By John Klein, Tulsa World

Tulsa, OK (AP) – Patrick Liam Sullivan has immersed himself in the history and culture of Route 66 through Tulsa.

“It is one of America’s most cherished accomplishments,’’ said Sullivan.

He’s slowly driven every inch of Route 66 through Tulsa to Sapulpa, observing the architecture and ambience of what was once called “The Mother Road.’’

He walked around downtown Tulsa observing the art deco buildings.

He then created three sculptures that he hopes will capture the spirit of Tulsa and its role along Route 66.

“In the end, though, it is just a guy with a hammer and chisel and stone,’’ Sullivan said. “I try to be involved in the local culture. It helps me in creating something that is a part of that culture.

“Honestly, it inspires me. Folks should be more involved and educated about public art. It is the oldest art form known to man.’’

The Tulsa World ( ) reports Sullivan is nearing the end of a three-month project to create three large stone sculptures with a Route 66 theme to be placed in west Tulsa’s Howard Park.

“It is appropriate because Howard Park was such a significant part of Route 66,’’ Sullivan said. “It was a beautiful park right on Route 66, and many people stopped there through the years.’’

It is the just the latest in Tulsa’s effort to memorialize its key role on the historic Route 66.

Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza was dedicated in 2008, and a sculpture, “East meets West,’’ was added in 2012. Reno’s Eileen Gay created a 10-foot sculpture resembling two rotary gears, which was placed at west Tulsa’s Crystal City Shopping Center to mark the western gateway to Tulsa earlier this year.

sullivan-2There are plans by the Route 66 Alliance to raise $19.5 million to help build a Route 66 Experience, an interactive museum on the east bank of the Arkansas River near the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza.

Organizers are more than halfway to the fundraising goal, with a groundbreaking for the Route 66 Experience targeted for spring and opening in 2018.

The Indiana limestone being used for the sculptures by Sullivan is the same rock that was used on several significant buildings in Tulsa, including the old federal building and train depot. It is the same stone used to build the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the Empire State Building in New York City.

“It is the perfect type of stone to carve,’’ said Sullivan. “It is not too hard and it is not too soft. I think it is the best type of stone to work on.

“Still, it is about the work. You can’t make a mistake. It is very time-consuming.’’

Sullivan is at work on the sculptures Monday through Saturday from around 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“Our goal was to beat the snow,’’ Sullivan said.

That appears likely. Sullivan believes the sculptures will be completed sometime next week and then moved to their permanent home at Howard Park.

“This has been a little bit unusual in that we did the work in the location where it will be,’’ said Sullivan. “A lot of times a sculpture is done and then has to be transported.

“These sculptures only need to go a short distance to the final location. And, it has allowed people to come out and see the sculptures at various points during the process.’’

Sullivan, from Pine Valley, Utah, said he enjoys the interaction with interested people.

Many Tulsans have spent time in the Waterworks Art Center parking lot watching the creative process and carrying on a conversation with Sullivan.

“What we hoped to do was create a landmark work of art and history,’’ Sullivan said. “It is great that people are so interested in it. I enjoyed talking with people about it.

“I am carving history. That is important to me and a lot of other people. So, I did a lot of research.’’

sullivan-1Sullivan entered a national public art contest and was selected by the jury to do the Tulsa sculptures.

He got help in the design of the sculptures from his wife, Sharon, and friend Jason Warnock of Las Vegas.

“It really is incredible to think about Route 66,’’ Sullivan said. “It is the road that connected our country. It connected America through all of these little towns that no one had heard of before.

“Tulsa is very emblematic of Route 66. There is all of this remarkable art deco here. This city is one of the top places in the world for art deco. In its heyday, some of the top artists and artisans in the world were working in Tulsa.’’

In the end, it was Sullivan’s decision to finalize the artistic creation for the Route 66 monuments.

“This means a little bit more to me because my father was born in what was Indian Territory around 1900,’’ Sullivan said. “I was actually born and grew up in Seattle but like all Americans I grew up knowing about Route 66. I used to watch the television show and was fascinated with the history of Route 66.

“I think we all grew up knowing what Route 66 meant to our country and the significance of it in our history.’’

Sullivan is not new to Tulsa. This is his second major public art project in the city. He carved “Last Love 7,’’ a 10-foot-tall limestone sculpture he created on site at Guthrie Green before it was moved to the city of Tulsa’s traffic engineering building near Mohawk Park.

This latest public art project for Tulsa was funded by $90,000 from the Tulsa County Vision 2025 sales tax package. He was selected for the project last summer and moved to Tulsa in September.

The three blocks of Indiana limestone were delivered to Newblock Park at the Waterworks Art Center on Sept. 22.

The blocks were 10 tons, 9 tons and 8 tons. The heights of the stones are 10 feet, 9 feet and 8 feet and will be placed on a plaza dedicated to Route 66 in Howard Park, 2500-2700 Southwest Boulevard.

“Tulsa’s architecture has inspired me and given me ideas,’’ said Sullivan. “I hope in these sculptures we have saved and preserved their stories.’’

Sculptor Patrick Sullivan at work in Tulsa
Both photos are details of Sullivan’s work in Tulsa, OK