Garis Gallery of the American West
“The Garis Gallery of the American West is the most concise snapshot of our western art as seen from an Oklahoma perspective that exists anywhere,” said Ken Davenport, owner of the Arkansas Art Gallery in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“This should be the first stop of a student of western art in the exploration of the Chisholm Trail, Western and Native American Art. From Duncan, you can go on to Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Fort Worth, Denver and Santa Fe.”
Jim and Diane Garis shared a love of art and enjoyed seeing the success of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center and its expanding programs. Having the desire to share their art with the people of southwestern Oklahoma, housing the gallery in the Heritage Center seemed the perfect fit.
Jim Garis served as the Heritage Center’s board president before his death, February, 2007. His idea for an art gallery was in the planning stages for five years.
“Firmly believing in Tom McCasland, Jr.’s original dream of a museum focusing on Duncan’s historic link to the Chisholm Trail, we are adding a new dimension… one that will allow people to see their heritage from a different perspective,” Jim said.
The Garis Gallery of the American West provides an intimate space for an exceptional collection of Western Art that includes paintings, drawings, watercolors and sculptures (bronzes, resins and alabaster).
Designed by Museum Arts of Dallas, Texas, with subtle western accents, the gallery provides a complimentary setting for the permanent collection. The use of earth colored walls and stained wood trim was inspired by the mud brick construction employed by the early Oklahoma settlers.
The gallery floor plan and the arrangement of the interior walls encourage freedom of movement and yet provide enough space for visitors to pause and reflect. Designed as a maze, the 2,300 square-foot addition is lit with a custom-designed Solux lighting system, providing exceptional light clarity for the dramatic staging of this incredible art collection.
The permanent display of the bronze maquette of Paul Moore’s impressive statue “On the Chisholm Trail” graces the front lawn of the Heritage Center.
The collection consists of many of the American West’s most well-known artists and includes local and regional artists of note. Works by Charles Russell, Frederic Remington, John Coleman, Allan Houser and others are featured.
According to Garis, the collection began with the purchase of one piece at an art show in Oklahoma City. It has grown with additional purchases from individuals, shows, and auctions to the present collection of over 300 pieces.
Artists are represented from all over the country. Some lived in or visited the “wild west” and others live in the West today.
The Garis family has said, “We are really excited about sharing our art with the community through the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center. This provides yet another facet to the Center which we have hoped will serve to further increase interest in the Center and promote tourism in Duncan.”
When the Gallery opened, Jim Garis explained, “This collection gives us a reference to our history and heritage and the way the West molded the character of its inhabitants. It gives us a chance to put ourselves in another place and time. Most of all it allows us to see, feel, and enjoy the beauty, pain, sorrow, and happiness of the great American West.”
Jim Garis’ vision for the gallery: “I believe that art tells stories that are open to interpretation by the viewer. The American West is the perfect subject matter since it is such an untamed and unique period. My family is proud to be able to share this experience with the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, all of southwestern Oklahoma and the thousands of guests from around the world who visit here each year.”
The Garis Gallery of the West opened its doors in 2005. Mr. Garis passed away in January, 2007. The collection continues to grow through private contributions from western and Native American art enthusiasts. Monetary donations are used for updates to the gallery and conservation of the collection.