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Public art plays role in transformation of downtown into tourist draw

The effort to add public art to the downtown landscape continues.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: January 31, 2012

Many words have been written about the transformation of downtown Oklahoma City from a sleepy business district that went dead after work hours to one that is a nonstop place to live, work and play.

Tourists are being drawn by the improvements made the past two decades, most notably the Bricktown Canal, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City National Memorial and the Myriad Gardens.

But if one really wants to get a good count of tourists on any given day, grab a seat near the Mickey Mantle statue in Bricktown and count how many times families stop for a photo. Similar scenes can be found at the Gates of Time at the Memorial, at the new waterfall at the entrance to the Myriad Gardens, or in front of the Womb Gallery on NW 9, where the entire building is one giant mural.

Public art can be found throughout downtown Oklahoma City, and if locals aren't noticing, visitors are certainly enjoying the views. Art, by its very nature, can either be a hit or a flop with the public audience and certainly downtown has its share of both.

But consider what a ride along the canal might be like without the tile mosaic American Indian themed mural at the north end of the waterway, or the “Inclined” sculpture by the Water Taxi booth, or the mural postcards of old downtown just north of the Reno Avenue Bridge.

Recall what the eyesore that the Rocktown rock-climbing gym, an old grain elevator, was like before a mural was painted on the north facade facing the canal. It looked as bad as the south side which, until now, didn't matter much.

But now, with the old grain elevator dominating the view along the new, recently opened Interstate 40, that south facade suddenly matters.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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