New Art Gallery Opens in Pawhuska

By: Roseanne McKee
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Bruce Carter, owner of the Tallgrass Art Gallery at 521 Kihekah Ave. spoke to the Kiwanis Club recently about his new gallery, the path he travelled to become an artist and what led him to choose Pawhuska.

“When I was in high school I took art. I was really fortunate that my high school had a residential artist supplied by the state arts council come to our school for six months and totally changed the future that I would take in life. I was going to be a welder.”

Despite his plans to become a welder, Carter decided to take a six-month detour to take silversmithing classes at Northern Oklahoma College.

“At that point welding looked real big and silversmithing looked real small,” he said.

Nonetheless, Carter decided to pursue silversmithing as an art form.
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“I’m a self-taught artist. In the art world that’s called someone from outside the academic background. I am a traditional silversmith, which means I use no mechanical tools. I do everything by hand. I’m also a traditional engraver, which means I carve all of the old cowboy patterns and things you see on work before early 1900.

“The gallery, I’d like to say it was planned, but it wasn’t. I had moved to Pawhuska and I decided I’m going to go back to silversmithing, which I had quit for 13 years.”

“I wanted to get back into the arts. I have always loved Pawhuska. I’ve driven through here. I’ve stopped here, I have visited Pawhuska. I was at a point in my life when I decided, I want to do what I really want to do and do it someplace that I really want to do it at. Hence, my move to Pawhuska,” Carter said.

Initially, he was just looking for a ten by ten space in which to do his silver work.

“The gallery kind of took shape after talking to lots of people in town…There’s a big push in Pawhuska to make it a center for the arts, to encourage the arts, to encourage artists, to encourage galleries.

We don’t sit on a major highway. We’re not a great place for industry … but we’re a great tourism destination. The number one reason people come to a destination is shopping, number two is history. Pawhuska has history.

Once he decided to move forward, he obtained building space at 521 Kihekah Ave. in Pawhuska, next door to Osage Outfitters and across the street from Ree Drummond’s building at the corner of Main St. and Kihekah.

“Three weeks later, [in July] we opened with 11 nationally known artists. That’s unheard of.
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“Artists in this area were ready for a gallery. They believed in Pawhuska … and they were ready to come in and make that work. They also share my vision.

“Artists believe Pawhuska is a great place for art. If you’re an artist the tallgrass is a great asset. They love the Osage Hills, they love the ranches in this area.”

Of the 14 artists now represented in the gallery, Carter said that two of them have given exclusive rights to their artwork to be sold in the gallery in Oklahoma.

“That’s huge for Pawhuska,” Carter said.
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It means if you want to buy a Burneta Venosdel, you have to buy it here. Burneta is a sculptor from Tahlequah has won several national awards, Carter added.

“If you want to buy a Carolyn Mock, other than from the artist herself, you have to buy it in Pawhuska.

Describing his approach, Carter said, “[a]lthough I am the owner, we run the gallery as a co-op. All the artists get a voice in what we do. For example, if we decide to advertise, we all get a voice in what venue we think is the best for that advertising.”

The artists are also in the process of forming an art guild in Pawhuska.

“One of the things the artists have consistently told me is that they want to teach sculpture and painting. They want to teach other professionals, so we are putting together an art school for professionals…. Professional artists spend a lot of money going places learning to paint and sculpt. They stay in a town up to a week at a time, so the artists have decided that we need a school,” Carter explained.

To that end, “the Oklahoma Sculpture Society will be coming to Pawhuska Oct. 19. Burneta Venosdel will be teaching a class to professional sculptors that day on the streets of downtown Pawhuska and at Liberty Ranch, a huge draw for Pawhuska, a huge draw for tourists.
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“People sometimes have a misconception that galleries bring artists. That’s not how that works. Artists bring galleries.”

Carter cited several cities known for art as examples: Eureka Springs, Fredericksburgh Tx., Santa Fe and Red River.

In addition to his own move to Pawhuska, at Carter’s suggestion, two of the artists whose work is represented in the Tallgrass Art Gallery hope to move to Pawhuska, so Pawhuska is on its way to becoming an artistic hub.
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Carter is sowing into Pawhuska by his presence and by his sponsorship of events. The Tallgrass Gallery plans to change the artwork exhibited monthly, have monthly receptions and establish “Women, Wine and Art” on the third Thursday of each month.

