The full Senate honored one of its former members on Wednesday for his historic preservation efforts in the state Capitol, and for his work to create an important art collection to adorn the building. Senate Resolution 90, authored by Pres. Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and coauthored by the full Senate, honored Sen. Charles Ford for his work restoring the Senate Chamber and other areas of the Capitol to their original architectural design, as well as raising $2.5 million in
private donations to create a significant collection of original art telling the story of Oklahoma.
“Senator Charles Ford has long recognized the importance of maintaining and preserving the beauty, the history and the architectural integrity of the People’s House so that it can be a source of pride for our state,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “Everything he has done has enhanced the Capitol. This really is his legacy and it will be enjoyed by Oklahomans and other visitors to the Capitol for perpetuity.”
State Sen. Charles Ford, R-Tulsa, served 14 years in the House of Representatives before being elected to the State Senate, where he served an additional 24 years. In 2004, he was among the first group of Senators to be term limited, but he is still hard at work with a project he began in the late 1990’s. He’s the founder and president of the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc., an organization that has raised private funds to commission more than 150 works by Oklahoma artists, depicting historic events, places and personalities that helped shape the state’s identity.
“We’d redone the Senate lounge, and I noticed all we had hanging on the walls were cheap prints. I decided to commission an Oklahoma artist, Wayne Cooper, to paint a historic event from my Senate district’s past. ‘Washington Irving Meeting the Osage’ was dedicated in 1998,” Ford said. “After that, other members wanted to do similar projects. That’s how it all got started.”
On Wednesday, Ford helped dedicate the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc.’s 156th piece—a painting by Oklahoma artist Mike Wimmer entitled “Bud and Me.” The painting depicts Bud and Temple Abernathy of Frederick, Oklahoma. While just children in the early 1900’s, the brothers became famous for riding unaccompanied to destinations like Santa Fe, New York and San Francisco, and meeting celebrities of the day, like Orville Wright and President Teddy Roosevelt, eventually becoming celebrities themselves.
In 2003, the Senate Art Collection was featured in the book “Art Treasures of the Oklahoma State Capitol.” Fifty-five pieces from the collection were displayed in an exhibition at Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum in 2009. During the 2014 interim, several pieces will be on loan to the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art for an exhibition entitled Framing History: Highlights from the Oklahoma State Capitol Senate Collection.
Ford said when he first started the project, he couldn’t spell the word art—now, he joked, he’s an expert. He hoped those who follow at the Capitol will continue his efforts in the coming years.
“This is the People’s House. It is far more than our seat of government—it represents the unique history of this land and the people who made it their home. It’s important for us to ensure it is a source of pride for all Oklahomans.”