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Press Release

September 10, 2013

Larry O'Dell
Oklahoma Historical Society405-522-6676

A Journey with Programs to Celebrate a Milestone for Steinbeck

On October 4th and 5th the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture (OKPOP) will join the National Steinbeck Center to celebrate John Steinbeck’s iconic novel “The Grapes of Wrath.”  The Oklahoma History Center is one of the stops that retrace the journey that The Grapes of Wrath’s Joad family took along America’s Route 66 from Oklahoma westward toward California and their hopes of a better life.  

On Friday October 4th the OKPOP Museum will present a symposium at the Oklahoma History Center on Grapes of Wrath, Oklahoma, and Route 66. The doors will open at 6:00 p.m. and the program will begin at 7:00 p.m.  The program is free and the public is invited to attend.  The participants will be Dr. Bob Blackburn (Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society), Bob Santelli of the Grammy Museum, Susan Schillinglaw a Steinbeck scholar and Michael Wallis, Oklahoma’s expert on the history and significance of Route 66.

Michael Wallis is a historian and biographer of the American West.  Michael has published fifteen books, including “Route 66: The Mother Road,” the book credited with sparking the resurgence of interest in the highway. Michael has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize and was also a nominee for the National Book Award.  He was the Route 66  consulting  historian for the Disney/Pixar motion picture “Cars” and was the voice of the sheriff of Radiator Springs in that movie.

Dr. Bob L. Blackburn is Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.  He joined the OHS in 1979, and served in a variety of positions before being named to his current post in 1999.  He has published 19 books on the history of Oklahoma.  

Robert Santelli, Executive Director of the Grammy Museum, is also the author of more than a dozen books on American music. Two of his books, “Greetings from E Street (The Story of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band”) and “The Bob Dylan Scrapbook” made it to the New York Times bestseller list, while the others, including “The Big Book of Blues,” “American Roots Music,” and “Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues” garnered critical praise in such magazines as Rolling Stone and Billboard.

The afternoon of Saturday October 5th the Oklahoma State University Oral History Department’s Juliana Nykolaiszyn will conduct an Oral History workshop at the Oklahoma History Center in conjunction with the Steinbeck Center. The crew of the Steinbeck Center will also interview prominent Oklahomans on their reaction to the Grapes of Wrath.  That afternoon a car show featuring “depression era” automobiles will take place at the Oklahoma History Center.  

The trip along Route 66 through the Southwest will be led by a team of artists, including a playwright and a filmmaker, and a woodblock print artist who will be actively engaged in exploring modern day stories of the human experience of struggle and resilience.  Along the route, this team will lead programs and workshops at cultural arts and education organizations and will collect oral histories exploring the human capacity to carry on from individuals they meet on the road.

The three esteemed, award-winning artists –  playwright Octavio Solis, visual artist Patricia Wakida and filmmaker P.J. Palmer –  will join the National Steinbeck Center to retrace the journey that The Grapes of Wrath’s Joad family took along America’s Route 66.

Each artist comes from a unique background and creative discipline. They individually represent distinguished careers crafted through textured work that explores social, environmental and cultural themes. Along the Journey, they will collect oral histories from people they meet, gathering stories of triumph over hardship and the gallantry of modern America’s beautiful struggle. Their experiences will inform newly commissioned work to be presented at the 2014 Steinbeck Festival, May 2-4 at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA.

The artists will be blogging throughout the Journey, and will invite public collaboration and feedback through multiple social media channels.  The Oklahoma Historical Society, the OKPOP Museum and the National Steinbeck Center encourage schools to follow us on this Journey, and to respond to the artists’ thoughts and observations on the road.  This entire trip will be documented and shared as part of the 75th Anniversary celebration in 2014. To stay up-to-date on this journey and to follow us when we are on the road in October, visit us at www.steinbeck.org  and www.okhistory.org

About the National Steinbeck Center
The National Steinbeck Center is located at One Main Street in Salinas, California, the birthplace of John Steinbeck.  It is a museum and cultural institution with a mission to engage people in the exploration of culture, issues and the arts relevant to our times, inspired by the words of John Steinbeck.  The Center offers multiple visitor experiences: the John Steinbeck Exhibition Hall and changing art and cultural exhibits with a variety of education and public programs.  For more information about this and other events, visit our website at www.steinbeck.org.

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