In addition, Tallgrass Art Gallery is sponsoring a street dance on Kihekah Ave., ‘A Night in Ole Pawhuska’ on the evening of Oct. 3 after the Indian Taco Festival in Pawhuska. All donations and proceeds will benefit The Pawhuska Arts and Preservation group. There will be music by Jimmie Johnson, community art projects, artist’s demonstrations, gallery opening and the grand opening of the Tallgrass Art School.

Carter is also planning a children’s art show in December in which there will be no prizes, but children’s artwork (8.5” by 11”) will be displayed and offered for sale at $25 each with the proceeds going toward arts and preservation.

The Tallgrass Art Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and by appointment.

To learn more about the upcoming activities of Tallgrass Art Gallery visit their Facebook page, visit their website http://www.tallgrassgallery.net or call them at 580-304-8731.

For information on classes and Tallgrass Art School, visit http://www.tallgrassartschool.com, Tallgrass Art School on Facebook or call Kenyon at 918-728-0804.

Secrets of the Pioneer Woman Building

By: Roseanne McKee

As renovations of the Pioneer Woman Deli and shop building progressed, the building began to share its surprising secrets with those working on the project.

General contractor, Terry Loftis of J. L. and Associates, LLC, revealed some of these secrets.

Pioneer Woman Building interior renovation

Contractor Terry Loftis shown on left describes the renovations.

A. J. Hamilton and her crew started the project in summer 2012, and have done 90 percent of the demolition, Loftis said.

Loftis said that the south side of the building, where the Osage Mercantile was originally located, is built on a crawl space.

“Most people don’t believe that but if you go right underneath that plywood right there and I stand on the dirt, the finished floor below the building, it hits me about waist high,” Loftis said.

“Both buildings the last 40 ft. have full basements. What most people really don’t know is that … those were speakeasys in the back of here,” Loftis said.

Prohibition, resulting from the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import, or export of alcoholic beverages. Illegal nightclubs called “speakeasys” flourished during Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 – 1933, when it was repealed by the 21st Amendment.

After the speakeasys closed, some interesting items were left behind.

“If you go down into the basement, and up over the retaining wall, you cannot crawl six-inches without hitting 15 empty liquor bottles that start at the retaining wall and come all the way to the front. Those will all be removed, because this side will actually have the heating and air conditioning ducts under the floor in that crawl space coming up through the floor. So we’re going to take all those out,” he said. Many of these bottles will be washed and put on display in the new Osage Mercantile, he said.

Another wonderful find, on the south side of the building, was a large granite column, uncovered when they were working to restore the original entrance to the Osage Mercantile.

“We found an old black and white picture that showed this diagonal entry. Sometime after that, they squared it off and covered up this granite column. We started tearing that out, were fortunate enough to find the granite column in pretty much the original shape it was, except for the top and bottom.

Original granite column found beneath facade at Pioneer Woman Building.

Original granite column found beneath facade at Pioneer Woman Building.

Regarding the column, Loftis said, “we found a gossip column in, get this, two daily newspapers that existed here in 1912 talking about the setting of the column. It came from a quarry in Maine by a train from Maine to Tulsa, by buckboard wagon from Tulsa to Pawhuska. It weighs almost 6,000 lbs., 18 ft. tall, almost 30” around, it took 14 men to set it, and cost the owners and astronomical $495!”

In addition, several pieces of antique furniture found in the building are being refinished with plans to put them back into use.
“That table you see was actually found in here under a pile of rubble. Along with the two benches, it was sanded, that was just stained yesterday,” Loftis said. The table and benches will be used in the conference area of the second floor offices, he said.

This restored piece will serve as the conference room table in the Pioneer Woman Building.

This restored piece will serve as the conference room table in the Pioneer Woman Building.

“Over here you’ll see the old original display cases from the Osage Mercantile. These are going to be broken down, refinished and they will be put back downstairs for merchandise display,” Loftis said.

Items found in the Pioneer Woman Building will be re-purposed.

Furnishings found in the Pioneer Woman Building will be refinished and put back into use.

He motioned to the southeast portion of the building, and said that during the work, “we found an entrance that none of us knew existed, this entry back there was probably covered up for almost 70 years. We found it and said, ‘make it match,’ so now you’ll have this entryway all the way around.

As our time drew to a close, Loftis revealed one last secret. The building has many nooks to explore, but the Drummond boys’ favorite is a little room near the commercial kitchen, adjacent to the freight elevator, underneath the stairwell.

Area below these stairs in the Pioneer Woman Building is a favorite hiding spot of the Drummond boys.

Area below these stairs in the Pioneer Woman Building is a favorite spot of the Drummond boys.