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The Jacobson House Native Art Center Re-Invents Itself... Again

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Susan Shannon
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The Jacobson House Native Art Center is a place with a lot of history. The late Swedish-born artist Oscar Brousse Jacobson built the house during his tenure as the first Director of the University of Oklahoma's School of Art. Jacobson had a deep appreciation for the landscapes and occupants of the American Southwest.

Bordering the University of Oklahoma campus on the Southeast corner of Chautauqua Avenue and Boyd Street, the so-called Jacobson House also harbored a group of young artists known as the Kiowa Six, whose respective talents instilled an appreciation for Native American culture and art that hadn’t previously existed in America and abroad.

While its fortunes have risen and fallen as much as the economy of Oklahoma, the house remains an enduring landmark and testament to the achievements of its former occupants, and to the beauty and influence of the art it has both inspired and helped to preserve.

Given this rich history, one might be surprised to discover that this landmark was almost lost.

After Oscar Jacobson’s death in 1966, the house became a rental property, and eventually wound up in the possession of the University of Oklahoma. OU originally planned to demolish the house for parking space, but a group of people rallied to save the property. In 1986, the Jacobson House was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Dan Brackett, a member of the Cherokee Nation, is chairman of the board that oversees the property. Brackett is semi-retired, but continues to devote his afternoons and weekends to the preservation of the venue. Bracket is one of the foremost collectors of Native American art. One of his collections hangs in the David L. Boren Student Union at the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

Brackett says he has spent a lot of time preparing for an event that marks somewhat of a change for the venue.

“We have been going through a period of transition under the leadership of our Executive Director Tracy Mikkanen” Brackett said. “A majority of this has taken place actually within the last six months. That’s when we started and developed a show of 100 paintings of 40 of the most recognized 20th century Oklahoma Native American artist.

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Bracket wants to sell these artworks to, as he puts it, “keep the doors open and the lights on.”

“It’s a terrific show and even if you don't want to buy anything, just come here and look because you'll never see this number of Oklahoma Native American artists that are renowned for their work at one place at one time,” Brackett said.

Brackett is quick to point out that just four months ago, the Jacobson went from having prints on the walls to hanging original works of art.

“We have artists like Parker Boyiddle, Mirac Creeping Bear, Sherman Chaddelsone,” Brackett said. “We have Doc Tate Nevaquaya. The list just goes on and on.”

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Contemporary artists, including Virginia Stroud, Robert Taylor and Merlin Little Thunder, are sharing in the spotlight. One of Taylor’s massive works hangs near the front room of the building. It’s a painting of a buffalo on stained glass with Christian elements throughout.

“The name of that painting is Saint Buffy and it’s a beautiful, beautiful painting. You can see we have about eight pieces of his work here right now and we will be adding more work from him,” Brackett said.

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Credit Susan Shannon
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Saint Buffy by Robert Taylor

“We also have these exquisite pieces by Virginia Stroud,” Brackett said.

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Credit Susan Shannon
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Painting by Virginia Stroud

Brackett says the combined showcase and sale only strengthens the mission of supporting emerging native artists.

“When they come back in to see these three wonderful contemporary artists they're also going to see our young emerging artists, Nicole Hatfield and Joshua Garrett,” Brackett said.

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Brackett standing by work by Nicole Hatfield

No matter what or who brings in the public to view the shows, Brackett feels that everyone will be surprised at the level of the art offered.

“I don't know of any other show of this magnitude with this number of renowned Oklahoma artists, ever,” Brackett said.

The show featuring Virginia Stroud, Robert Taylor and Merlin Little Thunder opens this weekend. Complete details can be found on the events section of our website kgou.org.

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