Garis Gallery of the American West
Any visit to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center starts with “On the Chisholm Trail,” a life-size bronze sculpture by Oklahoma artist Paul Moore. This monumental cattle drive depiction is located in front of the museum and is available for viewing at any time.
Once inside the Center, you can visit the Garis Gallery of the American West, which houses a rip-roaring collection of western art by names you probably already know – like George Catlin, Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and Allan Houser.
You’ll also find more contemporary art by artists like Ramona Swift, John Coleman, Bill Clifton, Jerry Yarnell, Janet Loveless, Chad Payne, Tom Simonton, and many more.
In addition to our permanent collection, we host four shows by featured artists every year. The theme for 2021 is Native American Artists with works by Timothy Tate Nevaquaya, Skip Rowell, Joe Don Brave, and Jackie Blackhorse Tointigh. There is always something new to see in the Garis Gallery.
When the Gallery first opened, Ken Davenport, owner of Arkansas Art Gallery in Little Rock, Arkansas, said it was the most concise snapshot of western art as seen from an Oklahoma perspective that exists anywhere.
“This should be the first stop of a student of western art in exploring the Chisholm Trail, Western and Native American Art,” Davenport said. “From Duncan, you can go to Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Fort Worth, Denver, and Santa Fe.”
Founders and Leaders
Jim and Diane Garis shared a love of art and enjoyed seeing the success of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center with its ever-expanding programs. Planning and construction of the Gallery took five years, and it opened in 2005.
“Firmly believing in Tom McCasland Jr.’s original dream of a museum focusing on Duncan’s historical 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 Garis said.
Both Jim and Diane were excited to share their art collection of more than 300 pieces with the museum for Duncan’s community and to promote tourism.
When the Gallery opened, Jim Garis said, “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.”
As we approach 2021, more than 20 years since the facility first opened in 1998, local, national, and international visitors continue to find their way to the Heritage Center.
As for educational outreach, Leah Mulkey, education coordinator, said, “a goal of our education program for all students is to stimulate interest in the visual arts and create motivation to visit other museums and galleries.”
For many elementary students, several from rural areas throughout Oklahoma, the museum is their first lesson in art and western history.
“Education is a big part of our mission at the museum,” Mulkey said. “We want to create lifelong learners.”
The late Jim Garis’ vision for the Gallery was 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.”
There is always something new to see in the Garis Gallery. Recent renovations include adding a state of the art lighting system and a newly curated presentation that divides the Gallery into different rooms featuring different themes such as Oklahomans, Cowboys, Native Americans, and the early masters of Western Art.