POSTED ON JUNE 27, 2012:
Existing music museums support proposed OK POP museum
At the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Muskogee, things are looking up -- and towards Tulsa.
At its current site since 2003, the museum each year inducts a new class of artists at a concert that's by far the museum's biggest event, said Jim Blair, the Hall of Fame's president.
But rather than hold the event in Muskogee this year, Blair said Tulsa will likely host the event this fall.
"It's time we moved this thing around, take it to the bigger markets," Blair said, adding, "it's probably going to be our main source of income going forward."
That's no small statement. In February, the museum shut down because of funding concerns, though Blair downplayed the significance of the brief closure.
"We were very concerned back in February, but a lot of people have stepped up," Blair said.
Blair is optimistic about the museum's future -- and a fan of the proposed OK POP museum.
Proponents of OK POP want to build a museum in the Brady Arts District. It would be about more than pop music, with a focus on Oklahoma contributions to film, television and other popular arts.
It's clear, however, that there would be some overlap with the museum in Muskogee. That doesn't bother Blair, however.
"Some people might think that would hurt the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. To be honest, it can do nothing but help," Blair said.
He said the Hall of Fame has a memorandum of understanding with OK POP backers, Blair said. "When that deal gets built, we would like to share displays," he said.
Jason McIntosh, executive director of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, 111 E. 1st St., said the OK POP museum "sounds like a neat thing."
"But I really don't know much about it," McIntosh said, adding that he hasn't been approached by OK POP backers. "Hopefully, the more the merrier," he said.
Backers of OK POP have said that they hope to get $42.5 million in funding from the state. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, last month said in an interview last month that museum backers have also always planned to raise $12 to $15 million privately, along with another $2 million annually for 20 years. The society would manage the museum, proposed at a parking lot site donated by Bank of Oklahoma, along Archer Street between Boston Avenue and Cincinnati Avenue.
Ken Busby, executive director for the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa, downplayed any concerns that OK POP fundraising might eat into funds for other arts endeavors.
"I look at the world from an abundance mentality, rather than from a scarcity mentality," Busby said. "I think for any good idea, the resources will be there to support it."
For small museums like the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, finding a path to sustainability isn't always easy, however.
Blair explained that the closing of the museum was related to City of Muskogee Foundation funding not being used as specified by the foundation.
Now, the foundation plans to purchase a building owned by the Hall of Fame, Blair said. If this happens as expected, "we'll really be back on track where we were," he said.
The museum has had two fundraising concerts recently and has an eye on making a bigger event out of its induction ceremonies, which last year featured a performance by singer and actress Kristin Chenowith.
Blair said talks are underway about having the induction event at the Mabee Center, on the campus of Oral Roberts University, which has an 11,300 seat capacity. Last year, the event was held at the Muskogee Civic Center, which can seat 3,710.
The timing may vary depending on the availability of artists to perform, but it could happen in mid-November, Blair said.
The Hall of Fame museum is now open from 10am to 4pm Thursday through Saturday. Along with support from the City of Muskogee Foundation, it also relies on memberships and event rentals to pay for operations, Blair said.
"People have wanted to build a museum, a bigger museum. I really wanted to direct focus away from that. There's not enough traffic coming through Muskogee to support large operating costs," Blair said.
Through it all, Blair said the Hall of Fame is focused on the music.
"It's not about Muskogee or about Tulsa. It's about preserving the history and honoring the artists involved," Blair said.
McIntosh said the Jazz Hall of Fame relies on memberships and volunteers to keep operating.
As far as losing donor dollars to OK POP, "that's not really a concern," McIntosh said. "I think the broader state of the economy is a concern."
He said the museum works hard to be a positive influence on artists, hosting concerts frequently, sometimes three or four in one week to nurture local talent.
"We're in the business of creating new inductees," McIntosh said.
If there's anything about OK POP that comes close to grumbling, it's a concern about supporting the people who make art.
Jeanine Rhea volunteers frequently at the Jazz Hall of Fame.
"I am so supportive of anything that's going to give resources to the artists," Rhea said, adding that she didn't know much about the OK POP museum, but wondered about how to best spend limited funds. McIntosh noted state cuts in funding to schools, and said local arts programs have been slashed.
Busby said the proposed museum can offer something unique.
"We don't have a true pop culture museum in the state is one good reason to do it," Busby said, adding that OK POP "should have really great regional and national appeal."
State legislators in the House of Representatives never voted on a $20 million bond proposal to support OK POP, though the Senate voted to approve the bond issue.
Despite the setback, Blackburn said last month that he's convinced the project has statewide support.
Busby said, "It will happen."
"I don't know which funding mechanism is going to make it happen. There's been too much thought put into it ... I think it really has legs. I think it really has a place in our community," Busby said.
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