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Oklahoma Arts Council Staff

The Oklahoma Arts Council represents the essence of an efficient state government agency. Most of the agency's annual budget gets invested in communities across the state of Oklahoma through the agency's grant programs, leveraging private matching funds to make arts and arts education programming available to people in all parts of the state. In addition to providing nearly 450 grants to almost 250 organizations in communities statewide each year, the Oklahoma Arts Council organizes professional development opportunities for the state's arts and cultural industry and manages works of art in the Oklahoma Public Art Collection and in the public spaces of the state Capitol.

Members of the Oklahoma Arts Council staff are skilled, well-educated professionals dedicated to serving the entire state through the arts.

Executive Office

Executive Director
Amber Sharples Oklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2853

Executive Assistant
Office Manager

Connie Taylor Oklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2853

Agency Programs

Deputy Director
Chandra Boyd Oklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2021

Assistant Director
Molly O'Connor
(405) 521-2013

Arts Education Director
Jennifer Allen-Barron Oklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2036

Community Arts Director
Christina BeattyOklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2025


Grants & Finance

Finance Director
Allison McMichael
(405) 521-2028

Grants Director
Maya Hering Oklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2040

Grants and Finance Assistant
Thomas Tran
(405) 521-2041

Public Awareness

Director of Marketing and Communications
Joel Gavin Oklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2037

Web and Publications Director
Scott Cowan
(405) 521-2038


Visual Arts

Director of Visual Arts and Capitol Collections
Alan Atkinson Oklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2039

About Our Staff

Jennifer Allen-Barron (Arts Education Director) earned a BFA in Painting and a BA in French from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Allen-Barron served as Executive Director of the Paseo Arts Association and as Community Arts Program Director at the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. She is also a practicing visual artist, working primarily in acrylic paint. Allen-Barron works with arts education programs in public schools and arts learning programs across the state, as well as overseeing the Council's Teaching Artist Roster and the Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative.

Alan Atkinson (Director of Visual Arts and Capitol Collections) received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Video Studies from the University of Oklahoma where he also studied printmaking. He holds a Master of Arts in History of Art and a Ph.D. in History of Art from the University of Kansas. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Atkinson was curator of the National Weather Center Biennale, and he served as an adjunct curator of photography and Asian art at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, Oklahoma. As Director of Visual Arts and Capitol Collections, Atkinson oversees the acquisition, display, and preservation of the Oklahoma State Art Collection and the Oklahoma Capitol Art Collection. He also manages the Oklahoma Art in Public Places program, overseeing the Oklahoma Public Art Collection.

Christina Beatty (Community Arts Director) has more than ten years of nonprofit experience including arts administration and community development. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Managerial Studies from Rice University in Houston, Texas in 2005 and a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration from The University of Chicago in 2009. While in Chicago, Beatty worked for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area campaign, the Great Migration Centennial campaign and the University of Chicago’s Arts in Public Life initiative. As Community Arts Director, Beatty oversees the Community Arts Grants programs, the Cultural District Initiative, the Performing Artist Roster, and the ONEAL (Oklahoma’s New and Emerging Arts Leaders) Network. 

Chandra Boyd (Deputy Director) has more than 20 years experience in arts education, having held positions with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City Community College, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Boyd holds a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Liberal Arts degree from Oklahoma City University with an emphasis on Marketing and Art History. She also earned Bachelor of Arts in Art History and French from Oklahoma State University.  As Deputy Director, she provides oversight of agency programs and operations, including human resources and policy development. Boyd also serves as the agency's Accessibility Coordinator.

Scott Cowan (Publications/Web Director) began his education at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and received a Bachelor of Art in painting from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1995. Cowan earned an MLA in painting from Oklahoma City University in 1997 and an MA in Art History from the University of Oklahoma in 2001. He currently works as the Publications/ Web Director for the Arts Council.

Joel Gavin (Director of Marketing and Communications) earned his Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Oklahoma. He also holds a Bachelor of Business Administration. Gavin served as a Liaison and Public Policy Specialist for Governor Brad Henry before joining the Council in 2009. His duties include writing the monthly newsletter, crafting email marketing campaigns, handling media relations, managing the agency's social media pages, generating and editing content for the Oklahoma Arts Council website, organizing the annual Governor's Arts Awards, and developing an overall marketing and communications strategy for the agency.

Maya Hering (Grants Director) joined the Council in 2015, having worked for nonprofit organizations for more than 15 years. A certified national trainer, Hering earned a Master of Business Administration from American University in Washington, D.C. and a Bachelor of Science from Humboldt State University in Interdisciplinary Studies. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Hering worked for the National Resource Center for Youth Services, where she provided training and technical assistance to Department of Health and Human Services grantees across the nation. As Grants Director, Hering provides assistance to grant applicants, organizes panel review of grant applications, analyzes statistical information, prepares reports, manages the agency's grants database, and conducts grant workshops.

Allison McMichael (Finance Director) holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and an educational focus in Art History from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, she served the Office of Management and Enterprise Services as Financial Analyst and Grant Coordinator, where she managed budgeting and reporting of more than $100M federal funds. She joined the Oklahoma Arts Council in 2015 to strengthen internal finance processes, assist with project applications and closeouts, and to become more involved in the Oklahoma art community. McMichael is a practicing writer and photographer.

Molly O'Connor (Assistant Director) joined the Oklahoma Arts Council in 2006. In her role, she oversees the Oklahoma Arts Conference and the Leadership Arts program. O'Connor previously worked for the Arts Council of Oklahoma City where she managed the performing artist rosters and directed events such as the WinterTales Storytelling Festival, Opening Night, and Twilight Concerts. She is a multi-disciplinary artist and her work combines creative writing, storytelling, comedy performance and visual art. O'Connor holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3-D Design from the University of Oklahoma.

Amber Sharples (Executive Director) graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Art History. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Museum Collections Management and Care from The George Washington University. Sharples joined the Oklahoma Arts Council staff in 2006 as Visual Arts Director after working as Public Affairs and Communications Coordinator at the U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Culture in Mexico City. In 2011, she was named Assistant Director. As Executive Director, Sharples works with the Oklahoma Arts Council board and staff to implement agency goals and objectives and responds to the needs of the state's arts community through financial support, technical assistance, and services. She serves on various boards of agencies, commissions and nonprofits, including: Friends of the Mansion; Mid-America Arts Alliance; Native American Cultural and Educational Authority; and the Governor's Innovation Index Task Force.

Connie Taylor (Executive Assistant/Office Manager) graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design. Prior to joining the Council, she was a financial planner and investment advisor, taught visual arts at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and served as executive director of the Red River Arts Council. Taylor joined the Oklahoma Arts Council in 2013 to provide administrative support to the Council and to serve as agency coordinator for employee benefits, retirement services and wellness. Her preferred creative medium is black-and-white photography.

Thomas Tran (Grants and Finance Assistant) holds a Bachelor of Music from Oklahoma State University. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Tran helped promote access to music education in small and rural communities as Director of Stillwater Arts Outreach. He has also worked on other educational programs including CelloFest and the OSU Summer Music Camp. Tran is an active classical musician and has attended and performed in festivals and masterclasses across the country.