Current Exhibitions


Power and Prestige: Headdresses of the American Plains

August 26, 2016 – May 14, 2017

Ring-Neck Pheasant Feather Headdress
North American Great Plains, Lakota.
Ca. 1900, feathers, felt, porcupine quills, hackles, cotton, sinew.

War bonnets are an iconic image of the American West, yet the truth behind these emblematic items is more complex than the name would indicate. Going back centuries, feather headdresses played a formalized role in both war and ritual with large and subtle variants in style, use, and design.  This exhibit explores the history and development of the Native American bonnet with a particular emphasis on the “flared” style—the most recognizable and commonly worn North American Great Plains bonnet.  Headdresses, ledger art, and photographs from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s permanent collection, as well as headdresses from the Gilcrease Museum and the Oklahoma History Center, will be on display.

Funding for Power and Prestige: Headdresses of the American Plains and related student programs is provided, in part, by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council (OHC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibitions and program, do not necessarily represent those of OHC or NEH.

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Sponsored in part by:






Lowell Ellsworth Smith: My Theology of Painting

May 27, 2016 – July 9, 2017

LE Smith Exhibit
Church Façade, Plaza del Oriente. Lowell Ellsworth Smith, 1983, watercolor on board. 1983.48. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Ohio watercolorist and Prix de West winner, Lowell Ellsworth Smith (1924-2008), once referenced his theology of painting during an interview. Short but meaningful, the phrase summarized his relationship with art. It was more than a hobby or pastime. More than a career. It was the lens through which he saw and experienced the world.

Lowell Ellsworth Smith: My Theology of Painting explores this personal process and approach. Featuring watercolor studies and Smith’s own words and observations, it introduces the man, his methods, and his belief in the power and potential of creative energy. He lived for the moment and painted what he saw and as importantly, what he felt, leaving something of himself in each of his works. With Smith’s guidance, visitors will learn to recognize him.





Plan your visit today!