A project with pop
The new Oklahoma Pop museum will add another jewel in Tulsa’s economic development crown.
Times Square is coming to a city near you.
At least that’s what Bob Blackburn hopes.
Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, is one of the driving forces behind an Oklahoma pop culture museum, Oklahoma Pop, proposed for the Brady Village District in downtown Tulsa.
Billed as an Oklahoma-fied fusion of the Hard Rock Café, Times Square and Hollywood nostalgia, the 45,000-square-foot Oklahoma Pop would have truly eye-popping aesthetics — a 50-foot-by-80-foot LED video screen, reminiscent of those adorning Manhattan’s flashy hub, is planned to encompass the museum’s front.
But it’s really what’s on the inside that counts. The blueprints contain 16,000 square feet for interactive exhibits on anything and everything related to Oklahoma pop culture, including TV, performing arts, film and music of all genres; 7,000 square feet for special events and programming; and space for a rooftop café, appropriately named Pop Top.
The Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) partnered with the George Kaiser Family Foundation to propose the project. The OHS had long wanted an institutional presence in Tulsa, and the Kaiser Foundation sought economic redevelopment downtown, specifically in the Brady District. Oklahoma Pop is the joint solution.
“It’s a way to tell the world what’s unique about Oklahoma through shared memory,” Blackburn says.
Nestled in the heart of Tulsa, Oklahoma Pop would join the BOK Center and the soon-to-be-built ballpark as the biggest jewels in the crown of downtown’s ongoing revitalization.
“We think we can be another anchor,” Blackburn says.
In a joint announcement of the plan, Mayor Kathy Taylor agreed, saying the museum could help “brand Tulsa as a city of creativity” and make the city “a magnet for artists, tourists and conventions.”
The Oklahoma Pop has an expected cost of $33 million, with the state appropriating $25 million in funds and the private sector raising the remaining $8 million. The Kaiser Foundation became the first fund-raiser, pledging $1 million. An authorization bill for museum funding is set for the next legislative session’s agenda in February 2010.
No matter the price tag, Blackburn says the museum is an investment not only in Tulsa’s economic development, but also in its quality of life.
Economically, the building’s construction will create immediate jobs, and the museum will staff around 15 people for day-to-day operations. Officials project the center will draw more than 200,000 visitors and more than 200 special events per year.
Beyond that, Blackburn says cities must be livable, and this museum is one of those shared experiences that will make that possible for Tulsa.
“It helps the people of Tulsa share a sense of community,” he says.