On April 19, 1995, a truck bomb explosion ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children. Most of the children were in the building's daycare center. Firefighters, law enforcement officers, and rescue workers worked tirelessly to save the injured and recover the dead.
Personal belongings and government property were also recovered, including works of art that were purchased or commissioned for the Murrah Federal Building. Of the 32 works of art installed in the building, 20 were recovered with little or no damage, most from the upper stories.
Some of the pieces found a home at Chambers Library on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma, where they serve as a teaching tool within the university's visual arts and arts education programs. Fourteen of the original artists were able to attend the opening of the exhibit in 2000.
Today, 19 pieces are on exhibit in Chambers Library, and 4 are on exhibit at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
Prior to the selection of the artworks for the Murrah building, public art for Federal buildings typically consisted of one or two monumental sculptures or murals commissioned from nationally recognized artists. For the Murrah building, GSA broadened its search by choosing artists chosen by a panel appointed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Among the 23 surviving pieces are the first photographs, ceramic sculptures, finger weaving, and quilts chosen by GSA's Art in Architecture Program.
Joan Mondale, wife of Vice President Walter Mondale and a skilled potter and arts advocate, played a significant role in this shift toward inclusion of locally produced pieces. Of the 26 artists represented in the Murrah collection, about half came from Oklahoma and the rest from other regions. The group was almost equally divided between men and women, and represented racial diversity, including several artists of Native American descent.
At the dedication ceremony for the building in June of 1978, Joan Mondale said, "You have a model here of what can be done when good architecture and art are combined in a truly human environment."
Special thanks goes to Pam Husky, former assistant chair of the Department of Art at the University of Central Oklahoma, and Ronald Lane, former GSA regional fine arts officer, for their commitment and dedication to researching, documenting and initiating the 2000 and 2003 Chambers Library exhibition of works of art saved from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
The University of Central Oklahoma recognizes the university's main campus is located on the traditional lands of the Caddo and Wichita people.
Visit the UCO Land Acknowledgement website to learn more.