May 6, 2013
Oklahoma pop museum gets support from stars but lacks go-ahead from Legislature
By Michael McNutt
Oklahoma lawmakers would have to authorize a $42.5 million bond issue this year in order for the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture to open in 2017 in Tulsa, the director of the state’s historical society says.
Actress Mary Kay Place lent her support — and some of her movie wardrobe — to an effort to build a pop culture museum, while the head of the Oklahoma Historical Society urged lawmakers to authorize a bond issue for the project.
Bob Blackburn said Monday no additional state appropriations are needed to construct or operate the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa, but the Legislature would need to support a $42.5 million bond issue for the project to move forward.
He said he is concerned that a donation of land in the Brady Arts District for the OKPOP Museum and parking garage may be revoked if the bonds don't proceed.
“It’s critical,” he said. “If that donation were to fall through for that location, I’m not sure the business plan works. ... If we don’t do it this year, we’ll miss that opportunity.”
Blackburn made the comments after Place, a Tulsa native, talked with legislators in both the House of Representatives and Senate chambers.
Place, who graduated from Nathan Hale High School and the University of Tulsa, starred in the “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” TV series, the movie The Big Chill and the HBO series “Big Love.”
Place donated the cowboy hat and outfit she wore as would-be country and western star Loretta Haggers on the 1976-77 “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” TV series and a sweater from the 1983 movie The Big Chill.
She also appeared in the movies Being John Malkovich in 1999 and Sweet Home Alabama in 2002.
Singers Garth Brooks and Leon Russell and the family of singer Bob Wills earlier donated items to the museum.
Blackburn still faces a challenge of getting lawmakers — especially Republican members in the GOP-controlled House who oppose any additional bond issues for state projects — to support a bond issue.
“On the Senate side … they’ve been saying they’re willing to consider that,” Blackburn said. “We have not heard the same thing from the House.”
House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said Monday he didn’t know of any plans to revive a proposed bond issue.
“I haven't seen any specific legislation,” he said. “I’d be happy to take a look.”
Blackburn, whose agency would manage the museum, said it would produce about $2.1 million in annual revenues to pay for its operating costs.
Revenue would come from admissions, gift shop sales, special events and revenue from its 650-space parking garage.