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Oklahoma City’s AICCM Reaching for Hope With Inaugural Installation

A massive metal sculpture, 'Touch to Above,' has been unveiled on the grounds of Oklahoma City's American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.

There was an air of optimism on the campus of Oklahoma City’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM) on June 25. Staff and guests were still smiling over the signing of Oklahoma’s House Bill 2237, which will give the museum a $25 million bond to continue construction. The good feelings continued throughout the morning and afternoon upon the unveiling of the first permanent outdoor installation, “Touch to Above,” a stainless steel structure created by Cherokee father-and-son Bill Glass, Jr. and Demos Glass.

“It truly embodies what the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum hopes to motivate in the future--outstanding Native artists passing from one generation to next, passing on knowledge and traditional arts and influencing contemporary artistic expression,” said Stacey Halfmoon, Caddo, who serves as the museum’s director of community outreach and museum programs.

Photo by Maya Torralba

From left: Bill Glass, Jr; Chief Larry Roman Nose of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes; Demos Glass; Oklahoma State Representative and Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, Sr.

For Demos Glass, the symbolism embodied in the hand reaching above is “a good, positive image for a good, positive energy,” he said. “It’s a good symbol to represent the Upper Realm. It’s where the Creator resides.” For his father, Bill Glass, Jr., the strength of the piece lies in the creation of an understanding between cultures.

“Once people can begin to understand other cultures, society in general starts to benefit from learning about each other’s cultures,” said Glass. “We’re able to realize where that person’s coming from with their ideas. I think it helps the whole world.”

Bill Glass speaks at the unveiling of 'Touch to Above' as son Demos Glass looks on. Photo by Brian Daffron.

The Glass family has a long resume between them. The elder Glass studied ceramics at Central State University (now the University of Central Oklahoma) in Edmond, Okla., and the Institute of American Indian Arts. The younger Glass attended Southern Illinois University on a wrestling scholarship, where he studied fine arts. Last year, the father-and-son team won the Grand Prize at the Trail of Tears Art Show for their work “Warriors Doorway.”

Getting “Touch to Above” on the AICCM grounds was a several-year effort. A selection committee contacted several Native artists with experience creating public art. After establishing needed criteria, the museum staff gave potential artists a “hard hat” tour of the construction site upon which to draw their ideas. It was then narrowed down to six artists, who then presented a concept to the board. The Glass family was then selected where, upon completion, “Touch to Above” stayed in storage for five years at their studio in Locust Grove, Oklahoma. Now, it has found its rightful home.

Demos Glass. Photo by Brian Daffron.

“We knew this would be a piece that would be at the entryway,” said Shoshana Wasserman, Thlopthlocco Creek Tribal Town, who serves as the AICCM director of communications and cultural tourism. “We wanted it to be a piece where people of all different backgrounds could come here and, in their own special way, have a moment to stop, meditate and offer their own meditation or prayer as they began the experience or as they left.”

No additional art installations are scheduled for AICCM in the near future. Instead, the museum staff is awaiting the next phase of construction, with an open-ended completion date scheduled for 2017. Within the Oklahoma bill that approved the bond was the stipulation that control of the museum would transfer to the city of Oklahoma City upon completion. However, the OKC city council would have to approve this transfer after a study and vote took place. According to Wasserman, this could take up to four months.

Wasserman also said that, pending approval by Oklahoma City’s elected municipal officials, a transfer to Oklahoma City would not lead to a change in content.

In addition to the permanent installation of 'Touch to Above,' four mixed media sculptures by Demos and Bill Glass, Jr. representing the four elements were on display at the exhibit. Above is 'Earth,' made of ceramic, acrylic and stainless steel. Photo by Brian Daffron.

'Fire,' by Bill and Demos Glass. Ceramic, acrylic and stainless steel. Photo by Brian Daffron.

'Water,' by Bill and Demos Glass. Ceramic, acrylic and stainless steel. Photo by Brian Daffron.

'Wind,' by Bill and Demos Glass. Ceramic, acrylic and stainless steel. Photo by Brian Daffron.