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Oklahoma Arts Council News

May 2017

Capitol Event Celebrates Veterans' Artwork, Pilot Arts Program

State senators and members of the media joined the Oklahoma Arts Council, Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and others on May 2 at the state Capitol to honor veterans who participated in a recent pilot arts program in Norman. The pilot program was part of the Oklahoma Arts Council's Arts and the Military Initiative.

The event, which took place in the Capitol Blue Room, celebrated the veterans' accomplishments and brought attention to the potential for the arts to impact veterans across Oklahoma. Along with the event, legislators also paid tribute to the veterans in the House and Senate chambers.

The pilot program, which took place in 2016, featured college-level courses taught by professional teaching artists in photography, creative writing, and visual arts for veterans residing at the Norman Veterans Center.

A formal evaluation of the program was conducted by a researcher from the University of Oklahoma's Knee Center for Strong Families. A catalog of the evaluation, titled "Engaging Veterans through Creative Expression," explores the benefits of the program for the veterans and provides guidance for individuals and organizations wishing to create similar programs for veterans in their communities.

second pilot arts program is currently underway at the Lawton/Ft. Sill Veterans Center in Lawton, Oklahoma and will run through most of 2017.

FY18 State Budget, Oklahoma Arts Council Funding Remains Unclear

The 2017 Oklahoma legislative session is in its final month, with no indications yet of how state legislators will balance the state's fiscal year 2018 budget

By law, the state Legislature must balance the budget each year, but with state revenues $900 million less than expected, budget cuts to state agencies, including the Oklahoma Arts Council, are likely.

With our grants and services for the arts industry significantly impacted by the state budget situation, we will keep you updated as we know more.

Download "The State of Oklahoma Arts Council Funding" to learn how potential cuts could impact arts organizations and others in the state's arts industry.

NEA Art Works Grants Due July 13

With an upcoming July 13 deadline, grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 are available from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) through its Art Works grant program.

Funding may be provided to nonprofit organizations and other eligible organizations for programming that meets high standards of excellence, engages the public, fosters lifelong learning in the arts, or strengthens communities through the arts. Disciplines ranging from music, dance, and design to theater, visual art, folk art and more are supported through the program. Arts education programs are also supported.

Visit the NEA website for details.

Be sure to submit an application by July 13.

Cultural District Session Planned for June Preservation Conference

The 29th Annual Statewide Preservation Conference, taking place June 7-9 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center, will feature a session titled "Cultural Landmarks: Historic Preservation in Oklahoma's Cultural Districts."

Oklahoma Arts Council Community Arts Director, Christina Beatty, will be one of four panelists who will speak on using historic theaters to anchor cultural districts. The session will take place Thursday, June 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and will feature representatives from Miami's Coleman Theatre, Norman's Sooner Theatre, and the Woodward Arts Theatre.

Also planned for the conference is a lunch tour of historic Oklahoma City theaters, coordinated by Beatty. Theaters originally constructed in the 1930s and 1940s are scheduled to be included. During the tour, participants will learn about each theater's history, and they will hear how each is impacting economic development in districts across Oklahoma City.

Read more about the conference here. Deadline to register is May 31. Scholarship applications are available.

Interested in volunteering for the conference? Contact David Pettyjohn at Preservation Oklahoma at (405) 525-5325 or

NEA Releases Arts Employment Data for Oklahoma

New state-level data on arts and cultural jobs shows that while Oklahoma ranks 32nd among states in arts and cultural sector employment, the number of arts and cultural workers as a share of Oklahoma's workforce is below the national average at 2.6 percent of total state employment. Arts and cultural employment in Oklahoma declined from 2013 to 2014, according to the report, lagging behing the U.S. average.

The data is part of a newly released report by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, and is part of the federal government's first-ever effort to provide in-depth analysis of the arts industry's contributions to the U.S. economy.

Data includes arts and cultural workers as a percentage of a state's workforce, compensation, top industries, trends, and more. An interactive dashboard offers more detailed information. 

