In many ways, the entire Oklahoma Judicial Center art collection owes its existence to Betty Price. As Executive Director of the Oklahoma Arts Council, her advocacy efforts led to the passage of the Art in Public Places Act in 2004, paving the way for the Supreme Court of Oklahoma to include works of art in the construction and renovation budget.
After graduating from Central High School in Muskogee, Price earned a music education degree from Northeastern State University. She taught music at both Norman and Mid-Del schools through a program coordinated by Rose State College. While her children were young, she taught piano lessons, then returned to work as a secretary for the Oklahoma Senate. Her involvement with state government continued as a staff member for Lt. Governor and then Governor George Nigh.
In 1974, she began working at the Oklahoma Arts Council as public information officer. In 1983, she was appointed as Executive Director of the organization, a post she held until her retirement in 2007. Public arts funding and art education became top priorities during her tenure at the Arts Council. Working with eight different governors, she was the guiding force behind the transformation of the State Capitol into an arts destination as she directed the commission of major murals, portraits and sculptures for public spaces.
Price’s honors include State Arts Agency Director of the Year from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, Honored One at The Sovereignty Symposium, the Governor’s Award from the Chickasaw Nation, Red Earth Ambassador of the Year and the Life, Legacy and Light Award from the Oklahoma Israel Exchange. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985, and named a Newsmaker by the Association of Women in Communications. The State Capitol gallery is named in her honor, and in 2013, a Special Plaque Commemoration of her lifelong devotion to the arts was presented during the Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony.
Price is a member of the Oklahoma Centennial Commission, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, the Oklahoma Tourism Promotion Advisory Committee, the National Board of Artrain USA, Friends of the Mansion and Friends of the Capitol. She also serves as a member of the Oklahoma Judicial Center Art Committee.
In addition to supporting the arts, Price is also an artist herself. Her work in the Oklahoma Judicial Center collection is Seeds of Sovereignty, donated by Susan Coles on behalf of her late husband, Allen E. Coles who loved the Great State of Oklahoma, Betty Price, and Yvonne Kauger.
Source: “Arts Chief to Leave a Legacy,” The Oklahoman, August 22, 2007; “Fifty Making a Difference,” Journal Record, September 24, 2009; Personal interview, November 2011.