On July 8, the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture (TFA) held its tour “OKPOP Museum: A Design Discussion,” through the building of OKPOP Museum. Located in the Tulsa Artist District, OKPOP is dedicated to the creative spirit of Oklahoma’s people and the influence of Oklahoma artists on popular culture around the world.
Lindsey Kuykendall, TFA’s curator of Public Engagement, said, “OKPOP is at a historic moment in its history, and this tour represents an opportunity for the public to access the building before it is complete and open to the public. This exclusive look is thanks to the generous OKPOP team and Chris Lilly of Lilly Architects, the building designer.”
The tour began with a presentation by Lilly, whose firm designed the OKPOP facility. He explained how the building received consultation from Overhead Partners, as this project was in the beginning of Lilly Architects’ career.
Lilly showed the design features of the event spaces, retail spaces, and stairs of the building. He also stated that the Cain’s Ballroom sign was an important part of the design. Part of the project was to build around the sign so as not to obscure its view.
The tour then headed up the stairs to meet Jeff Moore, executive director of OKPOP. He said, “OKPOP is part of the Oklahoma Historical Society…There are 25 sites and museums around the state that tell the history of Oklahoma, OKPOP is site 26.”
Moore explained, “This project started about 17 years ago. We developed an exhibit that opened in 2009 on Oklahoma Rock and Roll…We tapped into stories that hadn’t been told. Now we’ve got Outsider’s House, Church Studios, and the Dylan Center. But back then, we weren’t talking about any of those topics.”
Since then, OKPOP has interviewed over 700 Oklahomans in film, television, comic books, radio, music, animation, and literature, and there are still 300 interviews to go before their official opening. The goal is for Oklahoma’s creatives to tell their stories.
When it came to the finishings on the walls, Moore talked about how gold was chosen because the first golden record to ever be awarded was to the soundtrack from the movie Oklahoma in 1953, and gold is significant in other ways, such as the Golden Drillers and Golden Hurricanes.
Moore explained how a guitar inspired the building layout. OKPOP has a huge collection of Bob Wills, who had a relationship with Leo Fender, who created Fender Guitars. In 1954, Leo Fender released the Fender Stratocaster. The goal for the golden room is taken directly from a guitar, the wood is clear coat maple, the black and silver are for the knobs in the chords, and all the surfaces are white quartz.
Caelyn Musgrove, storytelling coordinator at OKPOP, stated the mission of OKPOP: “To inspire and empower the next generation of Oklahoma artists and creatives of Oklahoma.”
The museum was stripped down to its naked walls with some pictures around showing what the space would be aspirationally. She talked about OKPOP’s plans to expand immersive experiences such as superhero, fantasy, literature, comedy, western, and sci-fi immersive galleries. The space will also feature a hidden arcade, and an imagination station to feature animation and illustration, and a theater.
Ryan Allen, creative director and director of storytelling and exhibit management, who was the guide for the third story of the building, talked about the musician’s journey that the space will occupy once the museum is opened. The technology to be installed will permit OKPOP visitors to use their wristbands to create a piece of music.