AFR Cooperative now has an even larger presence at the Oklahoma Capitol. On Nov. 18, 2022, the Oklahoma State Capitol Art Collection unveiled “Cottonwood Band,” a painted depiction of the first band to play at the then new state capitol building in 1917. As with many other historic moments in Oklahoma history, Oklahoma Farmers Union was key to this appearance—all the players were OFU members. They were in Oklahoma City for nothing less than the OFU State Convention.

About the Artwork

Throughout more than a century of service, the Oklahoma Capitol has hosted countless events and musical performances. According to the 1917 article, published in The Oklahoma Times, the first music to have filled the corridors and rotundas of the newly completed Capitol came from The Cottonwood Band of the Farmer’s Union, a brass band that hailed from the western Oklahoma town of Weatherford. Harold Wright, a descendant of the band members, served as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2017-2021. In commissioning the painting that depicts the day The Cottonwood Band performed at the Capitol, Representative Wright provided artist Robert Marsee with old family photographs to use as reference material. Primarily comprised of members of the Wright and Witzel families, the band was headed by Harry Wright (pictured in the back row, far left, with the trumpet) who lead rehearsals for the band every Monday in the Cottonwood rural schoolhouse. Family patriarch P.W. Wright, Chet Wright and G.G. Witzel—Harry Wright’s father-in-law are depicted in the painting among various in-laws.

About the Artist

Robert “Bobby” Marsee is an award-winning painter and artist from Weatherford, Oklahoma, who specializes in creating portraits in oil. Marsee studied under renowned artists Hollis Howard and Angus “Kent” Lamar at the University if Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He has been a featured artist at festivals and events throughout the state and has created works for prominent clients such as former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band Bon Jovi. Maree operates a fine art and framing shop out of his studio in Weatherford where he also teaches several weekly oil painting classes.

The tale of the Cottonwood Band is a fascinating walk through OFU history. Attend this year’s AFR State Convention to learn more about the painting and the band that played for a brand new building 106 years ago.