The Charles Banks Wilson Art and Cultural Education Center features a beautiful art gallery with original work by Wilson on permanent display. Formally dedicated in August of 2013, the project was spearheaded by the NEO Development Foundation. Located in Kah-Ne Hall with the NEO Art Department, the Charles Banks Wilson Gallery is free and open to the public.
An icon among artists, Charles Banks Wilson began teaching night classes for NEO A&M College in 1943. He was later named Chair of the Art Department at NEO and remained a faculty member until 1962. Influenced by the American regionalist tradition, Wilson used his own surroundings as his subject matter. Often characterized by Oklahoma landscapes, his art commonly portrayed farmers, cowboys, miners, and Indians. Wilson passed away in 2013.
The NEO Development Foundation gladly accepts donations of artwork by Charles Banks Wilson. Donated artwork is put on display with a plaque recognizing the donor. If you choose to donate art, your gift is tax deductible.
For more information on the Charles Banks Wilson Gallery or to host an event in the center, please contact the NEO Development Foundation at 918-540-6250.
The Life of Charles Banks Wilson (1918-2013)
“I dedicated myself and my work to my neck of the woods, its people, landscape and history.”Charles Banks Wilson
Born in Springdale, Arkansas, in 1918, Charles Banks Wilson grew up in Miami, OK, where his artistic abilities became evident at an early age. In 1931 at the age of 13, he met and sketched Will Rogers on the stage of the Coleman Theatre in Miami, which was the basis of the painting, Will Rogers from Life. The painting was gifted by the artist to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and is now a part of the permanent collection.
Charles Banks Wilson attended the Art Institute of Chicago from 1936-1940. In 1941 he married Edna McKibben, a Quapaw, Eastern Shawnee and Peoria Indian from Miami, and moved to New York City where he produced his first lithograph for Associated American Artists and began drawings for the first of man books he would illustrate, including Robert L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Returning to Miami in 1943, Wilson established a permanent studio on Route 66 above his parents’ paint store. He began teaching night classes for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. He continued illustrating books and printing lithographs on his own press. He was later named Chair of the Art Department at NEO and remained a faculty member until 1962.
Influenced by the American regionalist tradition, Wilson used his own surroundings as his subject matter. Often characterized by Oklahoma landscapes, his art commonly portrayed farmers, cowboys, miners and Indians.
A renowned lithographer, Wilson’s work includes a collection of lithographs depicting an individual from every American Indian tribe in the state of Oklahoma. While the original drawings were given to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, they are published along with his own commentary in his book, Search for the Purebloods (1983).
In 1963, Wilson was commissioned by the Oklahoma Legislature to paint life-size portraits of famous Oklahomans. His works in the Oklahoma State Capitol include portraits of Angie Debo, Carl Albert, Jim Thorpe, Robert S. Kerr, Sequoyah, Will Rogers and Woodie Guthrie. Surrounding the Oklahoma Capitol rotunda are Wilson’s historic murals: Discovery and Exploration (1541-1820), Frontier Trade (1790-1830), Indian Immigration (1820-1885), and Non-Indian Settlement (1870-1906). The murals depict the history of the state and took six years to complete.
Today, Wilson’s work is owned by major museums including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and many private collections. Before his death on May 2, 2013, Charles Banks Wilson was honored as an Oklahoma Cultural Treasure in 2001, awarded the first Governor’s Act Award in 1975, inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1977 and inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2012.
The History of the NEO Art Department
The Art Department at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College was established in 1946 by renowned artist Charles Banks Wilson and was originally located in Cunningham Hall. Charles Banks Wilson taught classes in Art Structure, Freehand Drawing, Oil Painting, Elementary Principles of Art and History of Art. He continued to teach for more than 15 years and influenced such artists as Ted Watts, Ruthe Blalock Jones, Dr. Louis Ballard and Joe Beeler.
In 1963 Kathryn Paige was named head of the Art Department. In addition to the original course offerings, Advanced Art was offered to aspiring artists. During her tenure, the Art Department was relocated to the Fine Arts Building in the center of campus. Kathryn remained a dedicated faculty member until her retirement in 1979.
NEO’s Art Department flourished with the arrival of Dr. Nick Calcagno. An accomplished artist and sculptor, he was originally hired in 1968 to teach Humanities and English. Named head of the Art Department in 1979, he expanded the course offerings to include Materials and Techniques, Introduction to Pottery, Offset Lithography, Advertising Composition, Acrylics and Sculpture. Under Dr. Calcagno’s leadership, the Art Department was moved just south of campus on Central Street. Dr. Calcagno retired in 1992 but continued to teach classes over the next few years. He left a legacy on campus with the Norseman sculpture that proudly overlooks the library and murals in the Bruce G. Carter Student Union, which were reproduced on glass panels when the building underwent extensive renovations in 2010-2011.
Miami native Kirsten Couch took the helm of the NEO Art Department in 1994. Admired for her abstract art, Kirsten inspired many students. During her tenure, the devastating flood of 2007 forced the Art Department to be relocated back to the Fine Arts Building. Kirsten remained a faculty member until 2011.
Today, the NEO Art Department is led by Jessica Stout. An artist dedicated to community projects, Jessica worked tirelessly to restore Dr. Nick Calcagno’s historic mural in downtown Miami. Following a $3 million renovation, Kah-Ne Hall is now home to the Art Department. The building features the Charles Banks Wilson Art and Cultural Education Center with gallery space for art exhibits and a second floor with studios and classrooms dedicated to the Art Department.