Art Teacher’s Retirement Project Becomes a National Monument

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

The retirement project of a former art teacher began back in 1937 in Foyil, Oklahoma and nearly 80 years later it still stands the test of time. A 90-foot-tall hand carved totem pole is the main attraction at Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park. Galloway, a retired art teacher, created the tower out of steal, concrete and sand in his yard. The sculpture took 11 years to complete and contained four sides and approximately 200 images in bas relief technique. It was built to be aligned with the cardinal directions and is situated on a three-dimensional sculpture of a turtle.

Galloway went on to add additional smaller totem poles to the property including an 11-sided “Fiddle House”. The “Fiddle House” was built to house the fiddles that he had carved out of wood from trees around the world. Galloway had wanted to carve a fiddle from every tree in the world but died before he could. He did manage to carve about 300 fiddles before his death from cancer in 1961.

Galloway’s art suffered vandalism, disrepair and theft in the years following his death. Many of the fiddles he carved were stolen and never retrieved. The entire project may have been forever ruined if the Kansas Grassroots Art Association and the Rogers County Historical Society hadn’t stepped in during the 1990’s to restore the site. Since then the Rogers County Historical Society and the Foyil Heritage Association took over management of the park and local artists have contributed to its upkeep.

Galloway was headed to California to the Panama Pacific International Exposition when he was deterred in Oklahoma by a philanthropist who saw his work. Galloway accepted a job teaching wood carving at the Children’s Home Orphanage in Sand Springs, OK and spent 20 years at that position before he retired and began his sculptures.

The 90-foot-tall pole is considered to be the World’s Largest Concrete Totem Pole.