The Oklahoma Art Collection is a selection of works by Oklahoma artists and represents just part of a much larger collection given to the University of Central Oklahoma by the Melton Art Reference Library (MARL) in 2017. The MARL Collection highlights various styles of Oklahoma, American, and European art. The collection features examples of the Bacone style, Southern Plains style, Contemporary Native Pop, Realism, American Impressionism, and Expressionism. Nearly 400 works of art by 19th and 20th century American and European artists comprise the MARL collection. The collection includes works by Homer Dodge Martin, Alexander Wyant, Gabriel Eugene Isabey, Plains Ledger artist Wiyaluaofra Zan (Shows the Feather), Potawatomi artist Woody Crumbo, Acee Blue Eagle, African American expressionist Suzanne Thomas-Justice, and contemporary mixed media artist Skip Hill. This recent acquisition enriches UCO’s academic curricula by providing valuable resources for research and art exhibitions. The collection fosters the study of various topics, ranging from Oklahoma regional art to global art history, by providing perspective on the very active and evolving communication of visual culture.
Founded by Howard and Merle (Buttram) Melton, the Melton Art Reference Library (MARL)originated out of the Meltons' desire to educate themselves and build a private art collection. As their collection grew, they soon recognized the need in the community for such a resource; thus, the MARL was established in 1989 as a non-profit organization. The Meltons' daughter, Suzanne (Melton) Sylvester, continued to operate the MARL after her parents passed away.
Suzanne’s goal was always to educate people about art and elevate Oklahoma’s art culture. Keeping this goal in mind as she neared retirement, Suzanne reached out to UCO and offered the stewardship of the collection to the university. On November 17, 2017, UCO President Don Betz and the members of the MARL Board of Trustees signed an agreement that officially gifted the collection to the University of Central Oklahoma.
To date, the Melton Collection is the largest single gift in the university’s history. The donation originally consisted of over 350 original artworks, thousands of prints, a 5000+ volume library (including x;">catalogues raisonnés, exhibition catalogues, and sales catalogues), and 130 cubic feet of subject files regarding both well-known and lesser-known artists. Ms. Silvester continues to donate works of art to the MARL Collection in the Max Chambers Library's care.
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.