Funds being raised for Willard Stone Museum
Artist Willard Stone is seen here with one of his most famous pieces, Exodus. The Willard Stone Museum is working to move the museum to a former bank in Stone’s hometown of Locust Grove. COURTESY
A small bronze turtle is being raffled to raise funds for the Willard Stone Museum in Locust Grove. Organizers said the turtle brings luck. The rain cloud on the turtle brings prosperity, the mountain brings strength, the turkey track plenty of game and the thunderbird represents the sacred carrier of happiness. COURTESY
LOCUST GROVE – Family members, friends and a new board of directors are working to revive the legacy of master artist Willard Stone.
Their main goal is to create the Willard Stone Museum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, in Stone’s hometown of Locust Grove. The museum’s mission will be to collect, preserve and exhibit the art and related materials that are pertinent to the life history and the art created by Stone.
The building that once housed the first bank in Locust Grove has been acquired for the museum. This is a historical building built in 1912, and board members said they believe it “will make the perfect place” to house the museum and “bring a vital art and educational opportunity to the town.”
A sculptor, Willard Stone, identified as Cherokee but was not a citizen of the Cherokee Nation or United Keetoowah band. He was born on Feb. 29, 1916, in Oktaha, near Muskogee. He later credited his career as an artist to the influence of Oklahoma historian Grant Foreman, who saw Stone’s early art work exhibited at state fairs in Muskogee and Okmulgee and encouraged him to enroll in art classes at Bacone College in Muskogee. There he subsequently studied under Acee Blue Eagle and Woodrow Crumbo.
Stone attended Bacone College from 1936-39. After leaving school, he married and supported himself at various jobs. From 1948-51 he worked for Thomas Gilcrease, Tulsa oilman and art collector, for whom he produced a unique series of wood sculptures. Stone later worked in Tulsa as an ornamental pattern maker for Ernest Wieman Iron Works and as a die finisher for Douglas Aircraft Company.
He eventually established a permanent studio near Locust Grove and after 1961 devoted himself to art.
Exhibiting regionally and nationally, Stone gained wide recognition for his stylized human and animal figures created from a variety of locally obtainable woods and occasionally cast in ceramic or bronze. He produced commissioned pieces for the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians at Anadarko in 1964, the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1965 and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City in 1966. In 1969, Stone received the Outstanding Indian Award from the Council of American Indians in Tulsa.
Between 1969 and 1980 he received a total of 10 awards in juried competitions at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, including that of Master Artist in 1973. He died on March 5, 1985, and was buried in the family cemetery at his home near Locust Grove.
Stone’s work is preserved in public and private collections throughout the United States and abroad. Important collections of Stone’s work can be found in the Gilcrease collection at the Willard Stone Museum in Locust Grove, the Five Civilized Tribes Museum, the Cherokee National Museum near Tahlequah and the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Now that a building for the museum has been found, the board is working on raising funds to create a “quality museum,” accessible to the public that will be an “attractive addition” to downtown Locust Grove.
The estimated cost for building’s renovation is $800,000. An architect and a construction team have been chosen, said organizers. Now the board will concentrate on fundraising for the preliminary work that needs to be done in order to begin renovation.
An online/mail-in raffle for a small bronze turtle made by Willard Stone is part of the fundraising effort.
The Lucky Turtle is approximately 4 inches long, 3-1/2 inches wide and about 1 inch tall and is valued at $1,500. This is a second edition. The first edition sold out.
Tickets are $25 each or 5 for $100 and are available online at: www.willardstonemuseuminc.com
or people may purchase tickets by mail at Willard Stone Museum Inc., P.O. Box 833, Locust Grove, OK 74332. For information, call 918-951-9663.
Deadline to buy tickets online and via mail is Nov. 6. The drawing will be held Nov. 10, and the winner will be notified Nov. 11.