OKC Stockyards gallery destroyed by fire in 2015 celebrates its reopening
When a fire destroyed Yolanda White Antelope's art gallery in Stockyards City last year, she didn't know whether she had the wherewithal to start over, but other businesses in the area encouraged her to reopen.
In March 2015, a fire burned through the 1300 block of Agnew Avenue, destroying the Bentley-Gafford Co. Ranch Store saddle shop, as well as White Antelope's gallery. The fire destroyed many original works of art by native artists.
"It just completely melted everything. We lost all of it," White Antelope said. "I didn't know at that time if I was either going to hang in there and open again or just give it up. But a lot of the other businesses said they needed us and wanted us to stay."
The Oklahoma Native Art and Jewelry gallery has moved into a new home at 2204 Exchange and will host a grand opening from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
It wouldn't have been possible without the help of other businesses in the area, White Antelope said. After the fire, Langston's Western Wear donated shelving. A local saddle maker donated display cases. A building owner offered her free rent in a temporary space in the Stockyards while she rebuilt the business.
"There's a lot of great businesses here,” White Antelope said. “During the fire, the neighbors were awesome.”
Pam Shelton, executive director of Stockyards City Main Street, said it's not uncommon for businesses in the area to look after one another.
“It's like a little town in a big city,” she said. “Everybody takes care of each other.”
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White Antelope had a career as a corrections officer with the state of Oklahoma, working on everything from extradition proceedings to bringing fugitives who had fled to other states to justice to internal affairs.
After retirement, she sought out her dream of owning an art gallery to celebrate American Indian art. The business started in Bricktown in 2000 and moved to Stockyards City in 2006.
White Antelope makes traditional American Indian horsehair pottery, made by burning pieces of horsehair into pottery directly after it is removed from a hot kiln. The burned hair produces dark lines, as well as patches of smoky gray in the pieces of pottery. She also makes beaded jewelry for the gallery and sells many original pieces by native artists from around the state.
Saturday's grand opening will feature native drumming and dancers, as well as free samples of American Indian food ranging from green chili stew to grape dumplings.
A drawing for a piece of White Antelope's horsehair pottery also will be held.
White Antelope said the fire has made her believe even more strongly in the future of Stockyards City.
“This location is a like a little booming town that's ready to explode,” she said. “Eventually, people will realize what is down here.”