POSTED ON APRIL 27, 2011:
The founder of a planned museum devoted to showcasing Tulsa's art deco heritage has arranged for display space at a downtown location that he hopes will give pedestrians a glimpse of what the museum will offer.
William Franklin, founder of Decopolis, said the owners of the Mayo Motor Inn, 416 S. Cheyenne Ave., have given him permission to transform their window space into an Art Deco showcase in time for Mayfest. The building is located just west of the Mayo Hotel, 115 W. 5th St., and guests leaving the hotel via its west exit will have an excellent view of the display space that will feature revolving exhibits. Franklin plans to take advantage of that by showcasing a number of items that celebrate the Art Deco style of design, perhaps beginning with a collection of photographs.
"These are so interesting in their stylings, they're like works of art themselves," he said. "They're not just pictures."
The display will be illuminated at night to catch the eye of passersby, he said.
Franklin said Decopolis -- which has applied for nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service, and which already has a board of directors, website and monthly email newsletter -- also will be displaying items in a gallery at the Performing Arts Center at 3 E. 2nd St. throughout December as a sort of "pop-up" version of the museum.
But the museum's founder believes he is close to securing an agreement with a downtown building owner that would provide Decopolis with its own space in which to establish a starter location. He declined to discuss the specifics of the site, but he did say it was in a downtown Art Deco building. He hopes to have the arrangement formalized within a couple of months, he said.
That would serve as the museum's home until a permanent location can be constructed. According to the Decopolis vision plan on the website, it would be open two or three days a week and have a part-time employee.
Franklin eventually hopes to build a full-fledged museum with an Art Deco streetscape, a site he has described as something akin to a back lot at a Hollywood movie studio. The museum would be made self-sustaining by a variety of businesses that would operate along that streetscape, such as a gift shop, jazz club, café or bakery, he said.
"We don't want to be something that just relies on donations because that's hard to do," he said.
The vision plan indicates the project eventually would consist of a museum complex known as Decopolis Deco City that would take up an entire city block. It would be open six days a week and feature a stage that could be used for fundraising events or movie nights, as well as being leased for private functions.
Franklin said he's pleased with the progress the museum has made in just two years, adding that the establishment of a starter location would be a big step forward. Decopolis recently celebrated its second Deco Ball, the group's annual fundraiser.
"I think once we actually get that starter space, we'll be able to raise even more money," he said.
Franklin's long-term vision for Decopolis will require a considerable amount of money and likely will be competing with several other planned museums -- such as the Oklahoma Museum of Pop Culture and the Cain's Ballroom Museum -- for donations from Tulsa's philanthropic community. But he said his plan is to move the project forward one step at a time, rather than waiting until all the money has been raised.
"It seems like some organizations and groups like that want to have all their ducks in a row before they build a big museum," he said. "Our approach is to start small with a start-up space. We're not waiting. We're at least making progress."
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