A painting, featuring a representation of Oklahoma history - and the surrounding states - will soon hang within the walls of the Oklahoma State Capitol Building.

The work, handcrafted by Jay High School Art Teacher Kit Coughran, was commissioned this summer by Rep. Josh West (R-Grove).

Coughran presented West the piece, which features a prominent Oklahoma flag, as well as scenes of events and people from Oklahoma history on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

The work by Coughran is one of two pieces West plans to hang inside his office at the state capitol as the 2018 session begins in the next week.

The second is a piece created by Becca Lucky, a recent Grove graduate.

Showcasing art 

West said the desire to showcase district artists developed over the summer months. He said he wanted the artwork to highlight life within his district, as well as Oklahoma history.

A post, made on Facebook, asking for suggestions led him to Coughran, a former classmate and long-time friend.

At the time, Coughran said rather than try to fit an existing piece of art into West's idea, he wanted to create a painting from scratch, showing his students at JHS how to develop a piece from conception to finished work.

"I've known his family myi whole life," West said. "This is special in so many ways. It's a one-of-a-kind work.

"Personally, i just wanted to bring some pieces of home with me to Oklahoma City, to promote the arts from my district."

West said Coughran used his ideas and "ran with it" creating a "beautiful piece of art."

Coughran estimates it took more than 60 hours of "brush in hand" painting during the course of the last six months to complete the piece. 

He hopes his students are inspired to create their own works, big or small, after watching him devote time to the painting.

Coughran is currently working, a the urging of JHS Principal James Bryant, to have his students fill the walls of the high school campus with art. 

This includes creating murals in the student center, which was once lined with plain wood paneling, as well as murals on the walls throughout the building.

He is also working with Turner Hopkins and others from the Delaware County Historical Society to develop a student-created mural in downtown Jay.

He anticipates beginning that project within the next few weeks, with a goal of completing it this fall. That mural will be made in sections, and hang on the building owned by Chad Crank.

"I feel like art is an expression of the world around us," Coughran said. "It tells the past, and tells about the future. 

"Without art, we wouldn't have much of a presence."

Coughran said he hopes his students examine this painting, and others, and learn to see the questions within the pieces.

Coughran said the painting he created for West not only showcases Oklahoma history at the time around statehood, but it also highlights what was happening within the global art community at the same time by using techniques of both Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso within the piece.

The painting features images embedded within the foundation of the state, including men working cattle, Geronimo who was held captive and later died at Ft. Sill, Sequoyah - who created a working language for the Cherokees, and even barbed wire, which changed the look of the Oklahoma plains.

"There's subtleties in the painting," Coughran said. "Those lead to more questions and ultimately history lessons." 

West purchased the painting using personal funds.

The monies raised from this painting, as well as other art club ventures, will be used by Coughran to work towards two goals: bringing in local artisans to demonstrate Native American techniques - such as beading and basket making, and to purchase the equipment needed to help his students develop skills within the art industry which can translate into potential careers.

West said he hopes to acquire other pieces of art, as space allows within his office, in order to highlight additional artists from his district.