Let’s Celebrate: America, Independence, and Art in Oklahoma
Nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress—which declared the Thirteen Colonies to be free and independent of England. Now, all across the country, Americans are making memories each year on this date with barbecues, fireworks, and star-spangled banners. For most Americans, this date has become more than a celebration of independence, but a holiday to gather with family and friends for a long weekend of community and entertainment.
In Oklahoma, Fourth of July celebrations were in full swing earlier this month, with festivities taking place all along the Arkansas River. The City of Jenks pulled out all the stops for party-goers, setting aside the day for festive food, food trucks, a multitude of shops, toys, games, and live music. The Oklahoma Aquarium offered a front-row view to watch the fireworks show from the riverfront in their backyard. In addition, the regular exhibits were made available to view before watching the fireworks.
What do art and this federal holiday have in common?
Art is everywhere, and it was certainly center stage in many of the Fourth of July festivities. Patriotic face paint, balloon animals, henna tattoos, and mesmerizing fire dancing were just a handful of the creative activities accessible along the riverwalk. The art and wine studio Pinot’s Palette invited the public to a free step-by-step painting lesson. Participants learned how to recreate a watercolor rendition of a city skyline utilizing the iconic colors: red, white, and blue. For finishing touches, the art pieces were given some colorful dapples just above the painting’s horizon—a playful representation of this holiday’s quintessential fireworks—and stamped with a joyous proclamation, ”Happy Fourth of July!”
And, of course, the fireworks are the most anticipated, grandiose, and—arguably,—artistic component of this holiday’s annual traditions. After performances finished and the sun was set, everyone was ready with lawn chairs and blankets, looking toward the night sky. The fireworks were enormous and vibrant, bursting together in various shapes and colors, and decorated a canvas of darkness with shimmering light.
Former American President and Founding Father John Adams predicted the importance of this historic day: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.” He continued, “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Whether it be the ephemeral beauty of a fireworks display, the more permanent patchwork of the American flag, or a simple painting on a canvas—art’s impact is everywhere and forever.
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Celebrating History and Celebrating Art
Budget Collector was excited to attend the Independence Day events to exhibit an amazing artwork by American artist Frank Duveneck, which is titled Study for “Guard of the Harem” and was completed around 1879. While abroad, the American artist was likely commissioned or inspired to create portraits based on a selection of the royal harem guards in the Ottoman Empire. Although this piece was likely created in Germany, it is currently available for viewing at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, CA.
Given the question of rating the piece, most festival attendees gave it a high rating of five out of five stars. Guests were then asked whether the artwork would be most suited for a museum, home, or office, or if they wouldn’t want to see this particular artwork in any context. People were very impressed with the painting and wanted to see it both in their homes and framed in a museum. It’s remarkable to see everyday people resonate with—and take away new meanings from—the works of the past. As we celebrate independence in our pasts, we can also celebrate the medium that art provides to express new and creative ideas far into our future.
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