Muralist has big plans for public art along Oklahoma's Route 66

Artist Rick Sinnett and his partner Jake Harms plan to create 11 murals along Oklahoma's Route 66 during the next 10 months.
BY HEATHER WARLICK MOORE hwarlick@opubco.com Modified: August 1, 2011 at 10:33 am •  Published: August 1, 2011
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Public art is becoming more and more visible in Oklahoma City and across the state. From modern sculptures to murals of Oklahoma's earliest pioneer days and buffalo statues, Oklahoma-theme art is coming out of galleries and onto sidewalks, parks and even highway walls and overpasses.

Oklahoma native Rick Sinnett plans to contribute more of this type of public art as he and his assistant and business partner, Jake Harms, travel up and down Route 66 painting giant, colorful murals in strategic locations.

The idea started when Mary Beth Babcock met Sinnett at a Flaming Lips listening party for the band's album “Zaireeka.” Babcock owns Dwelling Spaces, an eclectic gift shop with an emphasis on Oklahoma-theme art, clothing and gifts at 119 S Detroit Ave. in Tulsa.

“I just knew that this guy was really invested in the arts in Oklahoma,” Babcock said.

Sinnett showed her a painting he'd done called “Indian Warrior.”

“I just fell in love with it and asked him if I could purchase it,” she said.

After buying the piece, Babcock asked Sinnett how he felt about turning the piece into a giant mural on the side of Rose Pawn Shop, a neighboring building in Tulsa's Blue Dome District.

“He said it would be a dream come true,” Babcock said. She financed that mural, which was painted by a professional muralist.

“Indian Warrior” features an American Indian, a scissortail flycatcher, a catalpa bean tree, which is native to Oklahoma, and a cicada.

“It's different,” Babcock said of Sinnett's art. “It's not the typical Oklahoma art that you always see. It kind of spoke to me.”

That first mural was on Route 66.

“And that's when the idea came up ... to do a series of murals down Route 66,” Sinnett said. “I thought that was a pretty good idea.”

Funding creativity

But giant murals aren't cheap to create.

Babcock told Sinnett about Kickstarter.com, an online fundraising platform. Babcock formed a collective of artists and business owners, and Sinnett named the mural collection Public Arts Project 66.

Sinnett hoped to raise $6,600 in 30 days through Kickstarter. He hit his goal in 15 days. Future murals also will be funded through Kickstarter.

“I had in my head that it'd be cool to do 33 murals down Route 66, border-to-border in Oklahoma,” Sinnett said. “Then I realized how daunting that would be.”