Rack it Up!

Okmulgee Times General Manager Anthony Nieto stands with Stormy Kahbeah, one of the artists who participated in the beautification of the newspaper racks.

Newspaper racks get fresh, new look


Times Staff Writer


Artists from across Okmulgee County have banded together to paint and add a twist on newspaper racks around Okmulgee. Enterprising on the idea of other cities that have identifiable statues, such as Tulsa’s penguins, Okmulgee Times General Manager Anthony Nieto partnered with Art Collectors Guild creator Jeff Alexander to realize their vision. 

“This is such a great opportunity to showcase local artists’ work in our community with these functional newspaper racks,” Nieto said. “If you see them in the community please take a picture with them and upload them onto social media with the hashtags #OkmulgeeTimes and #OkmulgeeArtRacks. A special thank you to Jeff Alexander for helping get the word out to our community.”

The racks will be on display in various locations around Okmulgee to beautify and add something exciting to a town that is on the rise. Racks will be displayed around downtown Okmulgee with plans to expand to the rest of the city. 

Phase one implemented six different artists and their designs which can be found around downtown Okmulgee. 

•BHS Art Class Members

Four Beggs High School students decided to be a part of the project, centering their rack around Native American themes.

Austin Dooly (15), Chase Nelson (15), Tanner Ostrum (16) and Tyler Lee (15) worked together to paint their slot machine themed rack. Dooly, Nelson, Ostrum and Lee saw the rack as a natural slot machine shape. 

“Brainstorming began with Native American themes,” they said. “That led to trying to find common activities of tribes, which led to discussion of casinos in Oklahoma.”

The students came up with a design that combines Beggs High School logos with a slot machine theme, while also incorporating Okmulgee’s colors- red and black.

“We thought it would be a fun beautification project,” they said on why they took on the project. “It was a creative idea to pep-up Okmulgee sidewalks.” 

•Stormy Kahbeah

Stormy Kahbeah, 24, jumped on the idea of spray painting newspaper racks, wanting to bring something unique to Okmuglee. 

“I wanted to play a part of this unique opportunity in bringing creativity and color into Okmulgee,” Kahbeah said. 

Inspired by the Creek meaning behind Okmulgee ‘bubbling water,’ Kahbeah decided to bring water elements to her rack. The rack features a light blue color that also has bubbles to encompass both the bubbling water themes. 

“The idea behind the rack was to capture the essence of embracing this town,” Kahbeah said. “The rack was painted blue and covered in bubbles symbolizing the Creek meaning of Okmulgee.”

Her symbolism pours through the art work featured on the rack. A pair of arms encompass the rack, lovingly holding it in an embrace, embodying one part of the inspiration Kahbeah had. 

•OHS Art Class Members

Immediately grabbing onto the concept, Okmulgee High School art teacher Charlotte Rhea and her art class picked up the rack and began working on their vision. 

“The general manager at the paper suggested utilizing a bulldog theme for the rack since we are the bulldogs,” Rhea said. “Originally, I considered doing a graffiti theme and letting all the students tag the rack.” 

Once they received the rack and saw the shape they would be working with, one of the students had the inspiration to build a robot bulldog. The students and Rhea spray painted the sides of the rack, while using Bondo to create the robotic features of the Bulldog, including its arms and face. 

“The ears were a particular bit of creativity,” Rhea said. “We soaked rawhide in water until it was very pliable, then we draped the rawhide over softballs and let them dry settled.” 

The method Rhea and her students used made perfectly perked bulldog ears for their robot bulldog rack. While all the art classes helped with the rack, seven students rose to the occasion to take on extra work and the bulk of the construction. Darin Dong, Johnny Holman, Madyson Colpitt, Dania Anderson, Carlyn Tucker and Tyler Watashe worked closely with Rhea to get the rack accomplished. 

•OSUIT Visual Communications Collective (VCC) 

Seven students from the Visual Communications Collective at OSUIT banded together to participate in painting newspaper racks for downtown Okmulgee. Faith Henry, Garret Spinks, Rachel McMurtey, Emily Christianson, Emily Alspaugh, Justin Chandler, and Natalie Miller decided to paint their news rack in order to leave a lasting impression on Okmulgee. 

“We want people to know that our department and club care about bettering this community through our artwork,” they said. “Even though most of us won’t be here for much longer, we want to let the citizen’s of Okmulgee enjoy our artwork forever.” 

The Visual Communications Collective decided to make something that will make people stop and check out the news rack, agreeing an a psychedelic theme. 

“We wanted to make something bright and colorful so that people would stop and check it out.” 

They also decided to branch out from the psychedelic theme, adding a subtle homage to their school. The Visual Communications Collective’s news rack is a swirl of different colors and is stamped with a wavy VCC OSUIT insignia in the middle. 

“The club wanted people to know who made it and to promote our club and the Visual Communications Departments a whole, so we included a couple of tags that link to our social media.”

•Brian Caldwell

Brian Caldwell, 44, an instructor at OSUIT, painted a news rack with some of the things that inspire him and that he loves. 

“I wanted to create something that would not only beautify the downtown of Okmulgee, but also share my artwork with the rest of the community,”  Caldwell said. “To hopefully give them a taste of what and who I am through my artwork on something that by itself is a bland uninspiring utilitarian object.”

Caldwell incorporated numerous themes into his artwork, ranging from sci-fi to comic books. Several well-known elements from the genre can be found together. 

“Those elements being aliens, space ships, robots and anything else related to SciFi,” Caldwell said about the inspiration behind his work. “The design also shows my style of design and illustration work from years of reading, and continual reading, of comic books and graphic novels.”

Caldwell’s news rack pops with bright colors of cyan, magenta, yellow and black, giving a slight nod to his years as a graphic designer working on printed design pieces. 

“Lastly, all of the characters and the supportive elements within the design came from my many sketchbooks that have collected my concepts throughout the years,” Caldwell said.  

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