Without much notice, a massive bronze statue on a trailer was parked in between the Office of the Chiefs and the old superintendent’s house on the Osage Nation campus – just in time for the Osage sesquicentennial celebration that is set for Oct. 22.
The sculpture is familiar to many in a much more diminutive size: Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by John Free Sr. has long graced one of the pocket parks on Kihekah in downtown Pawhuska, and another one more recently was placed in the hotel lobby of the Osage Casino in Tulsa.
Alas, the stunning monumental-sized bronze is not to grace the Osage campus for long. In fact, it’s never even going to be unloaded from its trailer, said John Free Jr., who cast the sculpture at the Bronze Horse Foundry about three years ago for Hugh Pickens, a renaissance man from Ponca City who has invested heavily in Native American and other art along with his now-deceased wife, Dr. S.J. Pickens, who was a psychiatrist, civil rights warrior, advocate for the arts, and collector of turquoise and other Native American jewelry.
Free said that the sculpture will remain where it is on the trailer (which has a hitch lock, so don’t get any crazy ideas) until the end of the year, after which it will be moved to Woolaroc, where it will remain for a few months as part of an exhibit for that museum’s new Pickens Gallery. After that, it is to travel to Tonkawa to be displayed at the just-opened Pickens Learning Commons at Northern Oklahoma College, where it will join a 120-foot mural by Osage artist Yatika Fields that was also commissioned by Pickens and donated to the school.
Pickens could not be reached on Oct. 18, but he is an avid collector of art who is building the Pickens Museum on U.S. 60 west of his hometown of Ponca City and now displays works of art at NOC, Woolaroc and Ponca City’s City Central.
Pickens is a 1967 graduate of Ponca City High School whose biography reads like no other. He describes himself as a physicist who has explored for oil in the Amazon, commissioned microwave communications systems across that quarter of Saudi Arabia that is overwhelmingly bereft of people and build satellite control systems for the Goddard Space Flight Center. Since moving home to Ponca in 2005, he has been active in community theater, writing, backroading in his 1940 Hudson Country Club 8 hotrod, watching old movies, and mowing his expansive, 7-acre lawn.
The Osage Nation Sesquicentennial celebration is scheduled to take place on campus Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, starting at 9 a.m. and ending with fireworks from 9:30-10:30 p.m.
Highlights of the day include a reading for “Coyote and the Bear” at 10:15 a.m., a puppetry performance of the Osage creation story at 11:15 a.m., a performance of Wahzhazhe: An Osage Ballet at 1 p.m. and afternoon and evening dances at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. A full schedule of events is available at https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/150