I was twelve years old when I first visited the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Italian-Renaissance style mansion (the first mansion I had ever entered) and gardens impressed me then and continue to do so each time I return.
Oil tycoon Waite Phillips (1883-1964) and his wife Genevieve built Villa Philbrook on 25 acres in 1927. In 1938 they donated their Tulsa residence to the Tulsa community to:
create a cultural institution for housing, preserving, and displaying therein works of art, literature, relics and curios, including those representative of the native North American Peoples." --Waite and Genevieve Phillips
The Phillips would be pleased with the hard work that has taken place over generations to establish and enhance that vision.
What are three reasons to visit The Philbrook Museum of Art?
#1. The Art.
#2. The Gardens.
If you stood on the veranda where the lady in the yellow hat is standing in this snapshot and looked out over the gardens, you would see the East Formal Garden (shown above). The "stair step" fountain flows through the middle of the lawn.
The East Formal Garden is in the foreground of this photo. Below the balustrade is the Rock Garden, which you can't see in this picture. What you can see are the Informal Gardens with a pond followed by the Tempietto at the end of the view. To the right of the East Formal Garden, you can glimpse a fraction of the Pollinator Garden.
Even my amateur snapshots taken on a cloudy day show that a stroll in the gardens is worth your time. Indeed, in the years since my first visit at age twelve, The Philbrook has been able to lavish far more tender loving care on the grounds.
In addition to the gardens pictured here, you can visit The Philbrook's Westby Garden (near the new Kravis Wing opened in 1990), the Secret Garden, the South Formal Garden, and the Zarrow Garden. The Film Lawn is a favorite location for fans of classic films shown outdoors in the summer. Away from the formal gardens is the Edible Teaching Garden, which supplies some of its fresh produce to Kitchen 27, The Philbrook's onsite cafe. The "27" in Kitchen 27 honors the year the mansion was completed and the address of the museum, 2727 South Rockford Road.
The Informal Gardens hosted a profusion of colors during our visit. I can't name all of the plants, but I had fun taking their pictures.
Overcast skies didn't dull the vibrant hues of these blossoms.
A light Oklahoma breeze kept the outdoors pleasant on this humid September afternoon.
#3. Leadership and management savvy. The Philbrook is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The generous gift of Waite and Genevieve Phillips propelled The Philbrook toward the vision of its founding donors. However, nurturing, growing, and sustaining The Philbrook into today's world-class art museum is an arduous endeavor. The dedication of donors, volunteers, and staff is key, as well as collaboration with other organizations, paid memberships, and admission fees. Anyone keen to gain insight into making it all happen would do well to study the museum's modus operandi.
Are there more than three reasons to visit? Of course. And you can learn all about them at philbrook.org.
Where is the Philbrook Museum of Art?
I hope you'll have a chance to visit The Philbrook. In the meantime, best wishes and good reading!
1. Andrea Martin, "Phillips, Waite," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=PH009 (accessed October 4, 2019).
2. Philbrook Museum of Art, https://philbrook.org (accessed October 1, 2019).
3. Richard Schall, photo of Lynne Schall, September 2019. All other photos by Lynne Schall, copyright 2019.
4. Thomas E. Young, "Philbrook Museum of Art," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture (accessed October 1, 2019).
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Lynne Schall is the author of three novels: Women's Company - The Minerva Girls (2016), Cloud County Persuasion (2018), and Cloud County Harvest (November 2022). She and her family live in Kansas, USA.