OKC gets its 'deserved' new arts museum

— A 55-foot glass tower, crafted in brilliant hues of blue, yellow and green by artist Dale Chihuly, welcomes visitors to the new Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Lights illuminate the 2,400 hand-blown, colored glass components of the statue, which stands on a reflecting pool just inside the doors of the three-story building.

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AP Photo

The new Oklahoma City Art Museum is now open in the city's downtown. The museum opened Saturday after moving from its cramped quarters near a horse barn to the shiny new downtown digs next to City Hall.

The museum, which moved from cramped quarters near a horse barn to its new downtown home, opened Saturday within blocks of the newly opened Civic Center Music Hall, a botanical garden, a museum dedicated to the 1995 federal building bombing and the growing Bricktown entertainment district.

"The city deserves this," says Carolyn Hill, the museum's executive director. "A strong city needs a strong cultural center. An art museum is a critical part of that."

The museum's chief curator, Hardy Sloan George, said he hopes that moving the museum from the state fairgrounds to downtown will energize the local art scene in the same way that classical music lovers got a lift when the Oklahoma City Philharmonic moved to the Civic Center.

The orchestra moved downtown from a college theater in Midwest City last fall. Crowds and ticket sales have been increasing ever since.

Hill credits the city's Metropolitan Area Projects, or MAPS, with revitalizing downtown and providing stimulus for the move. City projects include the music hall, a new arena, a ballpark and a canal lined with shops and restaurants. MAPS was funded through a sales tax increase.

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