American poet Joy Harjo named artist-in-residence at the Bob Dylan Center

TULSA— A decade after returning to Oklahoma, American poet Joy Harjo takes on a new role in his hometown.

Harjo, 70, was named the first artist-in-residence for the new Bob Dylan Center, slated to open in Tulsa in the spring.

“When Bob Dylan stepped forward and made his way into songwriting, poetry and storytelling, a path that enlightened a generation, he opened a creative doorway for others to find their way to a new invention and new imagination. I am among those who followed,” Harjo said in a statement.

“My residency will extend this legacy to the community, encouraging and sharing creativity. I am honored to be a part of this new endeavor.”

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A multifaceted Muscogee writer, musician and performer, Harjo began a rare third term as America’s Poet Laureate last September, extending his term as the first Native American to become the country’s poet laureate.

The Tulsa native is also Oklahoma’s first Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate typically serves a one-year term that lasts from September to May.

The inauguration of the Bob Dylan Center is scheduled for May

Located in the Old Tulsa Paper Mill in Tulsa's Arts District, the two-story facade of the Bob Dylan Center features a mural of a 1966 photograph of Dylan, taken by famed photographer Jerry Schatzberg.  Home to permanent, temporary and traveling exhibits, as well as the Bob Dylan Archive, the center will be a multi-faceted venue easily accessible to artists, historians, musicologists and the general public seeking a deeper understanding of Bob Dylan's work. Dylan.

The highly anticipated grand opening of the Bob Dylan Center 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 booming arts district near the Woody Guthrie Center, the centerpiece of the new attraction will be a permanent exhibit on the icon’s life and work. During his breakthrough career, Dylan sold over 125 million records worldwide, wrote some of the most popular songs of the 20th century, and received 11 Grammy Awards, the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. .

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

In addition to 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 exhibitions. other public programs.

Designed by renowned architecture and exhibition design firm Olson Kundig, the center’s collection will include handwritten lyrical manuscripts, never-before-seen film recordings and performances, musical instruments, rare photographs, visual artworks , personal effects and other items spanning Dylan’s 60-year influential career.

The Bob Dylan Center and the 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 extensive archive in 2016 and Guthrie’s in 2010.

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American Song Archives executive director Steve Higgins said in a statement that the center’s programs and exhibits “will explore the creative process and inspire next generations of artists.”

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

Oklahoma’s cultural treasure is back in Tulsa

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

Harjo has been named for six years as the first artist-in-residence of Bob Dylan’s Center, according to a press release. At the center, she will present educational programs and live performances, as well as curating special exhibitions.

Named Oklahoma’s Cultural Treasure last fall, the trailblazing poet makes its home in the Tulsa Arts District, where the Bob Dylan Center is located at 116 E Reconciliation Way.

“I grew up in Tulsa – I grew up in Admiral and 71st between Sheridan and Memorial – there were no poets in our neighborhood”, Harjo told The Oklahoman in a 2021 interview.

“There are no poets at career day because it’s really not a career in and of itself. Yes, you can make it a quote-unquote career, but that’s really not what it’s about. is about. Like all art, we vision and revise for culture and intellectual growth.”

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American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo receives the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Award from Governor Kevin Stitt during the Governor's Arts Awards for Excellence in the Arts at the Capitol on Tuesday, November 9, 2021.

As a child, she drew constantly, so she applied to the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico. Going to high school there “saved my life and helped me get my bearings,” 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.

In addition to writing nine books of poetry, two memoirs, and numerous plays and children’s books, the 23 The American Poet Laureate has produced seven music albums. Harjo has received the Ruth Lily Lifetime Achievement Award from the Poetry Foundation, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Although she’s lived in multiple 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 like that, that you can come home…and you can see what happened is that my art blossomed,” she said.

For more information on the Bob Dylan Center, visit

James C. Tibbs