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Oklahoma Arts Council News

December 2021

44th Governor's Arts Awards Honors Oklahomans

Hundreds of people joined the celebration of individuals and organizations honored at the 44th Oklahoma Governor's Arts Awards on November 9.

Under the dome of the newly restored Oklahoma State Capitol, Governor J. Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Arts Council presented 19 awards in various categories.

Learn about the Governor's Arts Awards and the nominations process.

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo was presented with the first award of the evening, when she was designated as the 14th Oklahoma Cultural Treasure.

"When I grew up in Oklahoma, it was the arts that fed me," said Harjo in her remarks. "As an Oklahoma Cultural Treasure, I will continue to uphold this fierce belief and love for our arts and for our people."

For the first time since 2003, an Oklahoma Cultural Ambassador was designated, as Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth was granted the distinction. In her remarks, Chenoweth cited how the arts changes lives, as it was on the stage that she found her sense of belonging.

Grant Opportunities from the Oklahoma Arts Council

New opportunities for regional and national funding are often announced, but organizations are also encouraged to review grant opportunities that are offered by the Oklahoma Arts Council on a rolling basis. Below are funding opportunities available to support arts programs in community and school settings. Note that there have been increases in the number and size of grants recently.

  • Small Grant Support – Three grants of up to $2,500 each are available for audience-based arts programs and learning-based arts programs in community settings. Applications are due 30 days before the start of a program. Learn more.

  • Small Grant Support for Schools – Three grants of up to $2,500 per school year are available. A 10% match is required. Applications are due 30 days before the start of a program. Learn more.

  • Arts in Alternative Education Grants – Three grants of up to $2,500 per school year are available for alternative education sites within the Oklahoma State Department of Education system. A 5% match is required. Applications are due 30 days before the start of a program. Learn more.

  • Oklahoma Arts and the Military Grants – Up to $5,000 is available for learning-based and audience-based programs serving primarily individuals who are connected to the military. Applications are accepted at any time as long as the project has not ended. Learn more.

Upcoming Deadline for Cultural District Grant

The Oklahoma Arts Council is currently accepting letters of intent for the Cultural District Development Grants program. The program offers up to $7,500 to assist in the establishment of a cultural district. Letters of intent are due February 15.

Contact Our Staff

Be sure to review our grant programs to find out how existing and new funding opportunities might fit the needs of your organization. Staff is available to assist any time.

Town Hall to Provide Insight on Creative Aging Initiative

An upcoming virtual town hall meeting presented by the Oklahoma Arts Council will provide insight into the agency's new Creative Aging initiative. The meeting will take place on Zoom on Thursday, January 13, 2022, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

During the meeting, participants will learn about the principles and practices of Creative Aging. The meeting will be co-hosted by Lifetime Arts, a leading national nonprofit organization specializing in Creative Aging program development.

Recommended participants include:

  • Teaching artists in all disciplines

  • Staff of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations

  • Health and social service organization representatives

  • Individuals interested in serving older Oklahomans through the arts

Announced in spring 2021, the agency's Creative Aging initiative is aimed at equipping organizations across Oklahoma and building capacity for serving older adults through the arts.

Register here for the Town Hall on Creative Aging.

For more information, contact Erika Wilhite, Arts Learning in Communities Director, at (405) 521-6280 or

Oklahoma Museums Eligible for Tax Exemption Under New Law

A new state law that went into effect in November allows eligible Oklahoma museums with budgets of less than $1 million to be exempt from paying state sales tax. To be eligible, museums must be registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofits. 

To take advantage of the exemption, museums must download and complete the Oklahoma Sales Tax Exemption Packet. They must also submit their 501(c)(3) letter of determination from the IRS, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and previous year's audit or 990 tax return.

Read more about the new tax exemption on the Oklahoma Museums Association website.

Funding from Oklahoma's Regional Arts Organization

The Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) is a regional arts organization that serves a six-state region that includes Oklahoma. If you or your organization have not reviewed the latest offerings from M-AAA, take a look below and click check out the links to learn more about each.

Regional Touring Program – Funding to support the presentation of performing artists from the M-AAA region. Projects must include an outreach engagement activity. Deadlines are rolling, with applications due three weeks prior to the start of a project.

Artistic Innovations – Encouraging experimentation and exploration, the programs provides up to $15,000 to individual artists and arts-based nonprofits for the creation of new, original works. Applications open January 2, 2022.

