By Mack Burke
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Converted more than 50 years ago from a 1920s grocery store, Geatches Studio has turned hundreds of art-curious seekers into full fledged artisans.
The mixed media work of artists from the conservatory are coming to Norman 6-9 p.m. May 10 at the Norman Depot, 200 S. Jones Ave., as part of the Norman Performing Arts Studio’s 2nd Friday Art Circuit. The work will be on display through June 29.
The exhibit features the work of several Geatches Studio artists such as renowned Oklahoma artists Sherrie McGraw and the late O. Gail Poole.
“It’s a pretty rare show actually to get,” Performing Arts Studio Director Ricky Fry said. “It’s difficult to get all the artists together for one show like this. Sherrie McGraw is probably the most famous artists to come from the school.”
Geatches Studio Director Ted Majka said McGraw’s work almost harkens back to the work of painters like Michelangelo. She’s not a modernist or avant garde, but “a little more old school.”
As for Poole, the late Norman resident and artist, Majka said he was an artist without boundaries.
“Gail had so many styles you couldn’t close in on him,” Majka said. “Gail could go from one thing to the next, from representational to satirical. He’s just a very interesting fella, very creative. He taught us how to paint outside of the box and do something different.”
Owner Donald Weaver said two or three generations of artists have studied at the studio.
“It’s a real Oklahoma City jewel,” Owner Donald Weaver said. “It’s sort of a secret little place.”
Under the surface is a deeper story, one about community.
By the time Weaver purchased the studio in the early 80s, it had a compelling history written through the paint brush of famed artist Richard Goetz. Goetz’s influence helped create a monster. Students began to pour in to take lessons from the likes of Goetz, Poole and McGraw, and didn’t stop even after Goetz left to teach at the Arts Students League of New York. McGraw followed, but the studio had already taken on a life of its own.
Mary Geatches took the reins, beckoning more hungry creators, including Weaver. Geatches insisted he join in.
“She said ‘You have to paint,’” Weaver said. “‘Here’s your brush. Paint.’ So I became a painter.”
It was an inspirational offer he couldn’t refuse.
“It really opened my eyes to the art world. I saw the real art world,” Majka said. “I learned a lot from Mary.”
Then tragedy struck. In 1985 Geatches and her husband died in a car accident on Thanksgiving Day.
Everything could have ended there with blank canvasses, empty easels and nothing left to paint. But it didn’t.
Weaver rallied support, named the studio in Geatches’ honor and Geatches became a permanent muse.
“It’s a memorial to her. It’s a handed on, generation to generation kind of thing,” Weaver said. “It’s marvelous, because there’s never been so much continuity.”
Weaver said the studio has a magnetic quality, with artists coming from all over, like Santa Fe and New York.
“We got it going and we’re still with it,” Majka said. “It’s a never-ending moment. You always find something new.”