Dr. Pat and Patti Lester have been involved in Gilcrease Museum for several decades in a variety of roles, including serving as co-chairs for several exhibitions, Rendezvous in 2004 and Pat as the president of the board in 2001-02. Throughout their involvement with the museum, the Lesters have donated more than 18 pieces of art and cultural items to the Gilcrease collection. The Lesters began collecting art in the 1980’s, following Pats innate impulse to collect.
“I think collectors in general are born that way,” Pat explained. “In 1986, I attended an auction. I had some understanding of Native American art, but very little. We were able to purchase quite a few pieces at the auction. As I started studying those painters, I became more and more interested and saw that was an area that was not commonly collected.”
Over time, Patti and Pat’s interest in Native American art continued to grow. The couple traveled nationwide to collect and learn more about Native American art and artists. Due to the lack of information about Native American artists at the time, Pat was inspired to blaze his own path and began working on his book, “The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters,” which he published in 1995.
“We went to a lot of places and found as many Native American artists as we could,” recalled Patti. “We went to many art shows all over the United States, from New York to California, and researched and wrote a lot of letters.”
As the Lesters’ collection continued to grow, they made the collective decision to begin gifting some of their art so others could enjoy it.
“When people collect, they come to a point where they’re not going to collect anymore or they’re into their last decades of their life and satisfied with what they’ve done,” explained Pat. “So, what do you do with those collections? You either sell them or give them away. Most collectors would like to see what has thrilled them put on display for other people to enjoy.”
With the belief of sharing their passion with others in mind, the Lesters have given generously to Gilcrease. Futhermore, due to the Lesters’ ongoing involvement in the museum, they were privy to the gaps in the Gilcrease collection, uniquely positioning them to help fill them.
“Some of the pieces we donated because we knew there was a lack for a particular exhibition and we had them,” Patti stated.
Occasionally, the Lesters would even seek out and purchase art from beyond their own collection in order to help fill these gaps. For example, their contributions almost doubled Gilcrease’s Inca collection. Likewise, according to Pat, they purchased Inuit pieces not to put in their own collection, but to help fill holes for Gilcrease.
Due to this selfless mentality, Gilcrease has benefitted many times over from the Lesters’ generosity. And while Gilcrease reaps the benefits of their gifts up and down the halls on a daily basis, the Lesters are proud to have pieces from their collection at Gilcrease.
“It’s similar to when you see your children or grandchildren accomplish something,” said Pat. “You’re proud that you had a little part in that, and we are proud to have art that is considered worthy to be placed in Gilcrease Museum.”
Gifts Fuel Museum Growth