the orange show center for visionary art's
eyeopener tours:

Oklahoma and Kansas, 2003

(...and a few hours in Missouri)

tour report by Barbara Hinton

Despite flash flooding and sticky mud, our band of intrepid explorers discovered eye-opening, mind-boggling visionary art and architecture on the prairies of Oklahoma and Kansas. "Oh my gawd," "look at that" and "what a great guide/person" seemed to be the phrases of the day.

Here's the short version: 5 days, 3 states, 1200+ miles, 4 gardens including Eden, 4 churches, 4 artists, 3 galleries, 3 Bruce Goff designs, 2 Frank Lloyd Wrights including his only skyscraper, 1 mini art car parade, the world's largest totem pole, the world's largest Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, the world's largest ball of videotape, as well as the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things. (Whew !!) In all it was a weekend reminiscent of Dorothy's travels - whirlwind, magic, wizardry and lots of "ahhs."

Here's the long version: Thursday started in Tulsa with the soaring Boston Avenue Methodist Church & the very gothic Trinity Episcopal Church. Then we did a walking tour of downtown Art Deco & a drive-by of Tulsa's premiere residences and giant golden roughneck. Mid-afternoon we hit the highway and headed for Foyil and Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park & Fiddle House. In 1937, at the age of 57, Galloway began work on a 90-foot tall, brightly painted rock & concrete tribute to Native Americans. Next door, he built a circular concrete museum to house his 300 hand-carved fiddles. The Park was restored in the 90's by volunteers from the Kansas Grassroots Arts Association. Late afternoon found us in Bartlesville at Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper, now a boutique hotel where we stayed. The Inn at Price Tower has been wonderfully remodeled to embrace Mr. Wright's 19-story office/residential masterpiece. The staff kept the gift shop open late for the shoppers among us. And we all enjoyed a private tour the next morning of the original penthouse offices and the ground floor Price Tower Arts Center.

Bruce Goff & Adah Robinson's Boston Avenue Methodist Church, Tulsa, OK

Tulsa's Art Deco Architecture

Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park, Foyil, OK

Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower, Bartlesville, OK

The Inn at Price Tower

Friday we backtracked to Sapulpa, OK, and the Frank House by Bruce Goff. Built for the owners of Frankoma Pottery and now occupied by their daughters, the Frank House incorporates Frankoma tiles into the design and displays Frankoma pottery in every nook & cranny. On Friday afternoon, we toured the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Guthrie, OK. "One of the world's largest Masonic buildings," it is an encyclopedia of architecture with a Roman room, Assyrian room, Gothic room, Italian Renaissance room, British room, Egyptian room, well you get the picture. 55 rooms, 12 bathrooms, 7 fireplaces, 3 kitchens, it's enormous. Speaking of enormous, the next stop was the Marland Mansion in Ponca City, OK. Built for oil millionaire, U. S. senator & Oklahoma governor E. W. Marland, this 55-room 'Palace on the Prairie' contains gold-leafed domes, grand ballrooms, muraled ceilings, paneled walls with wood from England's Royal Forest and ruby-eyed stone owls. And the life of Mr. Marland and his adopted daughter/2nd wife is so fascinating there's a mini-series and a feature film in the works.

Bruce Goff's Frank House, Sapulpa, OK

The Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, Guthrie, OK

The Marland Mansion, Ponca City, OK

Saturday morning started wet in Wichita, Kansas, but our tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Allen-Lambe House was wonderful. An L-shaped house built around a garden and pool, this is one of the largest and most impressive (and last) of the Wright prairie-style homes. Then we were off to Dan Beck's sculpture garden. Giant stones gathered from the surrounding countryside complement this giant of a man. Native plants and wife Chris' sculptures harmonize with Dan's waterfalls & ponds, seven-sided gazebo ("because most gazebos are 6- or 8-sided"), wooden arbor based on the Fibonacci sequence and butterfly garden. Dan says he leaves an offering where he displaces the giant boulders. Along with lots of public art, Wichita possess a new science center and children's museum. Exploration Place is an architectural gem designed by Moshe Safdie. Sited on the edge of the Arkansas River across from the downtown, it is a soaring concrete structure that reflects its use, its site and its materials. Then we were off to Lucas and the 'granddaddy' of America's grassroots art environments. The Garden of Eden has been amazing visitors for over 75 years. Built by Samuel P. Dinsmooor, whose spirit as well as mummified remains linger on the premises, the Garden of Eden reflects his deeply held religious beliefs and his progressive political views. Nearby is Florence Deeble's rock garden and house, now owned by the Grassroots Arts Center and currently displaying the assemblages of Mri Pilar. Down the street is the Grassroots Arts Center, exhibiting artworks by many of Kansas' most famous outsider artists. The GAC folks hosted a parade of mini-art cars in our honor as well as a fun dinner with food based on the art we'd seen.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Allen-Lambe House, Wichita, KS

Dan Beck's Sculpture Garden, Wichita, KS

Architect Moshe Safdie's Exploration Place, Wichita, KS

S.P. Dinsmoor's Garden of Eden, Lucas, KS

The Grassroots Arts Center, Lucas, KS

The Mini-Art Car Parade, Lucas, KS

Sunday morning found us at the 1952 grain elevator-inspired limestone Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina, Kansas. Then, after a walk through town, we toured the Watson/Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts, a restored 1931 Art Deco "Palace" theatre. After lunch at Diary Queen (we told you this was junk food & folk art), we visited Paul Boyer whose intricate kinetic sculptures are pure magic. Then, down the road to St. Mary's Catholic Church, an elaborate 1901 limestone edifice with stenciled walls & ceilings, life-size oil paintings, and copious statues of saints.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Salina, KS

Paul Boyer and his amazing mechanical sculptures, Belleville, KS

St. Mary's Catholic Church, St. Benedict, KS

Our last day began with a drive to Kansas City to see Bruce Goff's Nicol House, a landmark to Goff's imagination and architectural flare. Recently restored & enhanced by the current owners, this home features a sunken living room with a circular conversation pool that can be ignited, hidden bathrooms & closets, two levels of living and playing space, and a suspended Sputnik satellite. Then we were off to visit Scott Heffley and his life-long collection of cool stuff in a 3-story 1898 brick home. The gang from Rare Vision & Roadside Revelations, an award-winning television show that documents visionary artists & environments, had Kansas City barbeque waiting for us for a poolside lunch with the world's largest ball of videotape. Too soon we had to say good-bye so we could make one last stop to the home of collector Bill Wenzel to see the assemblages of John Woods. John started making art from items he dug up when Los Angeles' MacArthur Park was drained. His art "puns" had everyone laughing as we headed to the airport and home.

Finally, we'd like to give a Big Texas Thank You to all our friends who helped make this a huge success: Karen, Rosslyn, Mike & Randy & Don & Kelly, Donna, Mark & David, Scott, Cathy & Ray, Dan & Chris, John H., John W., Bill, and last but not least our fearless bus driver Jerry.

Bruce Goff's Nicol House, Kansas City, MO

The gang from Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, Kansas City, MO

John Woods, Kansas City, MO


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