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Oklahoma Arts Council Staff

Who to Contact

Accessibility coordinator: Eyakem Gulilat
Arts and the military: Erika Wilhite
Artwork at the State Capitol: Alan Atkinson
Artwork on bridges, highways, and state buildings (public art): Jarica Walsh
Arts education programs in schools: Jennifer Allen-Barron
Arts learning programs in community settings: Erika Wilhite
Capitol gallery exhibitions: Marissa Raglin
Community arts (exhibitions, festivals, performances): Cayla Lewis
Creative aging programs: Erika Wilhite
Cultural districts: Cayla Lewis
Festival of the Arts: [please contact the Arts Council Oklahoma City at (405) 270-4848]
Folk and traditional arts: Eyakem Gulilat
Governor’s Arts Awards: Joel Gavin
Grant system or login questions: Heidi Costello
Grant award management questions: Thomas Tran
Leadership Arts: Molly O’Connor
Logos and ads: Joel Gavin
Media inquiries: Joel Gavin
Oklahoma Arts Conference: Molly O’Connor
Open records: Joel Gavin
Performing Artist Roster: Cayla Lewis
Teaching Artist Roster: Jennifer Allen-Barron

Oklahoma Arts Council Staff

The Oklahoma Arts Council is the essence of efficient state government. Most of the agency's annual budget is directly invested in communities across Oklahoma through grant programs, leveraging private matching funds to make the benefits of the arts and arts education available to residents in all areas of the state. In addition to providing hundreds of grants to organizations in communities statewide each year, the Oklahoma Arts Council organizes professional development opportunities for the arts and cultural industry, and manages the artwork in the public spaces of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council staff are skilled professionals dedicated to serving the people of the state of Oklahoma through the arts.

Executive Office

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

Agency Programs

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

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

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

Community Arts DirectorOklahoma Arts Council
Cayla Lewis
(405) 521-2025

Cultural Development Director
Eyakem Gulilat
(405) 521-2028

Arts Learning in Communities Director
Erika Wilhite
(405) 521-6280

Grants and Finance

Finance Director
Ben Hanneman
(405) 521-4875

Grants Director
Thomas Tran
(405) 521-2041

Grants and Programs Assistant
Heidi Costello
(405) 521-2040

Public Awareness

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

Web and Publications Director
Scott CowanOklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2038

Visual and Public Art

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

Director of Art in Public Places
Jarica WalshOklahoma Arts Council
(405) 521-2030

Art in Public Places Program Assistant
Sterling Hayes
(405) 521-2229

Curator of Capitol Exhibitions
Marissa Raglin
(405) 522-0143

About Our Staff

Jennifer Allen-Barron (Arts Education Director) earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and a Bachelor of Arts 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.

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.

Heidi Costello (Grants and Programs Assistant) received her Bachelor of Arts in Arts Entrepreneurship with an emphasis in Dance Performance from the University of Central Oklahoma. She holds a Master of Education in Adult and Higher Education from the University of Oklahoma (OU). Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Costello served on the Multicultural Programs and Services team in the OU Office of Student Life. In her position with the Oklahoma Arts Council, Costello supports the agency’s grants office and serves as a point of contact for the grant application process. She also provides general agency administrative and programmatic support.

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.

Eyakem Gulilat (Cultural Development Director) obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in Photojournalism and Art from Abilene Christian University. He holds a Master of Fine Art in Media Arts from the University of Oklahoma. Gulilat is PhD candidate at the University of Oklahoma’s Regional and City Planning Department. He is a practicing visual artist working primarily with themes related to cross cultural encounter, memory, placemaking, and photography. His photography work has been exhibited throughout the United States. Gulilat also serves as the agency's Accessibility Coordinator.

Ben Hanneman (Finance Director) is a Certified Procurement Officer who holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance degree from Southern Nazarene University. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Hanneman was the Accounting Manager and Grants Financial Manager for the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council. Hanneman also has 10 years of banking experience with MidFirst Bank. His responsibilities include managing the agency budget, payroll, accounts payable, and purchasing for the agency.

