“From the Limitations of Now”:

New Philbrook exhibition opens March 14, 2021

Philbrook’s newest exhibition, “From the Limitations of Now,” “reflects on the important ways art and literature allow us to examine America’s past and picture a future in which, in the words of renowned Oklahoma author Ralph Ellison, ‘we are able to free ourselves from the limitations of today.’” This powerful exhibition will be open March 14-September 5, 2021. Overlapping, of course, with the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. This, more than ever, is a year when all Tulsans should be taking stock of our past, present and future. What limitations are we placing on others in order to maintain our position in society? What limitations, prejudices, are holding us back – personally and as a community?

The art on display in “From the Limitations of Now” comes from national and local artists. Many of which, according to Philbrook’s exhibition brochure, have ties to Oklahoma. Here are some key sections and works from the exhibition:

“A World Elsewhere”

“Before we enact the impossible, we have to imagine it. We must see beyond the confines of today. We are, after all, writing the future.” What a great conversation prompt! What kind of world do your kids wish to see? How to the images transform everyday experiences, and imagine other possibilities?

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“My Heart is Like Paper,” 2018, Arcmanoro Niles

Tri-City Collective Room

Tri-City Collective designed a room to represent “a living room circa 1920 as it might have existed in Greenwood.” A phonograph plays the music of popular artists of the day, and large, reprinted newspapers (“The Tulsa Star,” The Black Dispatch” and others) line the walls. According to a statement by Tri-City Collective, these newspapers compare state and national coverage of local events. Starting with Oklahoma’s statehood, then white terrorism in teh early 1920s, the Tulsa Race Massacre, and the Black struggle to vote in Oklahoma. The newspapers on display will change throughout the course of the exhibition.

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“Promiseland” by Skip Hill

At the entrance of the room and above the mantle of the fireplace, you can view two collages by artist Skip Hill. Skip Hill illustrated “Opal’s Greenwood Oasis,” and it was amazing to see these works in person. CLICK HERE to watch Betty Casey’s interview with the authors and illustrator of “Opal’s Greenwood Oasis” – Najah-Amatullah Hylton, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Skip Hill.

The Rotunda

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“untitled (a flag for John Lewis or a green screen placeholder for an America that is yet to be)” by Betelhem Makonnen and Adrian Aguilera

When you first walk into Philbrook, look up to see this enormous green flag hanging in the rotunda. The work is inspired by John Lewis’s words, “You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part…Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.” As parents, we’re probably often trying to keep our kids out of trouble. So I think this would be a fascinating conversation to have with your kids when you visit the museum. What does “good trouble, necessary trouble” mean to you?

Idea Lab

Philbrook always does an amazing job of incorporating interactive elements. Their main exhibition hall has been transformed into an “idea lab,” where families can hang out, read, create art and find resources for future discussions. One aspect I’m very excited about is the button-making station. Any time you visit, there will be materials you can use to create your own button. Leave your finished design on the table, and Philbrook staff members will turn it into a button later. Then, they’ll add it to a corkboard wall of buttons. The idea is that people can create a button that’s meaningful to them, and leave it for someone else to find. And they can also search the button wall for someone else’s button that resonates with them.

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Fulton Street Books & Coffee has also helped curate a selection of books for people of all ages. Philbrook has provided a copy machine, and visitors are encouraged to photocopy passages that resonate with them. Children’s books – such as “Opal’s Greenwood Oasis” – make up the collection, too.

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On the far wall of the Idea Lab, you’ll find Faith Ringold’s map, “United States of Attica.” It is a map of racial violence in America. Viewers are encouraged to fill out a piece of paper documenting an instance of racial violence not recorded on the map. Philbrook will later add these to the map.

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Views of Greenwood

“Views of Greenwood” is its own separate exhibition. It can be viewed on the upper level of Philbrook and around the Rotunda. “Views of Greenwood presents nearly fifty photographs of the Greenwood District by three Oklahoma photographers who, over the last fifty years, have explored change, loss, and resilience within the neighborhood.” (Read more here.)

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“Del Rio Hotel,” Gaylord Oscar Herron

I lived in the Heights 10 years ago. Now, I couldn’t afford to live there, as housing prices have increased considerably. It was interesting talking to Susan Green, exhibit curator, about changes that area has seen over the years. And development ideas that have never come to fruition.

Kid-Friendly Events

Jenny Fisher, Learning and Engagement Program Manager, spoke with me about the Idea Lab and some of Philbrook’s upcoming kid-friendly events. She does an amazing job of ensuring that Philbrook is ALWAYS a great place to take your kids, and in putting together special events as well.

There will be monthly Idea Lab workshops. The first will be March 20, and will focus on the new button-making activity. In April, “Crafted Stanzas,” participants will pair words with artwork to “create an illuminated text to inspire hope or change for the world to come.”

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View of Tyler Thrasher’s “Garden of the Ghosts”

Also at the end of March, Philbrook will be hosting SUPERFUN Saturday: Marvels, Wonders, and Words, Oh My! I already have my tickets. Local artist Tyler Thrasher will be there. He works with insects and crystallization, so I know Joss will love whatever he demonstrates. OSU will be there with their Insect Adventure. There are lots of other activities planned as well. Cannot wait!

Additionally, Philbrook is bringing back Singalong Saturdays with Hot Toast Music Co., Sprinkler Saturdays (starting May 29), and Family Yoga Storytime. As well as a new program, “Little Garden Explorers,” for kids five and under. Find details about all of these events here.

Everyday Experiences

I’m sure you can tell just how excited I am at the prospect of Philbrook in the spring and summer. It’s such a beautiful escape, makes me feel like I’m in Europe, and they’ve done a great job with their COVID safety precautions. So in addition to monthly and weekly events, Philbrook will also have some fun ongoing activities both in the museum and for the gardens. For example:

Poetry Rocks:

“Use river rocks painted with poetic words to create a poem to leave behind for someone to discovery!”

Small Worlds Building:

“Use natural materials in new and novel ways to imagine and build a magical small world in the Gardens.”

Dirt Digging + Mud Kitchen (SIGN ME UP! Starts March 27)

“What’s cookin’ in the mud kitchen? A whole host of learning opportunities and countless mud pies.”

There’s more as well, so make sure to pick up a brochure of upcoming events or talk to a Philbrook staff member when you visit.

Hours and Admissions

Philbrook (2727 S. Rockford Rd.) is open Wednesdays-Sundays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (with $5 admission after 5 p.m.) Advance, timed entry is required. Masks and social distancing are also required.

Non-member adults are $12. The museum is free for members and youth ages 17 and under. Discounts are available as well. See details here.

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Categories: Spaghetti on the Wall