Learn more about the analysis here.

NOTE: Results from the Arts & Economic Prosperity V study – a separate study on the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Oklahoma – are forthcoming. More information on that study is available at  

Oklahoman Competes in 2017 National Poetry Out Loud Contest

In late April, Kristine Guerrero of Lawton represented Oklahoma in the 2017 national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C. Guerrero was among 52 finalists in the national competition.

Overall, the program included 300,000 students nationwide who competed in their school- and state-level competitions. Samara Elan Huggins, a high school senior from Georgia earned first place in the national contest.

Teachers interested in helping students to participate can register their schools for the 2018 competition in the fall. Students and schools can earn awards through participation. The program includes materials and curriculum that teachers can use in the classroom.

Poetry Out Loud is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Oklahoma's 2016-17 competition was facilitated by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park.

For more information about the national Poetry Out Loud competition, visit

Nominate a Native Artist for a Community Spirit Award

Through the Community Spirit Awards program, First Peoples Fund recognizes culture bearers in Native American communities whose work keeps long-held traditions alive. Since 2000, nearly 100 culture bearers have been recognized across the nation.

Now through July 31, First Peoples Fund isaccepting nominations for the 2018 awards. Honorees are selected for their efforts in sustaining and growing understanding of the creative practices and cultural values of their people. 

Nominees must be practicing Native artists (American Indian, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian) of any medium – including visual, performing, and literary arts in contemporary or traditional forms – who have been practicing their artistic discipline for at least 10 years.

Awards of $7,500 are given to each winner. Submit a nomination by July 31, 2017 and help bring recognition to an Oklahoma Native artist.

U.S. Department of Education Seeks Arts Education Peer Reviewers

The United States Department fo Education is seeking individuals from various backgrounds to serve as peer reviewers for its Professional Development for Arts Educators (PDAE) grantcompetition. Reviewers should have expertise in areas such as arts curriculum, arts-integration, education administration, or professional development.

Peer reviewers should have availability between mid-June and mid-July. Work will take place remotely and via teleconference.

The PDAE grant program supports the implementation of model professional development programs across artistic disciplines for educators in schools in which 50 percent or more students are from low-income families. Grants are intended to strengthen standards-based arts education programs.

Find out how to become a peer reviewer.

Molly O'Connor Believes in Power of Stories

The power of storytelling has been a consistent theme throughout Molly O'Connor's career. Recently promoted to Assistant Director at the Oklahoma Arts Council, O'Connor has served in several positions with the state agency over 10 years, including stints as Arts Learning in Communities Director and as Director of Cultural Development. 

Prior to the Oklahoma Arts Council, O'Connor spent five years with the Arts Council Oklahoma City where organizing an annual storytelling festival for the nonprofit was one of her chief responsibilities.

Having a degree in three-dimensional art (ceramics, sculpture, metal) did not directly prepare O'Connor for work involving storytelling, but she sees a relationship between the two as they each often include "handing down" traditions in non-written form.

Through work-related travel to national storytelling events and story "slams," O'Connor gained knowledge and passion for the artform. In 2005, she helped launch a story slam event in Oklahoma City, a side project she currently continues on Sundays in Oklahoma City's Plaza District. 

O'Connor's new position has her exploring ways to promote folk and traditional arts in Oklahoma even as she continues to organize the Oklahoma Arts Conference and theLeadership Arts program. She says Oklahoma is rich with folk and traditional art, the "fabric of our identity," and it is important to make sure these valuable traditions are passed along to future generations of Oklahomans.  

In an age of globalization, digital technology, and data, O'Connor says storytelling, folk, and traditional arts can help people gain an understanding beyond data and connect to others through a shared experience.

Fun facts about Molly and storytelling:

  • Participated in a short-term program at The Second City in Chicago
  • Has performed stand-up in Chicago and Montreal
  • Favorite quote is "Jesters do oft prove prophets" (from Shakespeare's King Lear)

O'Connor can be reached at (405) 521-2013 or