Consider these two separate slices of life that will be explained later.
Chicago 1995: A summer exhibit of 159 works by the great impressionist painter, Claude Monet, go on exhibit in the Art Institute of Chicago.
For four months, the art museum is packed with almost 700,000 visitors. The highly successful exhibition was dubbed “Monet Madness” since an exhibit like this had never been compiled.
The show brought collections of Monet’s work from all over the world to be shown in one place for this show.
Crowds not only flocked to the exhibit, but also spilled over to Michigan Avenue’s Marshall Fields Department Store. And, yes, art fans spent money at Marshall Fields.
Louisville 1992: A tour bus leaves Oklahoma for the Kentucky Derby. The full bus makes planned stops at Springfield’s Bass Pro Shop and a winery in St. James, Mo.
While the final destination was Churchill Downs and the world’s most famous horse race, the tour got to spend some of its travel money at Bass Pro Shop and the small winery.
Now, what has all this got to do with Wagoner, Oklahoma?
City officials hope to borrow the same ideas that made Chicago and places in Missouri some extra sales tax money with a plan for Wagoner.
The City of Wagoner has signed a three-year lease agreement with country music’s manager to the stars, Jim Halsey, to display 200 priceless music items. The memorabilia will be displayed in the Wagoner City Historical Museum in the coming months.
The lease agreement was passed by the city council in June by a 7-1 vote. It will cost the city $25,000 a year.
However, the lease cost can and will be lowered considerably by applying for a number of grant and aid programs that are available for just such exhibits.
In addition, the Wagoner City Historical Museum will get a complete renovation for not only the Halsey exhibit, but also future projects. The room, ceiling and carpeting will be upgraded at a cost budgeted at around $60,000, according to the latest city budget.
The big picture is to harness the same excitement that the Institute of Art had with its blockbuster exhibit with one about country music’s past and present stars.
In addition, Wagoner hopes to become one of those tour stop towns for buses. Tours could stop for a couple of hours, see the Halsey exhibit, see Wagoner’s history, maybe buy a t-shirt and have lunch at a downtown eatery.
Wagoner could then become a go-to destination and not just a go-through place on a map. Again, with the purpose of generating more city revenue.
The Monet exhibition was made possible by other cooperating museums. Wagoner hopes to join that kind of group and make the Halsey collection the first of many that will attract visitors.
“Someday, we could say ‘Wagoner: A Smithsonian City,’” said Mayor Albert Jones. “We could be affiliated for other exhibits from other (museum) members. That’s the long-term goal.”
Halsey’s collection is not the only thing he’s giving. Halsey’s decades-long marketing experience comes with the items and the City of Wagoner has already picked up valuable ideas from him.
Halsey has contacts with the Oklahoma History Center that can open other doors the City of Wagoner to use.
The city, in conjunction with the Oklahoma History Center, could use the Wagoner City Historical Museum for school curriculum on Wagoner’s rich history.
It could be developed for different grade levels and the renovated Wagoner museum could be a focal point for that package for the schools.
One doesn’t have to look far to see the renovation of a nearby museum to know it attracts new visitors. The Museum Broken Arrow is a prime example.
The BA history used to be housed in a Quonset hut before a three-story building was constructed in the Downtown Rose District.
The second story houses all the details of BA’s past while the main floor is for offices and a room for rotating exhibits on various subjects.
Since BA is a Smithsonian City, it was one of a couple of Oklahoma towns that played host to the Smithsonian’s “How We Work” traveling exhibit a couple of years ago.
When asked about why a three-year lease, Mayor Jones wanted to give the exhibit time for people to travel from far and wide to see it.
“It gives it a fair amount of time to succeed,” he said.
One of Halsey’s lessons of life has always been to inspire and fulfill dreams. He is hoping that his partnership with the City of Wagoner and the Wagoner City Historical Museum will create a spark in someone to pursue a career in the music industry.