Dudley Dickerson and Cleavon Little, both born and raised in Chickasha, will be featured artists in a new statewide museum called OKPOP, the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture.
“The rest of the world knows Cleavon Little and Dudley Dickerson as creative and celebrated actors,” said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, “but we know them as Oklahomans who expressed the rich cultural heritage of their family, their hometown and their native state.”
Dudley Dickerson was born in Chickasha in 1906, just one year before Oklahoma statehood. During his incredible career, which spanned from 1932 to 1959, Dickerson would appear in nearly 160 films. As an African-American, Dickerson was often racially stereotyped during his career in films, cast in roles such as the cook, orderly, or Pullman porter. Movie lovers will most likely remember him for his roles in the Three Stooges films.
Cleavon Little is probably best remembered for his role as Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles (1974). Despite his fame for irreverent comedy, he attended Julliard School on a full graduate scholarship and went on to train at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts . A noted stage performer, Little received a Tony Award for his portrayal of the title character in Purlie. Little was also seen in films Vanishing Point (1971), Greased Lightning (1977), and Fletch Lives (1989).
Other Chickasha notables include punk band Debris, who have donated items to the OKPOP Museum for display.
The OKPOP, located at the corner of Cincinnati and Archer in the Brady Arts District of downtown Tulsa , will present Oklahoma as a “crossroads of creativity” where cultural baggage brought from all parts of the globe has inspired artists to enter the world of movies, television, radio, popular literature, illustration, and music.
The Oklahoma Historical Society, which built and manages the Oklahoma History Center at the State Capitol as a public-private partnership, is requesting a $42.5 million bond issue from the State of Oklahoma .
“We think the people of Oklahoma will support a museum that celebrates the creative spirit of our native sons and daughters,” said Blackburn . “If we do not collect and share their stories, museums in Nashville , Cleveland , New York , and Hollywood will do it for us.”
The investment will generate additional dividends for the state. Construction will create 392 jobs over the four years it will take to design, build, and furnish the museum, according to Bob Ball of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce.
“Once the OKPOP is operational, the museum and parking garage will generate an additional $1.3 million a year just in sales tax revenue,” said Ball. “With an annual attendance of 100,000, the museum’s economic impact will exceed $19 million,” he adds.
Jeff Moore, director of the new museum, says the location in Tulsa is critical to the success of the museum. Investments topping $100 million have already been made in the Brady Arts District, where BOK has donated the land for the OKPOP Museum .
“First, we have to raise $40 million over the life of the bond issue and then we plan to generate enough income from visitors, special events, and fund raising to operate the museum without an annual appropriation,” Moore said. “The only location that allows us to do that is in the Brady Arts District of Tulsa not far from Route 66.”
If a bond issue is authorized this year, the 75,000 square foot museum will open in 2016.