Still a Dream
The director of the state Historical Society said he is still hopeful his organization's request for a $25 million bond issue to help fund a new museum in Tulsa will be granted by the state Legislature, but he acknowledged the request faces tough sledding this year in the face of the state's budget crisis.
Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the state Historical Society, said last week there was nothing new to report on his agency's request for the bond issue, which will help cover most of the cost of the planned $33 million Oklahoma Pop museum in the Brady Arts District. But he said he hoped to be able to make some substantive announcements about the project at an event in Oklahoma City in early April.
The request was included in his agency's budget that was submitted to lawmakers on Oct. 1, 2009, Blackburn has said. Since then, the state's already gloomy budget picture has deteriorated even further.
Plans for the museum were unveiled in May 2009. The proposed 45,000-square-foot building would focus on the state's contributions to popular culture, delving into such categories as music, television, radio, performance venues, concerts, movies, Route 66 and other areas that were created or strongly influenced by Oklahomans. The George Kaiser Family Foundation already has announced a $1 million challenge grant for Oklahoma Pop.
Despite the lack of positive news from the Capitol, Blackburn said he remains optimistic about the project.
"We're still working with the idea that this will be done," he said. "The only question is when. That's the reason we're putting so many resources into this."
Historical Society officials did announce last week that a radio series examining the state's influence on rock 'n' roll music will be rebroadcast on public radio stations throughout Oklahoma this spring.
"Oklahoma Rock and Roll with Steve Ripley," a 20-part series, will begin airing at 8pm on Friday, April 2 on KOSU-FM 107.5 in Tulsa and at 6pm the same day on KRSC-FM 91.3 in Claremore.
Ripley, a longtime Tulsan who once owned the famed Church Studio while serving as the front man for the platinum-selling country group the Tractors, guides listeners through the music of Oklahoma music icons Leon Russell and J.J. Cale and how it influenced such legends as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker. The program airs for 60 minutes each week.
Plans for the opening of a regional center for conservation and sustainability are continuing, according to the owner of the building where the facility will be located, with attention soon turning to the preservation of the structure.
Kevin Stephens -- president of a landscape, interior and urban design firm with offices in San Francisco and Tulsa -- is donating the former Temple Israel at S. 14th Street and Cheyenne Avenue to the planned sustainability center. But first, he said, a federal agency must complete a study of the building, which was heavily damaged by a fire in January 2009.
Officials of the federal Environmental Protection Agency are completing their report on how they expect the cleanup of the site to proceed, Stephens said. An asbestos component called crystalline has been detected in the structure, he has said, necessitating EPA involvement.
After that report is complete, attention will turn to preserving the structure's exterior walls, he said.
"We've been in a long holding pattern, but we've finally got the ball moving again," Stephens said.
The project is a collaborative effort between Stephens, Land Legacy and Sustainable Tulsa. Land Legacy, a local nonprofit group that focuses on land conservation, will serve as the anchor tenant, while Sustainable Tulsa, a local nonprofit group that promotes sustainability, also will have its headquarters in the building, Stephens said.
Stephens said the EPA study "didn't delay us in sharing our mission and getting our relationships going, but it did halt any kind of construction work. But we have our concept together, and we haven't varied from that at all."
He declined to say when renovation work on the temple might begin.
"It's still a little premature to guess," he said. "Once we get the EPA study, we'll be able to make a better estimate."
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