Friday, May 14, 2021

George Kaiser, The Quiet Man Behind the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa

"I was young when I left home..."
The big story this week has been the announcement of a date for the opening next year of the Bob Dylan Center. News travels fast in Dylan circles, courtesy the many Dylan fan clubs on social media and our touchstone, Expecting Rain

This ArtNet News story expresses the sentiments of most: "For Dylanologists, the opening date of the Bob Dylan Center on May 10, 2022 may as well be Christmas: it could mark the first time the enigmatic musician’s most private possessions are made available to the public." 

That Rolling Stone would write it up was no surprise. Even the New York Times recognized it as newsworthy for its Arts section.

Yesterday's Pitchfork story by Eric Torres opens with a statement about the scale of the collection. "The Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma will contain over 100,000 artifacts spanning Dylan’s career." That is a collection that didn't just come together over night.

It's no wonder, then, that the museum has taken so many years to open. Simply sorting and cataloging a collection of that scale is monumental, let alone all the decisions with regard to how to decide who should have access to what or how to best display it all. 

When Dylan sold a 6000-piece collection of his own personal items -- including notebooks, letters, photographs, audio and video material -- to the George Kaiser Family Foundation in 2016, I remember a few people asking why a Dylan museum would be in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's proximity to the Woody Guthrie Center answers that question. That George Kaiser has a home there is also a consideration. 


Someone recently shared with me an interesting factoid that surprised me. Until five years ago I never heard of George Kaiser. Unlike Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and the Oracle from Omaha, he's not been a household name or headline grabber. 

In 2008 he was listed third on BusinessWeek's top 50 American philanthropists, behind Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates. According to a recent Forbes story the George Kaiser Family Foundation has contributed more than a billion dollars to early childhood education, among other things.

For Woody Guthrie fans -- Bob Dylan among them -- Kaiser's foundation played an instrumental role in the funding of Tulsa's Woody Guthrie Center, which opened in 2013. He also facilitated, in conjunction with the University of Tulsa, the acquisition of the Bob Dylan archive, which is to be maintained by archivists at the university's Helmerich Center for American Research at the Gilcrease Museum. (1)

WANT TO LEARN MORE about the Bob Dylan Center?

LEARN MORE about the George Kaiser Family Foundation and "The Giving Pledge."

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(1) Source: Wikipedia

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks ED for this interesting article. It's very exciting. I hope I'll find a way to come to Tulsa and Hibbing as soon as I can.

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