Founded in 1998, the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West is the first such university-based program in the nation. The center, which opened to the public in the fall of 1999, is dedicated to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge in the field of American art history as it relates to the western United States. Through its resource center, national symposia, course offerings and related outreach programs, the Russell Center actively engages students and the public in developing a better understanding of, and appreciation for, artistic traditions of the American West. Special emphasis is given to art of Charles M. Russell and his contemporaries. The Russell Center was established concurrently with the Charles Marion Russell Chair, an endowed professorship in art history at the University of Oklahoma.
Both the center and the endowed chair were made possible through a generous gift from the Nancy Russell Trust and matching funds from the state of Oklahoma. Administered through the School of Visual Arts and the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts, the Russell Center operates in concert with several of the University of Oklahoma’s other distinguished branches including the Western History Collections, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and the departments of History, Literature, Native American Studies and Film and Video Studies. The Russell Center also actively interfaces with institutions across the country, including museums of Western art and universities that support related programs or collections of Western material culture or art.