Art matters for all communities

Communities thrive when they have a vibrant arts and cultural scene, and throughout his 50-year career as a community banker, NBC Oklahoma Chairman Ken Fergeson has made it one of his missions to boost the arts and artists in Oklahoma.

As part of its ongoing arts initiatives, the bank has:

  • Commissioned and/or financed about 10 large-scale public works of art throughout the state.
  • Built an art gallery in Altus, OK, called the Wigwam Gallery and regularly hosts exhibits there.
  • Commissioned 17 Oklahoma artists since 2003 to create works for its annual NBC Oklahoma Artist Series. The bank then gives customers and friends posters, postcards and signed prints of it.

“I first discovered the importance of arts and culture when I chaired the State Chamber and traveled to every community there was in the state,” Fergeson said. As he traveled from town to town, he found the communities with strong arts and culture programming were booming and their economies were good, while the towns lacking in that area were dying. “So I thought we needed to be involved in the arts.”

Fergeson’s love and support for and service to the arts goes back decades, and major works of art cover the walls in each of NBC’s seven banks in four communities – Oklahoma City, Altus, Enid and Kingfisher. He has served on the boards of many local, state, regional and national arts organizations and given back to community nonprofits in many other ways, too. He has been chairman of the American Bankers Association and the Oklahoma Bankers Association. He also was an inaugural inductee into the Oklahoma Bankers Hall of Fame and is a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

“Oklahoma is just a hotbed for artists and we want to promote Oklahoma artists. We found that [the arts] help tie all of our towns where we have banks together, makes the communities more proud,” Fergeson said.

Each year, he noted, there is a lot of interest in the NBC Oklahoma Artist Series and who the artist will be. The NBC Artist Series began in 2003 and so far includes 17 paintings, a coffee table book and a calendar. The 2021 artist is John Newsom, who lived in Enid and across the street from Ken and Mary Ann Fergeson when he was a child. He now lives in New York and his work is the subject of a mid-career retrospective of 31 of his works at Oklahoma Contemporary in Oklahoma City. The exhibit, “John Newsom: Nature’s Course,” opened March 24.

The painting he did for NBC Oklahoma, “Homecoming,” is part of the show.

“It’s just appropriate that we have John coming home,” Fergeson said.

Fergeson believes art is vital to communities and makes all communities vital. The bank supports artists and champions arts accessibility in a commitment to improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans.

“I’ve always loved public art, which is free for anyone to enjoy and serves as a landmark for a community,” Fergeson said after the 2017 unveiling of Joe Slack’s “Strengthening the Voids” along Main Street in Altus. “Such art gives a place an identity and residents a sense of pride.”

See more about the latest NBC art efforts at nbc.bank/art. From there you, can get to the NBC Wigwam Gallery page and see all the works in the NBC Artists Series.