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Officials at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) are preparing for the Art and Cultural Education Center dedication and art exhibit in honor of Charles Banks Wilson. The event will take place Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, from 4:30 – 6 p.m., inside Kah-Ne-You-Ah Hall on the campus of NEO A&M College. There will be a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, as well as a special exhibit of Wilson’s original artwork.

Blackburn is a native Oklahoman and has served as executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society since 1999. He joined the OHS in 1980, as editor of The Chronicles of Oklahoma, and became deputy director for agency operations in 1990. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Oklahoma State University. He is a steady source of historical information to the media, and he has appeared numerous times on the History Channel. He was instrumental in planning and building the Oklahoma History Center, a 215,000 square foot museum and research center with a budget of $61 million. Blackburn has served on numerous national and regional boards and committees, including the Western History Association, the Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians, the American Institute of Architects, and Leadership Oklahoma City.

The three panelists include: Amber Sharples, executive director of the Oklahoma Arts Council, Larry Foley, journalism professor from the University of Arkansas, and Ted Watts, a renowned artist and former student of Wilson at NEO. Sharples holds a bachelor of arts degree and a master of arts degree in art history from the University of Oklahoma. She also holds a graduate certificate in museum collections management and care from The George Washington University. Sharples joined the Oklahoma Arts Council staff in 2006, as visual arts director, after working as the public affairs and communications coordinator at the U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Culture in Mexico City. In 2011, she was named assistant director, before becoming executive director in May 2013. As executive director, Sharples works with the Oklahoma Arts Council board and staff to implement agency goals and objectives and responds to the needs of the state’s arts community through financial support, services and advocacy. She serves on various boards of agencies, commissions and nonprofits including the Capitol Preservation Commission, Arts Standards Committee, Friends of the Mansion, Mid-America Arts Alliance, Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, and the Governor’s Innovation Index Task Force.

Foley is a professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas.  He earned five Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and 13 Emmy nominations in writing, journalistic enterprise, history, cultural history, special program and community service. His University of Arkansas students have been awarded an additional six Emmys for films produced under Foley’s direction. Before coming to the U of A, Foley spent nine years at the Arkansas Educational Television. He is a former reporter, morning news anchor, assignment editor and producer for KATV Channel 7, Little Rock.  He produced Charles Banks Wilson: Portrait of an American Artist, which premiered in the fall of 2006, on Arkansas Educational Television Network and Oklahoma Educational Television Authority and was screened at Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa.  The film received the Mid-America Emmy Award for Best Cultural Documentary in 2007 and Best Documentary Short award at the Trail Dance Film Festival in 2008.

Watts is a renowned artist and former student of Charles Banks Wilson at NEO A&M College. Watts is the only artist alive to have painted art gallery portraits of every one of the Heisman Trophy winners and cover illustrations for three NCAA Basketball Championships ‘Final Four’ event program covers. Watts’ portfolio contains everything from logos, cartoons and drawings for stadium cups, T-shirts and postcards to elaborately detailed sports venue murals. During his forty-year professional career, he has completed more than 6,000 pieces of finished art. Among that number, Watts has done over 1,250 book, magazine, game program and media guide cover illustrations (including 65 national award winners as selected by College Sports Information Directors of America from 1973-2008), 1,500 plus display paintings and portraits, 600 posters and calendars and 95 limited edition art prints.

The gallery will be open Saturday, Aug.10 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. for those who were unable to attend the gallery dedication. “Charles Banks Wilson’s legacy will live on through the Art and Cultural Education Center named in his honor. He influenced many students while an instructor at NEO and his artistic contributions are unmatched,” said Jennifer Hessee, executive director of NEO Foundation, Inc. “The Center features a gallery to permanently showcase his work and provide access for our students and community to enjoy art exhibits from around the country.”

Future plans for the upstairs portion of Kah-Ne Hall will feature other NEO art instructors including, Kathryn Page, Dr. Nick Calcagno and Kirsten Couch. In addition to the Art and Cultural Education Center Dedication and Art Exhibit, the City of Miami is hosting a viewing of video documentaries featuring Wilson at on Friday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Coleman Theatre. There will be live performing artists on Saturday, Aug. 10. For ticket prices to the Coleman events, please call 918-540-2425.

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