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Arts and Entertainment

Greenwood Art Project Installation Redefines The “American Dream”

In artist Sarah Ahmad’s art installation “The American Dream,” thousands of fabric marigold flowers in Tulsa’s Oxley Nature Center symbolize firebombs that destroyed homes in the Greenwood District during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Katelyn Howard
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KGOU
In artist Sarah Ahmad’s art installation “The American Dream,” thousands of fabric marigold flowers in Tulsa’s Oxley Nature Center symbolize firebombs that destroyed homes in the Greenwood District during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.";s:3:"u

The immersive art installation titled “The American Dream” transforms Tulsa’s Oxley Nature Center into a memorial for what was lost in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and uses nature to spark healing a century later. 

Artist Sarah Ahmad’s installation, which is part of the Greenwood Art Project, is built around a refugee tent similar to ones used by families left homeless by the massacre. The massacre left nearly 10,000 people homeless in what’s considered one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history. 

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Katelyn Howard
/
KGOU

Thousands of yellow and orange fabric marigold flowers represent firebombs that destroyed homes in the Greenwood District. But the marigolds are also a symbol of renewal in the aftermath of destruction. 

Along with marigolds, the inside of the tent is filled with candles and archival photos of the massacre’s aftermath. This contrasts with the tent’s plain exterior to mirror how trauma is fundamentally an internal experience that Tulsa’s Black community has endured for generations. 

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Credit Katelyn Howard / KGOU
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KGOU

“It's very stuffy inside the tent because it's dark and claustrophobic,” Ahmad said. “But as you move out from it into this place filled with light, the idea is for that to activate a process of healing, engaging with nature, immersed in nature.” 

As an immigrant from Pakistan, the installation was a way for Ahmad to connect across different cultures with the history of the Greenwood District. 

Ahmad said the installation serves as an invitation for people to redefine the “American Dream” on their own terms. 

“I hope that it's… a testament to the people who achieve the ‘American Dream’ of wealth and prosperity despite racism and unequal opportunity... and an invitation for people to envision new futures,” she said. 

A closing date for the art installation has not been determined. 

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