BEN JOHNSON MEMORIAL: project fundraisers announced

Mike Erwin |

Fundraising activities are being planned in connection with the local Ben Johnson Memorial Project.

Work on the project has been under way for several months at the downtown center, where local artisans are working on a 1 1/4-scale monument to Johnson, the late World Champion roper and Academy Award-winning actor.

“Saddles, Spurs and Sculptures,” a chuckwagon dinner event, is to be held Saturday, Oct. 22, at the No. 1 Firehouse Art Center located behind Pawhuska City Hall.

In addition to the dinner, there will be an art and gear auction, music and dancing, organizers said. The fundraiser is scheduled to take place at the downtown art center, which is to be converted for the evening into “The Ol’ #1 Firehouse Tent Saloon,” the planners added.

Limited tickets to the event are available at #therealwest #benjohnson

In conjunction with the fundraising dinner, a classic Ben Johnson film — “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” — is scheduled for a local showing. The John Ford-directed movie stars Johnson’s longtime compadre, John Wayne. Released in 1949, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” won the 1950 Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

The downtown art center is generally open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can see the sculpture being produced as they learn about the project.

A “Native POP” art exhibit is to be held at the No. 1 Firehouse Art Center in November and December. According to organizers: “… it’s not your grandma’s Native American Art” that will be in the display of contemporary and pop works.

Currently on display at the former downtown firehouse are photographs, saddles and working sculptors that were used in creating the monumental design. The original bronze prototype — sculpted by renowned local artist John D. Free — shows Johnson on horseback roping a steer.

The Ben Johnson Memorial Project was launched in May by the Preserving Arts in the Osage organization.

Old Fire Station No. 1 Art Center in downtown Pawhuska. Originally constructed around 1920, the building Located adjacent to the historic Constantine Theater, the No. 1 Fire Station served as the local fire department’s headquarters until 1977.

Johnson was born at Foraker in 1918 and died April 8, 1996, in Mesa, Ariz. He is buried in the Pawhuska City Cemetery.

Free, a Pawhuska native, was born April 7, 1929, and died in 2014. Later this month, Woolaroc Museum will host a John D. Free Retrospective. The show is to run until the end of the year.

The Ben Johnson Memorial Project is sponsored by Preserving Arts in the Osage, a local non-profit supporting the arts, culture and tourism. Donations to the monument project are tax deductible. Contributions can be made at six donor levels: Cowpuncher ($25), Trail Boss ($50), Cattleman ($100), Rancher ($250), Cattle Baron ($500) and World Champion. Upper-level donors to the project will receive a bronze replica of the monument measuring 20 inches by 32 inches.

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