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Oklahoma History Center presents 'Born to Freedom: Allan Houser Centennial'

Exhibits across the state, including at the Oklahoma History Center and the state Capitol, are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Allan Houser, an Oklahoma sculptor and former Oklahoma Cultural Ambassador.
BY MAX NICHOLS, For the Oklahoman Published: May 4, 2014

Allan Houser was named the first Oklahoma Cultural Ambassador in 1984 and was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in l985. His monumental bronze sculpture “As Long as the Waters Flow” was dedicated at the state Capitol in 1989.

While his sculptures are widely recognized by Oklahomans, they represent only a fraction of the tremendous achievements of Houser, who was born June 30, 1914, in Oklahoma to members of the Chiricahua Apache Tribe. Houser produced more than 1,000 sculptures in stone, wood and bronze, plus more than 500 paintings, 2,000 matted drawings and 30,000 sketches.

In connection with the 100th anniversary of Houser’s birth, the Oklahoma History Center is presenting “Born to Freedom: Allan Houser Centennial” as one of numerous celebration exhibits across the state.

“Not only is Allan Houser one of the greatest artists born and raised in Oklahoma, but the story of his life is the perfect illustration of the challenges and opportunities faced by American Indians caught between two worlds,” said Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma Historical Society executive director. “His art reflects that story of cultural survival.”

The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman features 100 of Houser’s inimitable drawings, 99 percent of which have never been exhibited or displayed before, said Brenda Granger, executive director of the Oklahoma Museums Association.

Visitors also can his works through 2014 at museums and cultural institutions across the state, including the Capitol, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Will Rogers World Airport and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, in Oklahoma City; the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, Stillwater; Museum of the Red River, Idabel; Gilcrease Museum and the Philbrook Downtown, Tulsa; Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, Duncan; and the Southern Plains Indian Museum, Anadarko.

“Each exhibition throughout the state is unique, whether showcasing works that have never been on display or highlighting Houser’s work as a teacher and mentor,” Granger said. “We highly encourage visiting each exhibition to get a complete overview of Houser’s memory, works and legacy.”

‘Legacy in Bronze’

Five large-scale sculptures were installed on the grounds of the Capitol, joining “As Long as the Waters Flow,” which greets visitors at the Capitol’s south plaza, said Joel Gavin, director of marketing and communications for the Oklahoma Arts Council.

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