How does it feel? 12 highlights of the new Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa

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The Bob Dylan Center opens to the public Tuesday in Tulsa, Okla.

Steven Jenkins, director of the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, talks about the grand opening

Nathan J. Fish of Oklahoma

TULSA — How does it feel to enter the Bob Dylan Center?

It’s not like you’re looking for something to watch and listen to, that’s for sure.

Unlike the lyrics of the legendary singer-songwriter’s 1965 classic “Like a Rolling Stone,” Dylan’s vast archives now have a home in Tulsa’s burgeoning arts district.

Located in the former Tulsa paper mill, the 29,000-square-foot Bob Dylan Center, which opened to the public May 10, is the primary public venue for the Bob Dylan Archive’s extensive collection that includes rare photographs, memorabilia, effects personal and other items. spanning the Nobel Laureate’s influential 60-year career.

“I have always been so fascinated by the man and his work. Here, we have the opportunity to look at him so deeply and then also bring the works, the voices, of other curators, other artists (for) a rich dialogue,” said the director of the Bob Dylan Center, Steven Jenkins, to The Oklahoman.

Acquired by the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation in 2016, the Bob Dylan Archive consists of more than 100,000 items spanning decades. Although the center displays a fraction of the collection at any one time, that meant thousands of objects were on view on May 7 during the VIP grand opening weekend.

“(Dylan) liked the people he met at the George Kaiser Family Foundation and felt they could be trusted to properly manage this material,” Jenkins said.

“Dylan also felt that Tulsa was the right place… He liked the atmosphere of the city.”

Whether you’re going in the “morning jingle jingle” or shortly before “night falls from the sky,” here are 12 highlights to explore at the new Bob Dylan Center:

1. Walk through the door that Bob Dylan made

Just steps from the gates, visitors to the Bob Dylan Center pass through the Jenny Norton and Bob Ramsey Gate, a 16-foot-tall iron gate depicting a series of wheels and gears.

The front door was designed and built by Dylan last year at his Black Buffalo Artworks studio. The singer-songwriter grew up in the iron country of Hibbing, Minnesota, so the iron gate is a fitting start to the Bob Dylan Center’s journey.

The door isn’t the multi-talented musician’s only visual artwork: a second-floor gallery displays a 2012 series of his pastel-on-paper portraits, as well as an “Untitled” oil-on-canvas from 1968.

2. The legend points the way to an immersive cinematic space

A large-scale vintage photograph of Dylan points the way to the center’s first gallery, an immersive and innovative space designed to showcase an 18-minute biography directed by respected Dylan chronicler Jennifer Lebeau. Pages of lyrics that seem to fly out of a piano and typewriter make up a series of screens showing the film.

“We don’t want to assume that everyone who walks in is an expert on Dylan; that’s a rarefied crowd,” Jenkins said. “This should be, and should be, accessible to anyone who has some level of knowledge, or lack thereof, about the figure at the center of all of this.”

The film emphasizes the influence on Dylan of legendary Oklahoma singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, whose own center is down the block.

3. Hits keep coming at ‘The Columbia Records Gallery’

Encompassing much of the center’s first floor, “The Columbia Records Gallery” rotates as an interactive timeline of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s life and career. Be sure to pick up an audio tour guide at reception to play the plethora of audio and video clips that dot the timeline.

Featured among many photos, newspaper clippings and album covers are treasures like the leather jacket Dylan wore to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where he became famous for electricity, along with quirky memorabilia like the reproduced contents of the wallet. of the musician circa 1966, including contact information for Otis Redding and Johnny Cash.

Using handwritten lyric sheets, telegrams, and instruments, the gallery dives deep into the minstrel’s seminal songs “Chimes of Freedom,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Jokerman,” “Not Dark Yet,” “Tangled Up In Blue” and “The Man in Me”.

“‘The Man in Me,’ a kind of deep album cut of ‘New Morning,’ appears 30 years later on ‘The Big Lebowski’ soundtrack, and it’s a fun follow-up to the life and afterlife of a song. But give us one a few months, maybe six, and you’ll see half a dozen different songs that we have equally rich and relevant material from the archive to help illustrate,” Jenkins said.

4. No rooms needed for virtual jukebox

Grammy winner Elvis Costello, who performed at Cain’s Ballroom during the Grand Opening VIP weekend, curated “Perspectives Jukebox Experience.”

“It’s a very rare thing and a very, very great honor to be asked to be involved,” Costello said from the ballroom stage, calling the new center “a beautiful thing.”

