The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — A portion of legendary folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie’s comprehensive archives, including the original, handwritten version of Guthrie’s landmark anthem, “This Land Is Your Land,” will be available for viewing at the grand opening of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Okla. at 1 p.m. April 27 at 102 East Brady in Tulsa. The 12,000-square-foot center will feature state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits on Guthrie’s life, art and creative legacy and will include Oklahoma’s only permanent exhibit on the Dust Bowl.
The Woody Guthrie Center’s permanent exhibit on Guthrie will feature selections of original items from the Woody Guthrie Archives, including Guthrie’s handwritten copy of “This Land Is Your Land,” along with lyrics, artwork, photographs, personal notebooks, letters, postcards and some of his rare, never-before-seen musical instruments. The exhibit will also feature objects from some musicians who were influenced by Guthrie, including Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Pete Seeger, John Cohen and Jimmy LaFave, among others.
The Woody Guthrie Archives were brought to Tulsa by George Kaiser Family Foundation, who purchased them in 2011 from Woody Guthrie Publications in New York.
“We are thrilled to finally announce the opening of the Woody Guthrie Center, here in his home state of Oklahoma,” said Ken Levit, executive director of GKFF. “This archive will be available to scholars and researchers so that we can continue to tell the story of this remarkable Oklahoman for generations to come. The Guthrie family has inspired us with their loving and creative stewardship of these materials, and we are proud to provide a permanent home for this incredible collection in the Brady Arts District of Tulsa, Okla.”
The Woody Guthrie Archives contains more than 10,000 items of primary and secondary source material, including more than 3,000 song lyrics, rare books by and about Guthrie, more than 700 pieces of artwork, letters and postcards, manuscripts and personal journals, more than 500 photographs, handwritten songbooks, Guthrie’s annotated record collection and personal papers detailing family matters, his World War II military service and musical career.
“The decision to transfer the Woody Guthrie Archives to our Tulsa friends was a slow and deliberate one, but after visiting Tulsa and the Brady Arts District, I felt it was the right home for his work,” said Nora Guthrie, daughter of Woody Guthrie and president of the Woody Guthrie Foundation & Archives.
“In getting to know the George Kaiser Family Foundation, I felt we could work together to create something very unique, and I felt a kinship with the artists in the Brady District. Bringing Woody’s life’s work back to his Oklahoma Hills will be a real adventure, and I think Woody would have proudly declared, ‘That’s where I want to be, Ma. That’s where I want to be.’”
Also included in the Woody Guthrie Center is an exhibit that will include a five-minute excerpt of the documentary series by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, The Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl chronicles the environmental catastrophe that, throughout the 1930s, destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains and was the inspiration for many of Guthrie’s songs.
The center will feature an extensive outreach and education program that will take Guthrie’s story to schools across Oklahoma and demonstrate the impact he has made on the world. There will be a series of concerts to bring his music and his legacy to those who visit the center.
Deana McCloud will serve as executive director. For 16 years, she has been a member of the Woody Guthrie Coalition, booking and producing concerts for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Okla., and working with the Woody Guthrie Publications to present programs about Guthrie. She is president of the coalition’s board of directors. McCloud has been a teacher in the Pryor Public School district for 14 years and achieved National Board Certification.
“We are excited to open the Woody Guthrie Center to the public, and we are looking forward to sharing this day with Oklahomans and visitors from across the world,” McCloud said. “This is more than just a collection of Woody Guthrie memorabilia; it’s an educational center that will serve as an inspiration for visitors and a venue through which to share his legacy with the world. As a veteran classroom teacher, I know that there is a huge potential for engaging students as well as teachers in the educational programs and inquiry that the center will inspire.”
The center will be operated in conjunction with the Woody Guthrie Archives, along with the Los Angeles-based GRAMMY Museum. In 2012, The GRAMMY Museum teamed up with Woody Guthrie Publications to host one of the largest and most comprehensive centennial celebrations ever staged for an American music icon, The Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration. Designed to celebrate Guthrie’s extraordinary body of work and impact on American music, the year-long celebration included a host of tribute concerts, educational curricula, lectures, conferences, a touring exhibition and more.
Gallagher & Associates, an internationally recognized museum planning and design firm, designed the Woody Guthrie Center. Other notable projects by G&A include the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, the Vault of the Secret Formula at the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta, the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles and the largest natural history museum in the world, the Shanghai Natural History Museum.
The center’s hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The center will be closed on Mondays. On the first Friday of each month, hours will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admittance is $8 for adults, $6 for youth 5 – 17 and children under 5 are admitted free. For additional information on the archives, visit WoodyGuthrieCenter.org.
Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Guthrie was born in Okemah, Okla. in 1912. “Pretty Boy Floyd,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “Going Down The Road,” “Hard Travelin’,” “Jesus Christ,” “I Ain’t Got No Home,” “Deportee,” “Roll On Columbia,” “Vigilante Man,” “Do Re Mi,” “Tom Joad,” “Union Maid,” “1913 Massacre,” “This Train Is Bound For Glory,” “Oklahoma Hills,” and “Riding In My Car” are among the 3,000 songs he wrote in his lifetime. Guthrie’s iconic “This Land Is Your Land” has become the unofficial American national anthem. Guthrie also recorded many children’s songs and tunes devoted to telling the story of the disenfranchised and working class of his era. He was also an artist, writer, radio show host and activist during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
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