The Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa was completed in 1929 and is widely considered an architectural masterpiece.
But the church has a controversy over who deserves credit for the design. An art exhibit at the Gardiner Gallery on the campus of Oklahoma State University, which begins Thursday and runs through Aug. 30, will delve into that.
The exhibit delves into the controversy surrounding Adah Robinson, a pioneer of art in Oklahoma, and Bruce Goff, who was one of her art students. Goff had become an apprentice at an architecture firm at 12 years old, and became a draftsman at the firm at 16. Goff was 21 when the church was being planned, and worked closely with Robinson, who oversaw much of the design of both the interior and exterior of the church.
Goff is credited by many as being the designer, and some claim Robinson was just an art teacher, although she was teaching architecture courses more than a decade before the church was being worked on.
‘That Damn Art Woman’ was named so because an architect at the firm would refer to Robinson that way, mainly due to the fact he didn’t like working with a woman. The exhibit features a trove of items, such as letters between those who were involved with the construction of the church, a ledger showing Robinson was paid for many different aspects of the design, newspaper articles showing different perceptions of who was credited and how that swayed toward Goff, as well as works of art done by both Robinson and Goff. Some works were donated to the Gardiner Gallery by the Oklahoma Historical Society, including paintings by Robinson that were placed in the Century Chest in 1913, buried underground, and opened in 2013.
Teresa Holder, director of the Gardiner Gallery, said she had been working on getting this exhibit to the gallery for about four years. She said the church itself has always maintained the fact that Robinson is the architect.
“I had a lot of…