Sunday: Artist plans one more addition to Lacy Park mural
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Saturday, March 16, 2013
3/16/13 at 3:44 PM
At the aging Lacy Park Community Center, yellowing newspaper clippings reporting the triumphs of local and national black athletes are mounted in a display case.
Behind it is an empty basketball court and not far away is a weight room where a young man is seen working out.
Go around a corner and there is 61-year-old Felix Cole leaning in to inspect his work, an imposing mural that looks like it belongs in a museum and makes you want to pick up a history book.
“Everybody’s still intact,” Cole says.
The afternoon before returning to his home in Detroit, he’s taking his time walking alongside his mural, “The Black Experience,” taking inventory of its condition. He stops every few steps, perhaps to make a mental note to himself, and at other moments, to point out something to his adult niece.
Later she will tell him she’s spotted something that’s spilled on the painting.
“You see something?” Cole asks.
“Oh, that can happen,” Cole says dismissively. “I wouldn’t call it vandalism, though.”
His niece doesn’t quite agree.
When Cole was in town for his brother’s funeral last summer, he says, he was impressed with how well preserved the mural was. In the 10 years since he made his most recent addition to the work, no damage had been done to it.
At 750 or so square feet, the painting depicts 114 African Americans set in an unidentifiable yet recognizable place in history. Famous and less prominent men, women, boys, girls, people from Tulsa’s own history and Cole’s life. The far past and soon enough, the present.
At the end of the painting, where an old blues musician sits in reflection on a bench, Frank Wills, the black security guard who discovered the infamous Watergate break-in, stands young and unassuming.
“It’s the very last one,” says Cole, referring to Wills. “And I thought that I was through with it in 2002. But lo and behold. I never thought I’d see an African-American president in my lifetime.”
This fall, Cole will return to Tulsa to finish what will be the final phase of the “Black Experience,” which he began painting in 1974.
Cole will add the Obama family and at least a handful of other people, including Whitney Houston and Condoleezza Rice, as well as some contemporary lifestyles — since “nobody was talking on cell phones then.”
Read more in Sunday's World.
Felix Cole, a mural artist who was born and raised in Tulsa but now lives in Detroit, explains notables on the black history mural he began in the 1970s, at Lacy Park. He plans to finish work on the mural later this year. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World