Sterling Hayes (Art in Public Places Program Assistant) received her Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art, with a minor in Art History, from Oklahoma State University in 2016. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, she served as the Programs and Events Manager for the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. Hayes is a practicing potter, working primarily on the wheel to create functional pieces. In her role at the Oklahoma Arts Council, she employs her passion for both Oklahoma and the visual arts to assist with a wide range of administrative and financial functions specific to the Art in Public Places Program.

Cayla Lewis (Community Arts Director) received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with an emphasis on Printmaking and Contemporary Sculpture with minors in Art History and Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Environment from the University of Oklahoma where she also received her Master of Liberal Arts in Museum Studies. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Lewis served as the Executive Director for Preservation Oklahoma. She also previously served as Executive Director for the Plaza District Association. As Community Arts Director, Lewis oversees Oklahoma Arts Council support for audience-based programs across the state. She also manages the Cultural District Initiative and the Oklahoma Performing Artist Roster.

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.

Marissa Raglin (Curator of Capitol Exhibitions) joined the Oklahoma Arts Council in 2021. Raglin received her Bachelor of Arts in Art from Oklahoma Baptist University in 2012. Previously, Raglin oversaw public events and exhibitions at the Myriad Botanical Gardens and was the Director of Museum Experience at the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum. Her duties at the Oklahoma Arts Council include curating the rotating gallery spaces and Betty Price Gallery located within the Oklahoma State Capitol. Raglin is a nationally exhibited mixed-media visual artist. She is the 2017-18 Skirvin Paseo Artist in Residence at the historic Skirvin Hilton hotel and is a current resident artist at Studio Six in the Paseo Arts District in Oklahoma City.

Amber Sharples (Executive Director) has served as executive director of the Oklahoma Arts Council since 2013. As the agency’s CEO, Sharples is responsible for the development and administration of the policies, programs and procedures of the state agency for the arts. Sharples’ career at the Council began in 2006, when she joined the agency as visual arts director and collections manager for the Capitol artwork. She has managed other areas of the agency such as her role as assistant director, where she spearheaded the agency’s strategic planning process, managed staff evaluations, and developed agency policies and procedures. Prior to working for the Council, she served as the Communications and Public Affairs Coordinator at the U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Culture in Mexico City. She has served on numerous boards both in Oklahoma and nationally, including Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in Washington, D.C. Sharples holds a Master of Arts in Art History from the University of Oklahoma and a graduate certificate in museum collections management and care from The George Washington University.

Thomas Tran (Grants Director) holds a Bachelor of Music from Oklahoma State University (OSU). During his time at OSU, Tran helped promote access to music education in small and rural communities as Director of Stillwater Arts Outreach. He also worked on other educational programs including CelloFest and the OSU Summer Music Camp. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Tran worked for the Pioneer Library System as they opened their Southwest Oklahoma City branch. As Grants Director, Tran works with organizations across the state as they apply for Oklahoma Arts Council grant funding for art programs that take place in community- and school-based settings.

Jarica Walsh (Director of Art in Public Places) is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, having received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Media Arts with an emphasis in Filmmaking. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, she served as Associate Director of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition where she managed the Artist Survival Kit professional development series and the Artist Grants and Fellowship programs. She also directed events and programs such as the Oklahoma Art Writing and Curatorial Fellowship. Walsh is an active visual artist working primarily in ceramics and maintains a studio in the Paseo Arts District. Walsh was born in Pawhuska and is a member of the Osage Nation.

Erika Wilhite (Arts Learning in Communities Director) has over 20 years’ experience producing arts programs in community settings. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Theatre from the University of Central Florida and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre from University of Central Oklahoma. In 2010, Wilhite founded Artist’s Laboratory Theatre, a social practice, community-based theater organization in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She is a practicing performance artist, writer, and theater director. Wilhite applies her passion and experience at the Oklahoma Arts Council in the role of Arts Learning in Community Director, through which she oversees the Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative and the new Creative Aging Initiative.