Creative Forces Community Engagement Grant – Funding for arts projects that serve military and veteran populations, including families and caregivers. Grants of up to $50,000 are available. Deadline is December 15.

Explore National Endowment for the Arts Grant Programs

When was the last time your organization applied for grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)? If your organization has never applied, or if it has been a while since it applied, now might be the time to review the various grant programs they offer.

Entities eligible to apply for funding from the federal arts agency generally include nonprofit organizations, units of local government, and federally recognized tribal communities. Learn more about each of the following grant programs using the links below:

Grants for Arts Projects – The NEA's principal grant program, providing $10,000 to $100,000 for projects in a wide range of disciplines. Next deadline is February 10, 2022.

Challenge America Grants – Offers support primarily to small organizations, with the goal of extending the reach of the arts to underserved populations. Grants are $10,000. Next deadline is April 21, 2022.

Our Town Grants – Creative placemaking grants that require a partnership between a local government entity and a nonprofit organization. Grants range from $25,000 to $150,000. The next deadline has not been announced but is often in the summer.

The NEA also offers grants for research, creative writing fellowships, translation projects, and more. See their grants page here. The National Endowment for the Arts exists to support arts programs nationwide, and Oklahoma organizations are encouraged to seek their support.

Big Read Funding Available for Community-Wide Reading Programs

Organized through a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts and Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read program provides up to $15,000 in support of community-wide reading programs.

Nonprofit organizations, public libraries, school districts, local and tribal governments, and other eligible entities can apply for the program through January 26, 2022. Matching grants from $5,000 to $20,000 are available.

In addition to funding, the program provides training opportunities, digital resources, and outreach materials. Applicants can choose from a diverse Big Read library and organize activities such as author readings, book discussions, art exhibitions, lectures, and panel discussions.

Learn how to apply for Big Read funding and offer a reading program for your community.

State Public Art Dedicated at OKC's Will Rogers World Airport

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples was joined by Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, and Oklahoma State Representative Preston Stinson on November 22 at Will Rogers World Airport for the dedication of, "Welcome to Oklahoma," a new mural for the Oklahoma Art in Public Places Collection.

Created by Edmond artist Rhiana Deck (Choctaw Nation), the artwork features an artistic interpretation of the new State of Oklahoma brand, introduced by Pinnell in 2020. The mural, which measures nearly 30 feet wide and nine feet tall, is located in the baggage claim area of the airport, which handles up to 6,000 passengers each day. The dedication of the mural coincides with an increase in passengers traveling to Oklahoma during the holidays.

See KOCO-TV news coverage of the dedication.

Curriculum Spotlight: Poetic City Teaches Creative Expression

Poetic City has created lessons for the Oklahoma Online Fine Arts Curriculum that will help students develop critical and creative thinking through artistic expression. Their lessons are geared toward high school-aged students.

Through six videos produced by Poetic City featuring demonstrations of music, painting, photography, poetry, and more, students are introduced to the process of crafting works of creative writing. 

Eleven different Oklahoma Academic Standards are addressed through the Poetic City curriculum, including standards involving the development and refinement of artistic techniques, the analysis and interpretation of artistic work, conceptualization of artistic ideas, and more.

To access the six sessions and corresponding rubric, click here.

Celebrating the Staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council

When it comes to serving Oklahomans, the staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council is our agency's most valued resource. Each member of our staff is committed to public service. We cherish the opportunity to work hard to meet the needs of the arts sector and to build up our state using the transformative power of the arts.

Below we celebrate milestones of our staff members. Thank you for allowing us to serve you!

Staff anniversaries

Amber Sharples joined the staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council in December 2006. She first served in the visual arts department before being elevated to Assistant Director in 2011 and Executive Director in 2013.

Molly O'Connor joined the staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council in November 2006. O'Connor has served as Arts Learning in Communities Director and Cultural Development Director. She is currently the agency's Assistant Director.

Congrats to Amber and Molly on 15 years with the Oklahoma Arts Council!

Sharples to serve as NASAA treasurer

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples has been named treasurer of the board of directors for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). The announcement was made by NASAA on December 1. The treasurer and other officers are elected by the board. Sharples' position on the board helps ensure Oklahoma's voice is well represented nationally among state arts agencies in relation to public funding and policy.