breaking: Arrest made in connection with March OKC homicideLive video: Day 22 of Oklahoma opioid trial

NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Is an opportunity being devoured by a Bricktown octopus?

Advertisement

 

East Bricktown is quickly emerging as the center of a new live music hub for Oklahoma City. The Criterion is successfully drawing large crowds even on nights when the competing entertainment draw is an important Thunder playoff game down the street.

The entire area is getting built up with hotels, retail and housing. Other music anchors include the ACM@UCO Performance Lab and the Bricktown Event Center. And in the heart of it all, you have a street named after one of the greatest music legends to hail from Oklahoma City: Charlie Christian.

Charlie Christian and fellow jazz great Jimmy Rushing still lack any big tributes, however, beyond the street name in Christian’s honor.

A great potential canvass for a mural, meanwhile, emerged when owners of the southwest corner of the former Stewart Metal Fabricators property chose to turn their spot into surface parking. That left the plain concrete wall of the Bricktown Event Center exposed and prime for some cool art.

The owners of the property, Brent and Brett Brewer, teamed up to split the cost of the mural 50/50 with Downtown Initiatives, a non-profit operated by Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. The Brewers envisioned a mural linked to the city’s music culture or history – maybe something honoring Christian and Rushing.

But Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc. led the selection of the artist. There was no request for proposals, no judging panel for selection. They instead commissioned an artist they had previously looked at for another project.

Could Bricktown get the sort of brilliant mural done of Woody Guthrie done by Aaron Whisner in Tulsa? It’s iconic, loved by locals and visitors.

Whisner, however, wasn’t even given a chance to compete for this project. The folks at Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. instead went with Jack Fowler, whose work includes some great portrait pieces.

Ones like this:

(from public records at City of Oklahoma City)

A 2011 interview in the Tulsa World might hint Fowler might be ideal for promoting Oklahoma City’s musical heritage or culture:

“I’m proud of where I’m from, and I’m proud of the heritage that these people have helped create,” said Fowler, 34, who recently “retired” from teaching elementary school to become a full-time artist. “I honestly think not enough people know just how many fascinating people have come from Oklahoma. There are so many incredible stories that haven’t been told nearly enough, to nearly enough people. I’m just trying to tell a few of them in my own way.”

Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., however, gave Fowler no direction on what might be the best fit for the wall. Instead, they gave Fowler total autonomy over the mural’s depiction.

So we get “Bricktown Octopus”:

(from public records at City of Oklahoma City)

Fowler provided this explanation for the mural in a letter to the Oklahoma City Arts Commission:

“I invented the Bricktown Octopus for three reasons: one, the long narrow shape of the building immediately made me imagine something stretched across it, sprawling and twisting and reaching like vines, or in this case, tentacles. Two, the color of the cement building is light and consistent enough to serve as a background palette, and I’ve always liked public art that was “painted on the building” more than “painting the building.” An octopus allowed me to cover the entire expanse in an interesting way without having to cover almost 5,000 square feet with a base coat. Three, I wanted to create something interactive, a piece that views could get lost in. I’m going to place dozens of “hidden” shapes and icons in the colorization of the Octopus. My hope is that people will stand in front of it for far too long, shouting out images to their friends as they recognize them, lost in a small moment like kids lying on their backs searching for shapes in the clouds.

Love it or hate it, just a year ago this mural would have been impossible to do in Bricktown, which instituted strict guidelines on public art following a controversial effort by the local Ronald McDonald House and the artist Wyland to paint one of his whale murals on the BNSF viaduct wall that overlooks the Bricktown Canal.

The Bricktown Urban Design Committee and city council responded with an ordinance that required murals be connected with the district’s history or culture. The whale mural was part of an effort by Wyland to essentially paint the same murals throughout the world – a tribute, essentially, to his own work.

When then council members Frosty Peak and Jerry Foshee tried to lift the restrictions, they were hit by protests from the public and the urban design committee.

"I think the law is crafted appropriately,” member Bruce Faudree said at the time of the 2000 debate. “If we were to allow someone to come in and paint whales, how could we say no if someone else wanted to come in and paint purple Barney dinosaurs?"

Now Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. is going through the planning department, city council and urban design committee to accomplish just that – full freedom for artists to paint what they want in city’s premier historic entertainment district.

The argument by Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. is that such a change will allow for more artistic freedom and diversity. So the Bricktown Octopus is the test case. The question is, what opportunity to provide a rare showcase of our city’s music history is being lost in the name of artistic freedom?

Related Photos
<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a09052120ca1440d75ae0c5bb5090e70.jpg" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-3f20a8676e3f934d2cab15cedeb3af46.jpg" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ccb14ccdb5abc340bb1c52d359f89168.jpg" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ccb14ccdb5abc340bb1c52d359f89168.jpg" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f2a7ea70f951e3c2acbdb8f993206427.jpg" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›

Comments