20 Years of Edmond Art
The secret is out: Edmond is the place to see art! It’s not just local folks walking around taking photos of their favorite pieces, Route 66 travelers are stopping, and out-of-state bus tours are now unloading in the downtown area. Where else can you see 250+ significant art pieces within a matter of blocks?
Of course, this incredible boost in culture and tourism was a planned effort that began 20 years ago. In October 2001, the Edmond Visual Arts Commission (EVAC) was formed as a mechanism to help with the purchase, display and maintenance of public art. Three men were largely responsible for EVAC: former mayor, Randel Shadid and councilmen, Steve Knox and David Woods.
“We put our heads together, crafted the ordinance, and, frankly, were correct in thinking that this would be a successful partnership between private donors and public funds,” said Randel Shadid. “We now have national recognition, and people are reading about Edmond in Southwest Art, Western Art and Architecture, Fine Art Connoisseur, and Southern Living magazines.”
EVAC does not make outright purchases of art. A private citizen or group must fund half or more of the cost before approaching the commission for partnership money. The artwork also must be easily viewable in a public location.
From Bronze to Fiberglass
One of the first pieces purchased when EVAC began was a bronze, limestone and glass piece by Greg Reiche, placed at the corner of 15th & Coltrane. The sponsors were longtime art collectors, Bob and Kathy Thomas.
“Bob and I were so proud to bring that monument to our community,” Kathy Thomas said. “Bob served eight years on EVAC and was on the commission when he passed away earlier this year. He really enjoyed the variety of art we have in Edmond. Everybody’s bound to find something they like.”
The Thomas family was also responsible for acquiring Touch the Clouds by Dave McGary, the large native American bronze at the entrance of the University of Central Oklahoma. Much of Edmond’s sculpture art is made of bronze, but it is not a requirement. Stainless steel, glass, stone and wood are also among the mediums represented, along with a few oil paintings. The oldest piece of public art is the 1939 bison landscape on display inside Edmond City Hall, and perhaps the quirkiest is the fiberglass blue hippo along Broadway.
Explosion of Murals
In the early 2000s, Dr. Bob Palmer began painting murals that featured historic Edmond scenes, but 2020 saw an explosion of mural art with the Rollin’ Deep Mural Festival. “Frankly, the expansion of our mural program has increased the number of Oklahoma artists represented in the collection,” said Shadid. “We’ve expanded the resume of a lot of young and local artists. It’s a big deal to have a public work on display, especially in a place with Edmond’s reputation.”
To celebrate EVAC’s 20th year, a commemoration is planned for October 7th at 6:00pm at the Railyard to thank the donors who have partially funded their favorite pieces for all to see.
“We’ve been blessed with great public support. It’s a vibrant program,” said Shadid, “People are coming to see the art, and when they come, they spend money in restaurants and hotels—so that’s good for tourism. Twenty years ago, who’d have thought that Edmond would be an art town?”
Visit edmondok.com/142/Edmond-Visual-Arts-Commission to learn more.