Artist Sandy Fife Wilson is guest of Lions

By Dean Craig

Okmulgee Lions


The Okmulgee Lions Club continues to have a bountiful supply of programs with a local flair, and Tuesday's program was no exception, presented by Morris resident Sandy Fife Wilson.  Part of the reasoning for local programs during the winter months is due to the unpredictability of Oklahoma weather, and the higher probability of local people being able to attend the meeting rather than someone from the Tulsa or Oklahoma City areas during inclement weather.  And also the fact that Wilson was recently awarded the honor and title as Master Artist of the Five Civilized Tribes Museum, following in the footsteps of her oldest sister, Jimmie Carol.

Wilson told the Lions that she grew up in the Dustin area on her grandfather's allotted land just inside Okfuskee County.  She attended Graham School through the ninth grade but opted to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., where she graduated high school.  She returned to Oklahoma to obtain her Bachelors and Masters degrees in art and education from NSU in Tahlequah.  After teaching art in Dewey Public Schools for two years, she was asked to return to IAIA (where she had graduated high school and which then had become a college) to teach weaving, leather work, beadwork, and clothing fashions.  Sandy and Al Wilson had married and they both were offered teaching jobs at Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma where they taught until its closing.

They made the move to Morris in 1980 where Sandy taught art at the high school and Al taught math at OSU Tech (now OSUIT) until their retirement.  Wilson told us that her parents were very heavily involved in art and education, and passed these traits to all of their children from a very young age.  In fact, Wilson began finger weaving at age ten, taught by her mother, who also taught her about clay pottery, with the clay dug from her grandfather's allotted land.  She has been shell carving since 2007, which looks similar to Eskimo scrimshaw carving, except Wilson's shell carvings are much more exact and detailed.  The two large shells displayed were absolutely beautiful, in the range of around $1,200.

A humorous incident Wilson shared with us happened after she graduated in 1969 when her high school art instructor and five students were invited to display their art in New York, which so happened to be at the site of the now-famous (or infamous) Woodstock Festival and she held up a t-shirt to prove she was there.  Even though the art show was rained out, she did get a souvenir.  You know what?  No one even asked if that t-shirt was for sale, but you probably could have bought that $1,200 carved shell cheaper than the t-shirt.

Several special guests were: Al Wilson; Clint Wilson (their son) and his daughter, Adeline; and Jeff Alexander.

This multi-talented lady had two tables full of carved shells, jewelry, baskets, pottery, sashes, mussel and oyster shells, and conch shells--just an unbelievable display to validate her many talents.  And just to further prove how smart she is, she is a former member of the Morris Lioness Club prior to the merger of the Lioness Clubs and the Lions Clubs, which has proved to be a saving grace for some of us "old toads".  And maybe we can help hone some of your "smarts" by giving you an application to join us in soaking up some of the wonderful programs we all enjoy.  "WE SERVE".


(Information provided by Dean Craig, with excerpts from an article from the late Herman Brown of the Okmulgee Times).


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