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Hollywood Meets Paseo

Wildfire Gallery Owners Discuss 'Tulsa King' Connection

Article by Julie Dill-Burnett

Photography by Julie Dill-Burnett

Originally published in OKC City Lifestyle

Greg Erway has come a long way since his high school art class. After several units, his high school art teacher allowed the class to choose a medium for a special project. Greg chose paint. He claims his piece was “pretty horrible,” and even his mother wouldn’t display it. The painting ended up in the bottom of a closet. 

He went on to earn a master’s degree in choral conducting from the University of Central Oklahoma, and he served as a worship pastor for over 35 years. 

However, Greg says, “The desire to paint never went away.” He started painting again about 11 years ago.

When Greg turned 50, he knew he would retire at some point, and he wanted a hobby. He told his wife, Denice, that he was going to buy a set of paints and brushes, and that’s exactly what he did. He watched a couple of lessons on the internet, and they were good enough to keep his interest. He explains, “I just kept painting.”

He then took a workshop/class from Thomas Stotts at the Museum of Art in Oklahoma City. From there, he just kept at it. He shared some of his work on social media, and a collector purchased a piece. 

After six or seven years, he brought five pieces into a Paseo art gallery. The owner of the gallery at the time was polite and told him she was full. Greg felt he wasn’t ready, so for the next few years, he continued to work hard, improve and paint any spare moment he had. 

Eventually, another artist noticed Greg’s work at a museum in Duncan and encouraged the Paseo gallery owner to contact Greg. After a few other shows, the owner invited him to add his work to the gallery in November of 2020. However, in February 2021, the owner called to say she was closing the gallery.

Where some people may see the end of a story, Greg and his wife saw opportunity. The couple leased the Paseo space and reopened with the new name Wildfire Gallery in June of 2021. Most of the gallery’s artists were retained. 

An artist suggested that they go with a “new West” or “contemporary Western” theme. Since Greg is a portrait artist and often paints animals, it was fitting. Currently, all of the artists featured in the gallery are from Oklahoma, with the exception of one.

Fortunately, this led to even more opportunities.

One day a buyer for a film production company came into the gallery looking for specific pieces to design the set of the Sylvester Stallone Paramount+ film, Tulsa King, which has been renewed for a second season. Denice worked to match the buyer with local artists.

She explains, “I decided that I was going to make our gallery available and be a liaison for some of the local artists.”

One of the gallery’s artists, Kevin Wells, created 12 12x12 custom watercolor paintings, which can be seen in the hotel room of the Tulsa King set. Most of the film was shot at Prairie Surf Studios, located in downtown Oklahoma City. These pieces showcase some of Tulsa’s landmarks, such as the Blue Dome District, Mayo Hotel, Brady Theater District, the Philbrook Museum, and the BOK Center, to name a few. 

The production company leased Greg’s piece, a large 2x4’ abstract, which sold to a private collector shortly after it was returned. [Editor's Note: Photos of the artwork are embargoed for the movie's release; we will share it with readers at that time.]

A contact with local set designers has led to other opportunities, as well. Greg recently painted a commissioned piece for Universal Studio’s much anticipated Twister 2.

With the production of films in the state of Oklahoma, the excitement is evident. As Denice declares, “It’s just the beginning.”

One of the gallery’s artists, Kevin Wells, created 12 12x12 custom watercolor paintings, which can be seen in the hotel room of the Tulsa King set.

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