Photos of Lynn Riggs at a Hollywood premiere, bookshelves with her personal library, bar equipment and her piano are just some of the Claremore playwright’s items soon to be on display.
The Claremore History Museum has expanded the Lynn Riggs exhibit to include an art gallery.
“So just amazing and interesting aspects of his life that we’re going to portray in the room,” said Steve Robinson, chairman of the Claremore History Museum.
Rollie Lynn Riggs was born in Claremore and wrote “Green Grow the Lilacs,” which was adapted by Rodgers and Hammerstein into the musical “Oklahoma!”
“We like to say that without Lynn Riggs, there would be no Oklahoma,” he said.
Robinson said Lynn Riggs’ story became the basis for the play, prompting Rodgers and Hammerstein to return to work. They created the Oklahoma Song, which became Oklahoma’s state song, Robinson said.
“The ramifications of his work are truly amazing,” Robinson said. “But beyond even Oklahoma, he is the most well-known and respected Southwestern playwright in United States history.”
Robinson said the art gallery will be created to resemble Lynn Riggs’ apartment. He said they were able to acquire more art through donations from family members and different fields.
Robinson said he received artwork from Ramón Naya – Riggs’ partner – who sat in a shed.
“We were able to get those paintings and have them restored,” he said.
The “Green Grow the MoH – Lynn Riggs Gallery” unveiling event will take place from 7-9 p.m. on August 27 at the museum, 121 N Weenonah Ave.
At the unveiling, there will be heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks, including a signature lilac martini.
Professional pianist Lyndon Meyer will be there to perform music from “Oklahoma!”
“We are in the process of restoring his Manhattan studio piano and plan to have the studio piano in the room,” Robinson said.
He said Lynn Riggs used to throw parties and attendees would hang around the piano and sing songs.
In the art gallery there will be pieces that Riggs had hung in his home – including works by Marian Greenwood, Marion Cunningham and Willie Casto.
“We have several prominent artists whose work will be featured in the museum,” he said.
Robinson said the centerpiece of the gallery will be “this enormous self-portrait that Lynn painted of himself and then hung on the wall behind their couch.”
Robinson said Riggs painted it with the same house paint he used in his kitchen in Sante Fe.
“It’s not just Claremore Pride or even Oklahoma Pride, it’s a work of art that should really draw people in across the country, and it’s never been seen before,” Robinson said.
Robinson said they started thinking about expanding this exhibit in December 2020.