For 40 years, Jackie West made a rich and enduring contribution to the Oklahoma City arts community by volunteering and serving on the boards of numerous organizations, some of which she helped to create from the ground up. When she died in early May, the city lost a lifelong champion of the arts.
A memorial service honoring West and her creative contributions will be held 2 p.m. Saturday in the Kirkpatrick Auditorium on the Oklahoma City University campus, 2501 N. Blackwelder.
She had an appreciation for art, and theater in particular, going back to her experiences being part of a tight-knit community performing school plays in Fargo, N.D.
“When she moved here right after she graduated, I’m sure she began searching for ‘her people,’ said West’s daughter, Wendy West. “I think we’re all drawn to those of like mind and spirit. She always felt she was one of those who marched to the beat of a different drummer, and where better to find people who relate to that than in the arts community?”
West’s work in the local arts community began in 1962 when she joined the volunteer force that was working to create the musical theater company that would become Lyric Theatre. During the next 22 years with Lyric, West was a guiding force in its success.
In addition to setting up and staffing the box office for nine years, she was a volunteer and president of the Guild Board, coordinating other volunteers. She also served on the board as a member and as vice president before becoming Lyric’s executive director, leading the company through a successful period of growth in the early ’80’s.
“She was always a very willing, very hard worker. If something needed to be done, you could count on Jackie,” said Robert McKown, a 43-year Lyric board member. “Jackie was an innovative aggressive worker and leader, but sometimes, these great strengths and her impatience worked against her when others didn’t share her enthusiasm or urgency for a matter at hand. She was always out in front of everyone, thinking ahead of the crowd, and sometimes, the crowd wasn’t ready to move that fast.”
During that same period, West also co-chaired the Performing Arts Committee for the Festival of the Arts. During her 35 years working with the Arts Council, she chaired almost every festival committee possible. West also served on the board of Jewel Box Theatre for two terms, and on the Arthritis Foundation board.
Even after a series of surgeries in the ’90s to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, she continued to break new ground when in 2000, she became a founding member and president of the board of the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre.
“If you have ever seen or been a part of a show at Lyric Theater or CityRep, then your life was touched by Jackie West,” said Don Jordan, the founding artistic director of CityRep. “Without her tireless efforts, these theaters would not exist “ indeed, there might not be a professional theater in Oklahoma City.”
In lieu of flowers, Wendy West asked that memorials be made to the Humane Society of Central Oklahoma or Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre. “Eric Webb