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Christian Kirkpatrick Keesee is Beaux Arts Ball King

The 2015 Beaux Arts Ball king, Christian Kirkpatrick Keesee, comes from a long line of family members who were community visionaries and volunteers. This list includes his grandmother Eleanor Kirkpatrick, who was the first chairman of the Beaux Arts Ball in 1946, and his grandfather John Kirkpatrick, who was the 1956 king.

The new king was introduced, amid pomp and ceremony, Nov. 28 at the formal Beaux Arts Ball at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. Until he was introduced, his name was kept secret from the debutantes, escorts, pages, former kings and family members and guests.

When asked what the Beaux Arts Ball tradition means to him, Keesee answered: “It is the 70th anniversary of the ball, and it was started by my grandmother. Basically, I think tradition dictates that you not be a bystander. Active participation is very important.

“The Ball is just a part of Oklahoma City and one of the wonderful traditions for people's lives. It is helping young people learn how to become philanthropists. The tradition has been established and it has endured, and it's nice that some of the city's oldest and youngest can come together to celebrate and strengthen our Oklahoma City Museum of Art.” 

The Beaux Arts Ball benefits the acquisition fund for the museum.

Philanthropic legacy

Keesee took to the legacy of becoming a philanthropist in a big way, but he describes himself as a banker. He is chairman of Kirkpatrick Bank, with offices in Oklahoma and Colorado, and Kirkpatrick Oil & Gas Co., with offices in those two states and Texas. “I manage our family offices,” he said.

As a community visionary and volunteer like those who came before him, one of his biggest endeavors is the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center (he is president and founder), which has plans for a major expansion into the downtown area by 2018. “The downtown building will complete the circle of art education in Oklahoma City,” Keesee said.

He also leads two philanthropic organizations, as chairman of the Kirkpatrick Foundation and president of the Kirkpatrick Family Fund, both based in Oklahoma City. Active in the arts and arts education, he also heads the Green Box Arts Festival in Colorado.

Keesee is on such boards as the Oklahoma City Community Foundation; American Ballet Theatre, New York City; the Tate American Foundation, London; the National Council for the Humane Society of the United States; and he is a member of the Director's Circle of the Frick Collection in New York.

He is involved in patriotic and genealogical organizations, including First Families of Virginia and First Families of the Twin Territories, and his personal interests include sailing, skiing and enjoying art collecting, opera and the ballet.

He and his son, Blake, and partner, Larry Keigwin, live in New York City during the school year (Blake attends Kent School) and Oklahoma City the rest of the time.

Publications to his credit include “New Russian Art: Paintings From the Christian Keesee Collection,” and he is co-author of “Matriarch, The Story of Molly Spencer.” He is founder and publisher of ArtDesk, the Kirkpatrick Foundation support magazine for Oklahoma City, which he said has global circulation.

Family affair

He also is involved with a series of historical books about family members.

“My grandparents saved many things and contributed to the historical resources. There are letters from the Civil War and of family journeys that started in Europe and end in Oklahoma. I am honored to contribute to these stories,” he said.

“Our two new projects for the foundation include efforts to reduce teen pregnancy in Oklahoma County and to focus on animal well-being in Oklahoma,” he added.

“The Beaux Arts Ball has been a family affair. Everyone's participated. My grandmother, Evelyn Keesee, won 'best costume' one of the years when prizes were given,” he said.

Keesee's mother, the late Joan Kirkpatrick, was a Beaux Arts Ball debutante, and his father, Konrad Keesee, was an escort for the ball.

“I was also a ball page when Frank Hightower was king in 1970, and my son, Blake, was a page just a few years ago. My granddad was still alive when Blake was a page and it meant a lot to him,” Keesee said.

Q&A with royalty

And if you were wondering if there were some specific questions to ask when you were interviewing a king, we threw in some random questions for his royal highness.

Question: What qualities do you appreciate in people?

Answer: Honesty, straightforwardness, creativity and vision.

Q: Do you have a hero?

A: I have a big regard for the pope and what he stands for. The world needs a new hero. We need ethics, morals and to be humble. We have a lot to learn from him.

Q: What is your most treasured possession?

A: 1. Good reputation. 2. Good father/son/grandson relationship. 3. Hideaway in Colorado for quiet time.

Keesee graduated from Heritage Hall High School, received an associate of arts degree from Menlo College in Atherton, Calif., attended Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif., and received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Central Oklahoma.

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›