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Open, Awake & Alive | 2018
Tulsa Garden Center, Tulsa Oklahoma

January 13 - 26, 2018

Open, Awake & Alive is a curatorial project designed to examine the historical space of the Tulsa Garden Center. 


Curated by Rena Detrixhe


“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden. ”

These words, plucked from the children’s classic, The Secret Garden, might suggest that the world is full of beauty and life and possibility. Gardens are symbols of growth and care, we tend to our gardens to cultivate food, medicine, beauty, experience, and love. They are also symbols of power; a garden can beautify and nourish but it can also erase and replace. It exists simultaneously as an idea, a place and an action and by definition it implicates our presence, a relationship between human and earth.

Today, when every square inch of the planet has been altered by human presence, the whole world really is a garden, albeit a complex and varied and rambling one, it is a cultivated space discernibly shaped by human hands. The past hundred years or so of rapid development and change has reshaped landscapes, altered ecosystems, and changed climates. Each generation inherits a very different garden than the one before them.

The land where the Tulsa Garden Center sits has its own unique history of development and change. Like nearly all of Tulsa, it was once Muskogee Creek pastureland. With the passing of the Dawes Act in 1887 and the Curtis Act amendment in 1898, tribal land was surveyed and allotted for individual ownership so that land could be bought and sold and tribal governments and courts were abolished which enabled Oklahoma to obtain statehood in 1907. This piece of land was allotted to nine-year-old Helen Woodward and shortly after it was sold to the City of Tulsa by her white father for the expressed purpose of establishing a city park. Years later, this transaction would lead to one of the hardest fought land suits in Tulsa’s history. Helen never recovered her land, though the park now bears her name.*

Responding to the physical and historical space of the Tulsa Garden Center, each work in this exhibition might be viewed through the lens of the garden, a complex symbol which can be political, medicinal, memorial, ornamental, practical, or personal, but is always inextricably linked to the land. Through floral antique quilts layered with historical text, hand-crafted objects, site-responsive music, and collected, arranged, and prepared natural materials, the space is shaped and activated by each artist’s response.


*Woodward Park and Gardens Historic District, National Register of Historic Places Registration, pg 15, 16

Twin mansions were built by brothers Samuel and David Travis in 1918 and 1919 (now the Tulsa Historical Society and the Tulsa Garden Center respectively) and Woodward Park was constructed in the 1930s. This property would change hands a few times before it was eventually sold to the City of Tulsa for the purpose of becoming the Tulsa Garden Center. Since 1954, the Tulsa Garden Center has operated out of the historic mansion, organizing educational programs, gardening and horticulture classes, flower shows, and hosting meetings for various garden clubs. The mission of the center is promoting learning about plants through educational and recreational programs, preserving the heritage of its historic building, and advocating responsible stewardship of plants and their habitats.

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