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Oklahoma museums celebrate Allan Houser's centennial birthday

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DUNCAN, Okla._He's known as one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century and Monday would have been his 100th birthday.

Allan Houser, Apache artist, has his work showcased in galleries and museums worldwide. And in honor of his centennial, twelve museums throughout Oklahoma have exhibits focusing on different aspects of his life and work.

Before Allan Houser was born, his parents were held captive as prisoners of war and relocated several times for nearly 30 years, including their final stop at Fort Sill.

"He was the first baby born after they were released from Fort Sill and to have survived that and gone on to be an internationally known artist. That sense of spirit is just amazing," said Heritage Center Executive Director Stacy Cramer Moore.

Moore says that's part of the reason they're celebrating the sculptor, painter, and book illustrator statewide. All three mediums are displayed at Chisholm Trail Heritage Center's exhibit, “Legend Born Free.” A sculpture of a mother and her baby, 'Desert Flower' is part of the exhibit, but is also part of the center's permanent collection.

"I've read he wanted it to look like the rock was being taken away in the Oklahoma wind and you can kind of see in his sculpture, the big flowing movements. Even though they're rock and bronze and very sturdy, they are very flowing," said Moore.

The exhibit also features illustrations on loan from the Allan Houser foundation in New Mexico.

"We have about sixty-five of his works that were done for children's books. These are not displayed very often, so we are just thrilled to have them here," said Moore.

Moore was especially excited to get this collection because their teachers are using them as pieces of starter art for children's education this summer.

"They're doing their own watercolors and their own interpretations of his work. I hope he would just be so pleased with what we are doing and how his legacy is here in Oklahoma," said Moore.

Moore says his story of survival and making the best out of life is fascinating and should never be forgotten.

"That sense of what he and his people survived and to come out of that, go to art school, become a world renowned artist...to have that spirit inside is a great lesson for all of us," said Moore.

Houser retired in 1975 but still continued his passion. He was commissioned to sculpt a bronze monument for the Oklahoma State Capitol and then became the first Native American to receive the National Medal of Arts and numerous other achievements, all in the last five years of his life.

He died in August of 1994 at age 80.

The exhibit will be on display until August 15. The heritage center will officially be celebrating Houser at their National Day of the Cowboy celebration July 26. The celebration will feature Native American cowboys, Native American musicians and an Apache dancer.

 

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