Life on Council House Square

The New Arts 

Collector Guild


Have you noticed there’s something positive always happening here in Okmulgee? There are new opportunities for involvement, and a variety of special interest groups forming that offer something for everybody! One of the newest groups to pop up is the Arts Collector Guild, which was recently started by Jeff Alexander.

I’ve known Jeff for the past couple of years, and he’s quick to volunteer for projects that better the community as well as volunteering his teenage sons (Thank you!). Jeff’s been a faithful attendee of another startup effort, Talk Local at the Lokal, led by Margaret Hess. He said Margaret’s group and the spirit of ‘Okmulgee Rising’ are what inspired him to start the Arts Collector Guild. If you missed the first group meeting, you were part of a small minority. There were so many people packed into the downstairs of the Parkinson that it was standing room only! Jeff encouraged each attendee to bring a work of art that inspires them, and it didn’t have to be a traditional painting or sculpture. Jeff brought some unique shot glasses from his own collection, and others brought DVDs or even sentimental memorabilia. Jeff, after discussing his own piece, chose a piece brought by someone else that he said inspired him, and invited them to talk about it. Then, that person would pick another piece that inspired them and so on and so on. Everyone who brought something was able to tell why they brought it and provide insight on its personal meaning. Jeff also had a pad set up on an easel with sticky notes displaying different ideas each member of the group suggested as possible future projects. There were SO MANY exciting ideas displayed – we’ve got a lot to look forward to!

Public art, and an appreciation for the arts in general, are hallmarks of progressive communities. Finding ways to take the mundane, or unappreciated aesthetics of our neighborhoods, and turning them into something eye popping and inviting changes the culture and mindset of the whole town. Visitors love to come out and see murals, or stop to appreciate a monument and read about its historical significance. Public art breeds tourism, and retail and service businesses are the core industries at the heart of our town. My family took a trip a couple of years ago (come to think of it, Jeff went with us) to Fort Smith, Arkansas, just to look at their murals and walk their downtown area. While we were there, we spent money! Art = Tourism. This is an exciting group, not just for the love of the arts, but also because of the economic impact it can have on our city. Thank you, Jeff, for stepping up and getting this going!

I know you’ll want to attend the next meeting, so mark it on your calendars right now: Nov. 30, 6 p.m., on the first floor of the McBrayer building at 7th and Morton. You’re invited, again, to bring a meaningful piece of art (or something you collect), that speaks to you and Jeff will also be leading us in a ‘social photography’ activity that requires nothing more than your phone! Don’t miss it! Jeff has grown up here in Okmulgee, and he and his wife, Sarah, have raised their two teenage boys, Riley and Connor, here as well. He’s an excellent example of somebody stepping up in his community and getting others passionately involved as well! We need more and more groups like this one, with NEW people rising to the task and leading our community forward. Jeff says he wants to show Okmulgee that there’s a full and active arts community right here in our town. I’ll certainly be attending, and I’m excited for the future of this new group!

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*Additional (and awesome) contributions were made to this article by Kasey Bowers.

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Richard Larabee is an Okmulgee downtown resident. He serves as President-elect of Main Street, and Chairman of The Roger Brooks Okmulgee Task Force Committee under the Chamber of Commerce. He is an Independent Petroleum Landman whose office is located in the McCulloch building across the street from the Grand Old Post Office building in downtown Okmulgee, where OSUIT students will soon be moving in!

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