Exploring Tulsa

29 10 2008
The Golden Driller

The Golden Driller

To say that I was not happy to be spending more than a week in Tulsa might just qualify for the understatement of the year.  But I came away from the conference feeling much different about Tulsa than I went in.  While it is not a city that I see myself coming back to at any point in the near future, I have to say that there was a lot to like about Tulsa and a few things to support the notion that the city is improving all the time.

We were fortunate enough to have a donor from the area who gave us a personal tour of the city which was immeasurably important in regards to my feelings and impression of the city as a whole.  He started our tour by asking us to list the things we thought of when they heard Tulsa. You got the much to be expected responses of oil, cowboys, and boring.  While I did see more than my fair share of cowboys over the week I have to admit that my preconceptions were quite far off base.

First and foremost, there is way more history there than I ever imagined.  Not just in terms of the oil boom but there is a very interesting civil rights history there as well.  I am in no way an architecture expert, but I do enjoy looking at interesting buildings and this city is full of them, even if I could never explain what style of architecture they are or anything of that nature.  There was also some of the more unusual landmarks including the “Praying Hands” at Oral Roberts University and the “Golden Driller”  in and around Tulsa.  While there were some great things about Tulsa the addition of 2,000 people seemed more than the city was able to handle and we saw some of the glaring deficiencies that exist there.

Tulsa desperately needs some kind of transportation infrastructure that does not rely solely on the

Cains Ballroom

Cain's Ballroom

dispersal highway that runs throughout the city.  There was zero retail downtown, the nearest pharmacy was 8 blocks away, there were no grocery stores to be seen, only one restaurant within 5 blocks, and one bar (the Cellar Dweller) that appeared more likely to have once been an underground casino as it was in the basement of a long, three story apartment building.  This was bad but matters were only complicated by the stunning lack of taxis and buses around the downtown area.

There was no better example of this than on Friday night when we walked from our hotel downtown for 20 minutes to the Brady Arts District for dinner and I can count the number of people we saw on one hand.  It was very clear that people were not exaggerating when they said that 60% of the land in Tulsa was “surface parking lots.”

The final night we had our closing party at Cain’s Ballroom which is in the Brady Arts District, another example of cities reusing warehouse space for galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs and really turning the area into a nightspot.

Most importantly Tulsa has another example of those street corner sculptures across the city.

Super Penguin

Super Penguin