre-contact Oklahoma. As visitors ascend floors, they will engage an expanding mix of strategically arranged subjects and themes. Themes of modern commerce and economic development in Oklahoma bring the visitor experience full circle on the fifth floor.

Themes and new works by floor are:

Ground floor

Themes: Pre-statehood and Native American History; Early Statehood and Western Heritage; State Motto

New works:

First floor

Theme: African American Oklahoma History

New works:

Second floor

Themes: Hall of Heroes; Hall of Governors; Oklahoma Cultural Treasures; Oklahoma’s Natural Beauty; Betty Price Gallery/State Art Collection

New works:

Third Floor

Theme: Oklahoma Luminaries

Fourth Floor

Theme: Celebrating Oklahoma’s Legacy

Fifth floor

Theme: Roots of Oklahoma Commerce and Economic Development

New work:

Developing the Plan

To develop the reinstallation plan, the Oklahoma Arts Council performed a comprehensive analysis of the Capitol artwork, held community listening sessions across the state, and met with key Capitol facility stakeholders and legislative leadership. Collaboration with the Senate and House presented opportunities for featuring works from their collections. The plan reflects a visitor-centric and educational-focused approach offering the highest degree of breadth and depth in illustrating Oklahoma history.

Where Was the Art?

Most of the artwork has been in climate-controlled storage in an off-site secure location to protect it during the Capitol restoration project. Several large works of art remained in the public spaces of the Capitol, notably Charles Banks Wilson’s four murals under the dome on the fifth floor depicting Oklahoma history from 1541 to 1906, and Thomas Gilbert White’s “Pro Patria,” which commemorates the tragedies and triumphs of World War I. Works that were not removed from the Capitol were covered to protect them from the harsh construction environment.

Rotating Exhibitions to Return

In addition to the permanent artwork installed throughout the Capitol, the three gallery spaces—the North, East, and Governor’s galleries that are used for displaying rotating exhibitions of work by Oklahoma artists—will reopen in fall 2022. With the reopening of the galleries, the Oklahoma Arts Council will be able to exhibit additional mediums, including 3D works and fiber art. Oklahoma artists can submit their portfolios at for consideration to be exhibited in the Capitol galleries.

New Educational Experience to be Offered

Parents, teachers, students, and others will be able to take advantage of a growing roster of educational resources tied to the Capitol art. In addition to relaunching a field trip grant program for schools statewide to bring students to learn about Oklahoma art and history through the Capitol collections, the Oklahoma Arts Council will expand its online curriculum, research opportunities for a formal docent program, present artist talks, and design other educational activities.


About Oklahoma Art in Public Places
Signed into law in 2004, the Oklahoma Art in Public Places Act reserves 1.5 percent of eligible state capital improvement project budgets for investment in public art that represents the history and values of Oklahoma. Administered by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the program advances state economic development goals and enhances public spaces for Oklahoma residents. In managing the program, the Oklahoma Arts Council brings together state government entities, artists, and local citizens in the commissioning or acquisition of artwork reflecting individual communities. Artists for Oklahoma Art in Public Places projects are selected by committees that include representation from the community. 

About the Oklahoma Arts Council
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead, cultivate, and amplify the transformative power of the arts for all Oklahomans and their communities. The Oklahoma Arts Council provides hundreds of grants to organizations and schools statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state's arts and cultural industry, and manages the art collections at the Oklahoma state Capitol. Additional information is available at

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