In my hometown of Fort Smith, Ark., there’s a downtown art project in which giant murals of contemporary urban art are painted on the sides of historic buildings. It is called The Unexpected.
The Unexpected came to mind when I stumbled across some of the world’s greatest art recently while in Stillwater to interview technology entrepreneur Russ Teubner, founder and CEO of HostBridge Technology. The ground floor of HostBridge’s unassuming downtown Stillwater headquarters is a virtual art gallery, highlighted by five large signed Andy Warhol original screen prints that are part Warhol’s Cowboys and Indians series created in 1986.
It was certainly The Unexpected for me and a highlight of my trip.
Teubner placed the five Warhol paintings in a special events venue he created in what once was a shipping area for his previous company, Teubner and Associates, which was located on the same property. LED lighting highlights each print.
“I was lucky enough to source a number of very unique works of art, original Warhol screen prints that would not only define this space from a color and design standpoint, but tell the history of Oklahoma,” Teubner told me and my colleague, Debbie Cox, from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST), as we first walked through the space.
Across one wall there was Native American legend Geronimo, along with Annie Oakley, Gen. George Armstrong Custer and a painting that depicted the Trail of Tears. A small sign above them read “Warhol.”
Along another wall hung a Warhol painting of Teddy Roosevelt, as well as a portrait of Warhol himself.
“Geronimo died in Oklahoma, Annie Oakley performed in Oklahoma, Custer fought in Oklahoma, the Trail of Tears ended in Oklahoma, and, of course, Teddy Roosevelt signed the state into existence,” Teubner said. “All those images not only remind us of the vibrance of a master artist, but also root us in our history.”
Teubner created the special events center as a community meeting space and for regular receptions hosted by his company. He was inspired to create an events center by Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis, who renovated a downtown Stillwater building to serve as the OSU Art Museum.
The HostBridge Technology events center features a large bar area running down one side, and one of the world’s unique “wine cellars” along the back wall that was once Teubner’s computer server room.
“What do you do with an empty room that has five tons of air conditioning, world class fire suppression and very secure,” he said. “Well, that’s wine storage, right? Obviously. I took my old Dell storage cabinets, reengineered them and lit them up as wine storage cabinets.”
The wine “cellar” is highlighted by art pieces, and in adjoining rooms there are many other pieces of art, such as robots made from everyday objects, an old English telephone booth and a collection of drawings with humorous captions made by a former airline pilot.
We finally got around to our interview, but my day was made by Russ Teubner’s version of The Unexpected.