- Associated Press - Sunday, November 16, 2014

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - This year, Stillwater celebrates 125 years as an incorporated city. While the city holds events celebrating the anniversary, some residents are finding ways to leave their marks on the city in an artful and lasting manner.

The goal of these pioneers is to build a centralized arts district into the city, which is rife with artists and enthusiasts, but lacking in galleries and a cultural art identity, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1xfFn5m ) reported.

A first step was Oklahoma State University’s renovation of the old Postal Plaza into the first location of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art on Husband Street in the historic downtown area. Architects Rand Elliott and Associates reimagined the space into an avant garde teaching museum with aspects of the former post office still intact. The museum opened at the beginning of this year.

OSU recently announced plans for a new state-of-the-art performing arts center on campus, and there is talk of adding an on-campus art museum next to the performing arts center.

The city seems bent on upping its cultural ante.

“There’s also a renovation of the corridor between Oklahoma State and the downtown,” said Victoria Berry, the director of the OSU art museum. “We are working on some projects that hopefully will create pathways from the art museum to the new performing arts center that was just launched last week.”

Russ Teubner is one artsy local who is a little obsessed, by his own admission, with integrating the old and new in nearly all aspects of his life.

Take, for example, the building at W Seventh and Main he bought and renovated 20 years ago - Searcy’s Grocery in its younger days.

The building’s elderly facade now fronts Teubner’s high-tech computer software company, HostBridge Technology.

Among a multitude of other services, HostBridge helps old software play nice with new software.

“The buildings became a metaphor,” Teubner said. “That is, how do you take a very modern software company and insert it into centuries-old buildings?”

Recently, Teubner put the finishing touches on the building adjoining his office suites.

In its heyday, the building at 100 E Seventh was bustling with locals looking for entertainment at what was then called Aggie Theater. The floor still slopes downward, toward what once was a stage for vaudeville performers and later, a movie theater.

Today, the space is “Backstage,” an entertainment venue Teubner rents out for special occasions.

It’s Teubner’s imagination and attention to detail that make his projects successes. And it doesn’t hurt that Tuebner and wife Julie are avid art collectors with a collection that would make many an art aficionado green with envy.

“Backstage” is a work of art in itself with ambient lighting options, a kitchen for catering and a computer server room transformed into an art and wine cellar.

The most outstanding characteristics of the space are the Teubners’ five large Andy Warhol prints, all with cultural ties to Oklahoma.

“To tell the story of Oklahoma was to use these five images from artist Andy Warhol’s collection ‘Cowboys and Indians,’” Teubner said. “Geronimo died here, Annie Oakley performed here, Custer fought here, the Trail of Tears ended here, and of course, Teddy Roosevelt signed the state into existence.”

When well-known artist James Rosenquist’s exhibit at the museum of art opens this month, an opening night reception will be held at Backstage.

“It’s just the right venue. It’s symbiotic,” Berry said. “It’s very much about the arts. It’s kind of like that big city trip and when you go in there, it’s Stillwater, but it feels like New York.”

Teubner recently bought property across Main from his current digs, which he plans to renovate into a multipurpose space featuring a great restaurant on the first level.

“It has this ultra-cool basement that looks like gangsters could be buried down there. It could be a great speakeasy,” Teubner joked.

Berry said she hopes the city’s artistic overhaul will attract more art and music students to OSU, in addition to helping define the town as not just a college sports town, but a place people will want to visit for its cultural offerings. She said she hopes to see the area blossom into its own, similar to how the Paseo District in Oklahoma City and The Brady District in Tulsa have.

“In Oklahoma, there’s a certain flavor and character to the communities, so it makes it very interesting,” she said. “The Paseo District is going to be very different than The Brady District. I think Stillwater will keep its unique quality of a college town, and that’s significant.”


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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