GUIDE: Woody Guthrie Center Opening Weekend Events

by Natasha Ball


The time has finally come: A portion of the archives of legendary folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie—including the original, handwritten version of Guthrie’s landmark anthem, “This Land Is Your Land”—will be available for viewing at the grand opening of the Woody Guthrie Center in downtown Tulsa starting this weekend.

In 2012, The GRAMMY Museum teamed up with Woody Guthrie Publications to host a comprehensive centennial celebrations for Guthrie, The Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration. Designed to celebrate Guthrie’s body of work and impact on American music, the year-long celebration included a host of tribute concerts, educational curricula, lectures, conferences, a touring exhibition, and more. Part of the excitement was the announcement that Guthrie’s archives would be moving from New York to downtown Tulsa.

The museum, which opens at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, at 102 East Brady, measures 12,000 square feet and will feature state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits on Guthrie’s life, art, and creative legacy. It will also house Oklahoma’s only permanent exhibit on the Dust Bowl.

The Woody Guthrie Center’s permanent exhibit on Guthrie will feature selections of original items from the Woody Guthrie Archives, including Guthrie’s handwritten copy of “This Land Is Your Land,” along with lyrics, artwork, photographs, personal notebooks, letters, postcards, and some of his rare, never-before-seen musical instruments. The exhibit will also feature objects from some musicians who were influenced by Guthrie, including Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Pete Seeger, John Cohen, and Jimmy LaFave.

The Woody Guthrie Archives were brought to Tulsa by George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), who purchased them in 2011 from Woody Guthrie Publications in New York.

The Woody Guthrie Archives contains more than 10,000 items of primary and secondary source material, including more than 3,000 song lyrics, rare books by and about Guthrie, more than 700 pieces of artwork, letters and postcards, manuscripts and personal journals, more than 500 photographs, handwritten songbooks, Guthrie’s annotated record collection and personal papers detailing family matters, his World War II military service and musical career.

Also included in the Woody Guthrie Center is an exhibit that will include a five-minute excerpt of the documentary series by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, The Dust Bowl. The film chronicles the environmental catastrophe that, throughout the 1930s, destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains. The environmental disaster was the inspiration for many of Guthrie’s songs.

The center will feature an extensive outreach and education program that will take Guthrie’s story to schools across Oklahoma. There will be a series of concerts to bring his music and his legacy to those who visit the center. The center will be operated in conjunction with the Woody Guthrie Archives, along with the Los Angeles-based GRAMMY Museum.

The center’s hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. On the first Friday of each month, hours will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for youth ages 5–17. Children under 5 are admitted free.

Public events planned for Woody Guthrie Center

The grand opening of the Woody Guthrie Center will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, at the Center, 102 E. Brady in downtown Tulsa. The following grand-opening events are open to the public:

The Woody Guthrie Center Opening Concert
When: Saturday, April 27, 1-6 p.m.
Where: Guthrie Green
Performances by Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Jimmy LaFave, Red Dirt Rangers, and Desi & Cody

Guthrie Green Sunday Market
When: Sunday, April 28, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Guthrie Green
A market that aims to promote strong community and local business in the heart of the Brady Arts District by providing a space for Tulsans to congregate, shop, and enjoy downtown’s newest urban park. The Sunday Market offers food and goods ranging from locally grown produce to gourmet food trucks and handmade soaps. Stop by and see This Land Press. We will have our latest batch of summer apparel there.

Been Here and Gone: A Discussion with Photographer John Cohen
When: Sunday, April 28, 1-2 p.m.
Where: Woody Guthrie Center
A discussion about Cohen’s photography of Woody Guthrie and the American folk scene of the 1950s and 60s. Moderated by GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli.

Film Screening: Woody Guthrie Legacy
When: Sunday, April 28, 2:30-2:45 p.m.
Where: Woody Guthrie Center
A short documentary featuring Corey Harris, Ani DiFranco, U2, Bob Dylan, and others, discussing their connection to Guthrie.

“I Ain’t Dead Yet:” New Music from the Woody Guthrie Archives with Nora Guthrie
When: Sunday, April 28, 2:45-3:45 p.m.
Where: Woody Guthrie Center
A presentation focusing on new recordings being created by contemporary musicians using Woody’s previously unpublished lyrics. The one-hour, multimedia program features musical excerpts and examples of lyrics used by musicians Billy Bragg, Wilco, The Klezmatics, and others.

Book Signing with GRAMMY Museum’s Bob Santelli
When: Sunday, April 28, 4-5 p.m.
Where: Woody Guthrie Center
Bob Santelli, Executive Director at the GRAMMY Museum, will sign copies of his book, This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an American Folksong.

JD McPherson, Samantha Crain, Ramsay Midwood, & Ripple Green
When: Sunday, April 28, 1:30 p.m.
Where: Guthrie Green
A concert starring some of Oklahoma’s favorite artists. The line-up: Ripple Green, 1:30 p.m.; Ramsay Midwood, 2:30 p.m.; Samantha Crain, 3:45 p.m.; JD McPherson, 5:15 p.m. Free to attend.