U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo named artist in residence for Tulsa's new Bob Dylan Center

TULSA — A decade after returning to Oklahoma, U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo is taking on a new role in her hometown.

Harjo, 70, has been named the first artist in residence for the new Bob Dylan Center, due to open in Tulsa in spring.

“When Bob Dylan stepped forward and made his path of song making, poetry, and storytelling, a path that lit a generation, he opened a creative door for others to find their way to fresh invention and imagining. I am one of those who followed," Harjo said in a statement.

"My residency will allow this legacy to be extended to the community, to encourage and share creativity. I am honored to be part of this new venture.”

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Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Joy Harjo smiles at the Governor's Arts Awards for Excellence in the Arts at the Capitol, Tuesday, November 9, 2021.
Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Joy Harjo smiles at the Governor's Arts Awards for Excellence in the Arts at the Capitol, Tuesday, November 9, 2021.

A multifaceted Muscogee writer, musician and performer, Harjo started last September a rare third term as U.S. Poet Laureate, extending her tenure as the first Native American to serve as the country's official poet.

The Tulsa native also is the nation's first poet laureate from Oklahoma. The poet laureate typically serves a yearlong term that lasts from September to May.

Bob Dylan Center's grand opening scheduled for May

Located in the former Tulsa Paper Factory in the Tulsa Arts District, the Bob Dylan Center’s two-story façade features a mural of a 1966 photograph of Dylan, taken by renowned photographer Jerry Schatzberg. Housing permanent, temporary and traveling exhibitions, as well as the Bob Dylan Archive, the center will be a multifaceted venue readily accessible by artists, historians, musicologists, and the general public seeking a deeper comprehension of Dylan’s work.
Located in the former Tulsa Paper Factory in the Tulsa Arts District, the Bob Dylan Center’s two-story façade features a mural of a 1966 photograph of Dylan, taken by renowned photographer Jerry Schatzberg. Housing permanent, temporary and traveling exhibitions, as well as the Bob Dylan Archive, the center will be a multifaceted venue readily accessible by artists, historians, musicologists, and the general public seeking a deeper comprehension of Dylan’s work.

The Bob Dylan Center's highly anticipated grand opening is scheduled for May 10, the day after Harjo's 71st birthday. Details on the opening festivities are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Located in Tulsa's burgeoning arts district near the Woody Guthrie Center, the new attraction's centerpiece will be a permanent exhibit on the life and work of the icon. Over the course of his groundbreaking career, Dylan has sold more than 125 million records around the world, penned some of the most popular songs of the 20th century and received 11 Grammy Awards, the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In this Jan. 12, 2012, file photo, Bob Dylan performs in Los Angeles.
In this Jan. 12, 2012, file photo, Bob Dylan performs in Los Angeles.

Along with serving as the primary public venue for the more than 100,000 items in the Bob Dylan Archive, the center's mission is to cultivate conversations about the role of creativity in our lives through exhibitions, publications, performances and other public programs.

Designed by acclaimed architectural and exhibit design firm Olson Kundig, the center's collection will include handwritten lyric manuscripts, previously unreleased recordings and film performances, musical instruments, rare photographs, visual artworks, personal effects and other items spanning Dylan's influential 60-year career.

Both the Bob Dylan Center and Woody Guthrie Center operate under the auspices of the American Song Archives, a project of the George Kaiser Family Foundation. The foundation acquired Dylan's vast archives in 2016 and Guthrie's in 2010.

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American Song Archives Managing Director Steve Higgins said in a statement that the center's programs and exhibits will "explore the creative process and inspire the next generations of artists."

“As a poet, musician, playwright and author, Joy Harjo exemplifies artistry and brings light to the world through her work ... and we couldn’t be more honored that Joy is playing such an important role in helping us to fulfill our mission and establish our future legacy," he said.

Oklahoma Cultural Treasure is back home in Tulsa

Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Joy Harjo speaks at the Governor's Arts Awards for Excellence in the Arts at the Capitol, Tuesday, November 9, 2021.
Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Joy Harjo speaks at the Governor's Arts Awards for Excellence in the Arts at the Capitol, Tuesday, November 9, 2021.

Harjo has been named to a six-year appointment as the Bob Dylan's Center first artist in residence, according to a news release. At the center, she will present educational programs and live performances, along with curating special exhibitions.

Named an Oklahoma Cultural Treasure last fall, the trailblazing poet makes her home in the Tulsa Arts District, where the Bob Dylan Center is situated at 116 E Reconciliation Way.

"Growing up in Tulsa — I grew up off of Admiral and 71st between Sheridan and Memorial — there were no poets in our neighborhood," Harjo told The Oklahoman in a 2021 interview.

"There's no poets at career day because it's really not a career per se. Yes, you can make a quote-unquote career from it, but that's really not what it's about. Like any art, we're actually visioning and revisioning for cultural and intellectual growth."

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U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo receives the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure honor from Gov. Kevin Stitt at the Governor's Arts Awards for Excellence in the Arts at the Capitol, Tuesday, November 9, 2021.
U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo receives the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure honor from Gov. Kevin Stitt at the Governor's Arts Awards for Excellence in the Arts at the Capitol, Tuesday, November 9, 2021.

As a child, she was constantly drawing, so she applied to the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico. Attending high school there "saved my life and helped me with my direction," she said.

In response to Native empow­er­ment move­ments, Har­jo began writ­ing poet­ry as a mem­ber of the Uni­ver­si­ty of New Mexico’s Native stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion, the Kiva Club.

Along with writing nine books of poetry, two memoirs and many plays and children’s books, the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate has produced seven music albums. Harjo has received the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Although she has lived in several places over the years — from New Mexico and Hawaii to Arizona and California — Harjo moved back to Tulsa in 2011.

"It doesn't always happen that way, that you can come home ... and you can see what's happened is that my art has flourished," she said.

For more information on the Bob Dylan Center, go to https://bobdylancenter.com.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo named artist in residence for Bob Dylan Center