50 STORIES 50 YEARS: LES GILLIAM

Les Gilliam pickin’ away at his guitar.

Les Gilliam pickin’ away at his guitar.

Les Gilliam  |  Oklahoma Arts Council’s Performing Artist Roster  |  www.lesgilliam.com    

The music of Les Gilliam, member of the Oklahoma Arts Council’s Performing Artist Roster and official “Oklahoma Balladeer,” has crisscrossed the state for many years thanks to the work of the Oklahoma Arts Council. Now that another round of budget cuts is sweeping in, Gilliam shares his success and what it has meant for the arts culture sector, the support of the Oklahoma Arts Council, and the effect of budget cuts on his ability to serve Oklahomans.

“Since my early days with the Oklahoma Arts Council, I have tried to promote our state with my music and stories,” says Gilliam.

“I am an entertainer, guitarist, songwriter and recording artist [playing] western, classic country, western swing and gospel.

“I have been affiliated with the Oklahoma Arts Council for about 20 years and have been privileged to entertain folks of all ages, from school children to senior adults.

From the Music Hall of Fame to the state’s schools, Gilliam has “presented western (cowboy) music and stories…describing the big cattle drives of the late 1800s, with a focus on the Chisholm Trail which brought millions of cattle across Oklahoma from Texas to the railheads in Kansas.  

“I believe my Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame tribute not only educated folks about music in Oklahoma but also encouraged people to visit the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee.

“In my cowboy shows, I am able to promote the Cowboy and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City  and other tourism sites such as the Gene Autry, Oklahoma Museum of Local History in my hometown of Gene Autry, Oklahoma.”

When asked how state cuts to the Oklahoma Arts Council budget have affected his ability to serve Oklahomans, Gilliam said, “yes, I have noticed a significant drop in my engagements in schools and other locations such as museums and town celebrations.”

Budget cuts affect the ability of The Oklahoma Arts Council and the artists it supports to preserve the state’s heritage and participate in its ongoing cultural vitality.

 

This story celebrates 50 years of the Oklahoma Arts Council and how the state’s investments have positive ripple effects on communities across Oklahoma. See other stories or follow this link for more information.