Gilcrease Museum Looks to Vision Renewal for Major Improvements

Jul 22, 2015

Credit Gilcrease Museum

The Gilcrease Museum wants $75 million out of a potential Vision sales tax renewal.

Director James Pepper Henry asked city councilors if they knew what the city’s most valuable asset is.

"It's the collection of the Gilcrease Museum," Pepper Henry said. "The Gilcrease Museum collection is valued at over $2 billion — that's two followed by nine zeroes — and it's time we put that asset to use for the people of Tulsa."

Pepper Henry said Gilcrease loses visitors to Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark., not because it has a better collection, but because it has better facilities.

The $75 million Pepper Henry asked for would be combined with $50 million from the University of Tulsa. The money would mainly go toward a 100,000-square foot expansion, including a grand entry and 12,000 square feet for a changing exhibition space.

Pepper Henry is thinking big for that.

"Exhibits like King Tut, imperial tombs of China," Pepper Henry said. "There isn't any other museum or institution in town that has the facilities and the ability to bring some of these great traveling exhibitions to Tulsa, Okla. In fact, I don't even think Oklahoma has a space like that."

Part of the money would go toward improvements to Gilcrease Museum Road. Pepper Henry said the museum's approach should be part of the experience.

"Enhance Gilcrease Museum Road, adding a bike path that will connect the museum to the rest of Tulsa, beautify that with trees, widening the road," he said.

Pepper Henry estimates bringing Gilcrease up to par with Crystal Bridges would bring in another half a million visitors a year.

The University of Tulsa, which manages Gilcrease, owns KWGS.