Nathan L. Sheldon’s Remarks | Head of Casady School
What a beautiful day for us to gather together and celebrate the dedication of such a significant outdoor art sculpture. A sculpture by one of the worlds most celebrated contemporary public artists, Jaume Plensa. I would like to ask Father Charles Blizzard, Vicar of the Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor, to come up and provide our opening prayer.
A little less than a year ago, I received a phone call from an anonymous donor who wanted to provide an outdoor sculpture to the School. Something that he believed not only would fit, but also belonged at Casady School. We talked a bit about the piece, and when I hung up I began to research just exactly who Jaume Plensa is and what he is all about. What I found was simply amazing; his works are celebrated around the world. From Rio to Calgary; from New York to Tokyo; from Singapore to Moscow; and now Casady School in Oklahoma City will have the honor of one of Jaume Plensa’s pieces.
What our donor understood, and what I have come to understand and appreciate, is that Jaume promotes diversity and knowledge through his art. These are two principals that also serve as the foundation upon which Episcopal schools in general are built. We see this sculpture, containing eight different languages from around the world, and we are reminded of the importance of living as one. As a community, we are made up of many different people with different ideas. It is only when we embrace each other’s similarities and celebrate our differences that we become as one. As the artist himself likes to say, “It is a celebration of life and how we can be when we are together and how we are nothing if we are not together.” What a beautiful reminder of our mission, “to educate the whole student… in mind, body, and spirit.”
One of the resources I was fortunate to have access to in my quest to understand the significance of this sculpture was right here in Oklahoma City. Michael Whittington leads the Oklahoma City Museum of Art as President and Chief Executive Officer. He is a staunch advocate for audience engagement and community outreach. In his tenure, since 2013, he has created a new audience-centered vision for the museum. Previously, he was Executive Director of the Monterey Museum of Art in Monterey, California, where he significantly expanded the permanent collection and led the creation and management of focused strategic direction and audience research. Prior to his tenure in California, Michael was Curator of Pre-Columbian and African Art at the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina, and served as an adjunct member of the Art Department faculty at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Michael Whittington has received numerous awards and recognitions, including an Outstanding Achievement Award from the College of Art and Art History at the University of Florida. He was honored with a Gold Muse Award from the American Alliance of Museums, and in November, Michael was a co-moderator at the exhibition and forum titled, “Meeting the West: Exhibitions from American Museums,” in Nanjing, China.
Michael is a member at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and is also a member of the Oklahoma City Rotary Club 29. He serves on the boards of the Boathouse Foundation, the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, the Business District Advisory Board, and Painted Sky Opera.
Michael can now add to this long list of accomplishments the assistance of helping our School find just the right location to house Jaume’s creation. I appreciate the many hours he has spent with me and value our friendship that has grown out of this project.
It is my honor to welcome Michael Whittington to talk a bit about the artist, Jaume Plensa… Michael… Thank you Michael.
Clearly, Jaume manages to take everyone, even those who ordinarily do not engage in art, to get them involved in the beauty of dreaming. Dreaming such that each of us finds our own purpose and meaning within the sculpture. As Oklahoma City continues to elevate itself as a top destination city for businesses it is fitting to have Casady School, a premier Independent Liberal Arts Episcopal Day School, house such a significant Contemporary outdoor art display.
I would like to take a brief moment acknowledge a few additional people involved in the installation of the sculpture as well as today’s event:
First: Scott Howard, principal with Howard Site Design did a wonderful job designing the hardscape and landscape to compliment the sculpture. Thank you, Scott.
Second: Matt Thomas, Owner of Smith and Pickel construction for taking Scott’s ideas and putting them into reality so that we end up with this beautiful space. Thank you, Matt.
Third: Jessica Snook and the development team as well as Betty Jane Garrett and her communications group for helping to organize and communicate all the details of today’s events. I am very proud of our team. Thank you.
Since May of 2007 Casady School has been blessed with an engaged and active Bishop. Bishop Edward Konieczny has, since his installation as the fifth Bishop, actively grown the Episcopal identity in Oklahoma. Additionally, he is a staunch supporter of Diocesan School’s in Oklahoma. We are so fortunate to have Bishop Ed’s support in time, talent and treasure, and I would ask that he come up to close our dedication with a dedication prayer.
This concludes our dedication and I would like to invite everyone to join us in the Dr. John W. Records Science/Art facility for a celebration reception.
The Rev. Charles Blizzard, Vicar of the Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor
Michael Whittington, President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Edward J. Konieczny, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma