While the Philbrook and Gilcrease Museums gain plenty of attention around town for their cultural and artistic exhibitions, Tulsa's third museum, the Sherwin-Miller Museum of Jewish Art is keeping up the pace in providing one-of-a-kind exhibitions of its own for Tulsans to experience.
The Sherwin-Miller Museum houses the most substantial collection of Judaic art and artifacts in the region. The region in this case consists of the entire middle section of the country with the nearest Jewish Museum of its size in Chicago.
The museum is located at ¬¬¬2021 E. 71st St. on the Zarrow Campus, which also houses a Senior Living facility, a community center and day school in addition to the museum. The Zarrow Campus is a much-appreciated point of community for Tulsa's relatively small Jewish population of approximately 1,500.
In an valiant effort to disintegrate many preconceived notions that the museum would only be of interest to those that follow the Jewish faith, the art museum's executive director, Arthur Feldman, and museum curator Dr. Karen York have presented special exhibits and the permanent collection around the chosen theme of "Bonds of Commonality." Their goal is to create exhibitions that are presented in a way that demystifies what Judiasm is about, making it easy to understand by all faiths and cultural backgrounds by expanding upon what Judiasm has in common with many other faiths.
The museum's permanent collection walks visitors through artifacts, photographs and information that explain the fundamentals concerning the history of Judiasm. There is also a Holocaust exhibition, which serves to educate countless school groups as well as adults, what took place in history.
The museum brings the tragedy of the Holocaust back to Oklahoma with original letters and documents from veterans who helped liberated concentration camps and witnessed what took place first hand.
Throughout the years, the museum has put together over twenty special exhibitions. During the past three years in particular, shows have been chosen that highlight common ground between Judaism and other cultures in Oklahoma by installing exhibitions designed to engage the entire community.
Currently on display through Feb. 15 is Breaking the Glass: Wedding Traditions in Oklahoma Cultures, complemented with Bridal Jewelry: Circles of Gold. All cultures celebrate the sanctity of marriage, and while wedding ceremonies and customs look different around the world, the wishes of happiness, luck and long life for the bride and groom are universal. The exhibit highlights the wedding practices and traditions of 13 different cultures that exist today in Oklahoma. As visitors walk through the exhibit they will quickly pick up on similarities that exist between cultures as different as Cherokee and Scottish. The exhibition shows "we are closer than further," Feldman said.
As a Jewish Museum hosts the exhibit, the beginning of the exhibition takes a deep look at the wedding traditions of the Jewish culture, beginning with courtship, matchmaking and engagement before moving on to a delightful and informative display of Jewish wedding objects, clothes and photographs donated by members of Tulsa's Jewish population. The Jewish portion of the show also includes a traditional Jewish family Chuppah, the canopy under which every Jewish couple in the family is married. The canopy component to the wedding ceremony is one of the most noticeably repeated elements of weddings from the other cultures throughout the exhibit.
As visitors move past the Jewish culture, they will find contemporary and traditional wedding garments and photographs donated by both the Cherokee and Osage tribes of Oklahoma. Also on display is an installation indicative of a traditional wedding ceremony from the Iranian Muslim culture. The installation includes a wedding table filled with objects to symbolize everything the new couple will need to have long lives together.
Further into the exhibit are objects, garments and photos from Irish, Scottish, Mexican, Czech, German and African-American weddings. Along with the Jewish tradition of breaking a plate several of these cultures involve a similar tradition.
In the Czech culture, the Mother breaks a plate at the feet of the bride and groom that they must sweep up together, their first act of cooperation as man and wife.
The final leg of the show exhibits wedding practices from Asian cultures, including Vietnamese, Indo-American Hindu, Korean and Chinese. These cultures largely incorporate the double happiness symbol into the fabric and objects used throughout the ceremony. The installation from the Hindu culture is the highlight of the exhibit, with elaborately embellished fabrics, objects and garments donated by the India Association of Tulsa.
While the exhibit is fascinating and unique in many ways, what sets it apart from other shows around Tulsa is the extensive collaboration that took place between the Sherwin Miller Museum of Art and the 12 other cultures represented in the exhibit. The show is an accurate demographic sketch of Tulsa's population. While visitors will walk away impressed by the beautiful dresses and objects on display, they won't be able to ignore that there were just as many similarities as there were differences between the cultures.
More information is available at jewishmuseum.net.
While museums are instrumental in exposing the value of art and customs throughout history, Tulsa's local coffee shops are some of the best locales to discover what the city's current artists are creating every day.
Tulsa photographer Jason Sales currently has work on display at the Coffee House on Cherry Street, 1502 E. 15th St. Since 2004, Sales has been the primary photographer for Cain's Ballroom and frequently shoots for the Brady Theater. A self-taught photographer, Sales lives and works in his downtown studio. In the front of his studio is a small gallery for visitors to view his latest work. Located at 815 E. 3rd St., his gallery space is unmarked but open to the public.
"I love feeling a little bit of the rush that the musicians feel on stage," Sales said of why he chooses to photograph musicians. "I think my interest in live music shoots stem from my secret desire to be a rock star." A sampling of Sales' photographs of local musicians is currently on display at the Coffee House on Cherry Street.
More information about Jason Sales is available at jasonsales.com.
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