Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture Tulsa, Oklahoma | Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture   |   Tulsa, Oklahoma   |   52,500 GSF

Tulsa, Oklahoma, may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think, “pop culture;” but maybe it should. That is what the public stewards and creative entrepreneurs behind OKPOP envisioned when they reached out to Overland Partners to help them create an exciting new space in the city’s Arts District.

Tulsa has a surprising history in pop culture. Native sons Taylor, Zac, and Isaac Hanson, known together as the band “Hanson,” are the perfect embodiment of the city’s playful but strong relationship to live music, visual art, literature, and movies. It was Taylor Hanson who suggested placing OKPOP, the genre-defying new museum, across from Cain’s Ballroom, which, over the course of the 20th century, hosted artists from Bob Wills to the Sex Pistols.
Pop is for the People
At its heart, popular culture is for the people. It’s Latin root, “pop,” is the same as “population,” which literally means “people.” The Oklahoma Historical Society will steward the $25 million state-funded project to create a space that is about the artists and audiences that shaped Oklahoma’s past. It will also provide spaces to help shape the state’s artistic future. Overland was tasked with creating a structure to house a living experience rather than a static collection. Event venues, stages, and retail space will be not just for museum patrons, but for the city at large. As OKPOP brings people together, it will continue fueling popular culture, the culture we all make.
Crucible of Culture
The design process has been guided by paradoxes and surprises. Because pop culture itself reflects the trends of its time, the primary challenge for the team is to create a space that is both current and timeless, both popular and cultured.
OKPOP is not about hushed galleries or rarified air. The personal collections of Oklahoma-loving celebrities like Ron Howard and Kristen Chenoweth will co-exist with live music and pre- and post-show offerings for patrons of Cain’s Ballroom. It aspires to reach people who might not imagine themselves in a museum.The aesthetic of the building must further these many goals. Even the exterior of the design extends out above the sidewalk, as though to touch the city around it. With one cultural foot on Route 66 and the other on Main Street, OKPOP will highlight the journeyman’s struggle and the thrill of making it big—the grit and glitz of life in the arts. The team found inspiration in a gold Fender Stratocaster custom made for Bob Wills’ guitarist Eldon Shamblin, the tool and companion of musicians the world over. The guitar encouraged the project’s gold color palate.The timelessness and flexibility of the space will allow the Historical Society to invest the taxpayer money wisely. Overland was also able to help the client consider how sustainable building practice might stretch each dollar further integrating systemic solutions to operate the building energy efficiently while developing spaces that will be uniquely OKPOP to share with the community.