Go big or go home. Ultimately, that is the message behind a new sculpture on Route 66. In fact, its installation is a part of a larger effort to increase economic development projects along the historic highway.
The “Route 66 Rising” sculpture was unveiled Tuesday at its permanent home at the Avery Traffic Circle, at Admiral Place and Mingo Road. The sculpture is approximately 70 feet wide and 30 feet high.
“We are doing a lot of work on Route 66 right now, and that’s after decades of under-investment,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “But now I think everyone in the community has woken up to the opportunities that are presented by drawing people from all around the world.”
Shortly before the dedication, Bynum introduced speakers Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell and Joy Avery, granddaughter of Cyrus Avery — also known as “The Father of Route 66” — for whom the traffic circle has been named.
City councilors, county commissioners and other members of the community who have worked on developing Route 66 were also in attendance.
The intersection of Admiral Place and Mingo Road, where the statue has been placed, is on the original 1926-1932 alignment of Route 66.
During the planning stages of Route 66 as a national highway, Cyrus Avery lived in Tulsa and was an integral part of its construction. He was influential in bringing the highway, including a bridge across the Arkansas River, through Tulsa.
Among other transformational projects, Bynum said, Avery’s involvement with Route 66 is just one example of how his efforts helped develop the Tulsa area.
Pinnell said that over the next four years more plans to encourage tourism and economic development along the Route 66 corridor will be put into action.
“Route 66 is an economic development engine in the city of Tulsa,” Pinnell said. “Now is the time to take advantage of this great resource.”
With hopes of gaining more support for Route 66’s development, Pinnell announced that the inaugural Route 66 stakeholder convention will be held the first Tuesday in December.
Pinnell said a delegation will represent the city of Tulsa.
Plans for the Route 66 Rising sculpture, a Vision 2025 project, began two years ago with a $682,000 budget. Funds were collected from 2004 through 2016 through a Tulsa County sales tax that provided for regional economic development and capital improvements. Vision 2025 included $15 million for projects on Route 66 in Tulsa.
Beginning in 2017, the Vision Tulsa sales tax replaced Vision 2025 within the city limits.
Joy Avery shared some words about her grandfather’s influence on the famous highway. She read a poem that detailed her experience attending her first international Route 66 meeting in Springfield, Illinois.
“I learned from the people there how much they depended on Route 66,” Joy Avery said in a statement.
She cut the ribbon alongside those who have been working on the project.
Bynum said he wants other opportunities to be presented for tourists and residents by further developing Route 66 and allowing more people from around the world who want to experience it to have their experiences in Tulsa.
“This project shows the commitment that the citizens of Tulsa have to doing a better job of maximizing Route 66 as a tourist draw in our community,” Bynum said.
The artist who created the statue, Eric F. Garcia, was chosen with the approval of the Tulsa Arts Commission in 2016, said city spokeswoman Lara Weber. Garcia fabricated the sculpture in New Mexico and installed it in Tulsa from the fall of 2017 to early 2019.
In a statement, Garcia said his work was inspired by “a time when the Oklahoma dust bowl was a reminder of the hard times during the Depression and how the Old Route was a symbol of hope.”
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