“Everyone in this room could probably think of 150 different songs to tell the story. But many a dark night has been kept at bay by our esteemed Nobel Laureate, and many truths have been told.”

A virtual jukebox that simulates the mechanism of the real thing, the first-floor experience lets visitors listen to famous songs and obscure tracks by Dylan and “related artists” like Ralph Stanley, Buddy Holly, Roseanne Cash and many more.

5. Enter the listening booths to hear the icon “influences”

Modeled after the listening booths once found in many record stores, the two “Influences” booths on the first floor provide insight into some of the musicians who inspired Dylan, from Joan Baez and Lotte Lenya to Hank Williams and Little Richard.

6. The center takes visitors to The Church Studio

Tucked away in a corner of the first floor, “The Church Studio Control Room” invites visitors to hands-on experience mixing a rotating selection of Dylan recordings. The first two are “I Want You,” from his 1966 album “Blonde on Blonde,” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” from Dylan’s soundtrack to the 1973 film “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.”

Inspired and sponsored by Tulsa’s legendary and newly remodeled Church Studio, the exhibit also shares stories behind the creation of Dylan songs like “Mississippi” and “Like A Rolling Stone.”

7. Reading corner packed with selections from Joy Harjo

The cozy reading nook at the foot of the stairs leading to the second floor features an eclectic selection of books curated by Tulsan native and former American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. The center’s inaugural artist-in-residence, the Muscogee poet, writer and musician, has chosen not only the expected tomes on Dylan, but also biographies of other musicians, art volumes, literary classics and children’s books.

8. Box from 1854 packed in ‘The Gift’

One of the most unexpected sights downtown: Shaker painter Hannah Cohoon’s 1854 rendering of “A Bower of Mulberry Trees” at the top of the stairs to the second floor.

Curated by Lewis Hyde, author of “The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World”, the small exhibition “The Gift” invites people to reflect “What happens when we consider works of art as gifts and not as merchandise? ” Cohoon’s mulberry trees are an example of Shaker’s gift drawings, considered literal translations of a spiritual experience, vision, or directive.

9. Photos immortalize superstars

Designed by acclaimed Seattle-based architecture and exhibition design firm Olson Kundig, the center’s two-story façade features a mural of a 1966 photo of Dylan, taken by renowned photographer Jerry Schatzberg.

So it’s fitting that the “Jerry Schatzberg: 25th & Park” exhibit is the inaugural exhibit on the second floor of the downtown Parker Brothers Creators Gallery.

Along with large-scale reproductions, contact sheets and props from Schatzberg’s successful photo shoots with Dylan, the exhibit includes his striking 1960s images of Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and more.

10. ‘Precious Memories’ on a wall

In the 1980s, Dylan became one of the many musicians to cover the anthem “Precious Memories,” and those are the ones lining the wall of the unmissable “Earl Minnis Gallery.”

The second floor wall display cases are packed with all manner of ephemera and memorabilia, from the actual instrument that inspired Dylan’s iconic tune “Mr. Tambourine Man” to a selection of greeting cards that fans sent after the accident. musician’s motorcycle ride in 1966. (Oklahoma music fans should keep an eye out for a Steve Ripley exhibit and the “Shot of Love Tour.”)

Each of the 90 or so objects is accompanied by a detailed description, as well as audio or video, so please take the time to peruse this gallery, which Jenkins says will be updated frequently with different items from the files.

11. Watch a show on the big screen

Also on the second floor, the 55-seat Darby Family Screening Room houses the center’s film and video schedule. The initial offering is a 45-minute playlist ranging from Dylan’s version of “Train of Love” on 1999’s “An All-Star Tribute to Johnny Cash” to his version of “Once Upon a Time” from the 2016 “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90”. Several of the nine selections that are shown in the inaugural poster of the projection room are unpublished.

12. The archive reading room is exclusively for academics

Visitors to the Bob Dylan Center can only look through the glass doors of the second-floor Douglas and Anne Brinkley Archive Reading Room. The center’s more than 5,000-square-foot archive area is open by appointment only and is designated for scholarly study. Think of it as the equivalent of the green room backstage at a Dylan concert.

Bob Dylan Center

Regular hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Where: 116 E Reconciliation Trail, Tulsa.

Admission: $12 for adults; $10 for seniors (55 and older), veterans, and students (18 and older with ID); and free for children (under 17) and teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Tickets and information: