Oklahoma Arts Council Staff
Who to Contact
Accessibility coordinator: Erika Wilhite
Arts and the military: Erika Wilhite
Artwork at the State Capitol: Jarica Walsh
Artwork on bridges, highways, and state buildings (public art): Sterling Hayes
Arts education programs in schools: Jennifer Allen-Barron
Arts learning programs in community settings: Erika Wilhite
Capitol gallery exhibitions: Jarica Walsh
Community arts (exhibitions, festivals, performances):
Creative aging programs: Erika Wilhite
Cultural districts: Molly O'Connor
Docent program: Amanda Harmer
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: Martyna Sandoval
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: Molly O’Connor
Teaching Artist Roster: Jennifer Allen-Barron
Tours of the Capitol: email@example.com or (405) 521-6813
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.
Amber Sharples Oklahoma Arts Council
Chandra Boyd Oklahoma Arts Council
Molly O'Connor Oklahoma Arts Council
Arts Education Director
Jennifer Allen-Barron Oklahoma Arts Council
Cultural Development Director
Arts Learning in Communities Director
Arts Education Assistant
Grants and Finance
Grants and Programs Associate
Director of Marketing and Communications
Joel Gavin Oklahoma Arts Council
Web and Publications Director
Scott CowanOklahoma Arts Council
Visual and Public Art
Director of Visual and Public Art
Jarica WalshOklahoma Arts Council
Director of Art in Public Places
Director of Collections Management
Art in Public Places Program Assistant
Curator of Education and Engagement
Visual and Public Art Preparator
About Our Staff
Jennifer Allen-Barron (Arts Education Director) earned degrees in Fine Arts and 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 has held volunteer committee and board member roles for several Oklahoma City-based nonprofits and is a practicing visual artist, working primarily in acrylic paint. In her role with the Oklahoma Arts Council, Allen-Barron works with schools across the state—including alternative education school sites—to develop and expand arts education programs. She oversees the Council's Teaching Artist Roster and Online Fine Arts Curriculum, and she leads the agency’s participation in various statewide and national arts education initiatives.
Chandra Boyd (Deputy Director) has more than 25 years of experience in arts education and administration, 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 from Oklahoma City University with an emphasis on Marketing and Art History. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and French from Oklahoma State University. As Deputy Director, Boyd provides oversight of agency programs and operations, including human resources and policy development. She also oversees the development of the agency's strategic plan.
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 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.
Amanda Harmer (Curator of Education and Engagement) joined the Oklahoma Arts Council in 2022 where she creates and implements educational programming and resources for exhibitions of artwork at the Oklahoma State Capitol and for works in the Oklahoma Art in Public Places Collection. Harmer earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of Oklahoma with minors in Photography and Art History. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Harmer was the Manager of Family and Access Programs at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, where she oversaw programs for audiences of all ages. Harmer is a practicing visual artist, working primarily in 2-D media.
Sterling Hayes (Director of Art in Public Places) 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 in 2021 initially as a part-time Art in Public Places Program Assistant, Hayes served as the Programs and Events Manager for the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. In her role at the Oklahoma Arts Council, she employs her passion for both Oklahoma and the visual arts in overseeing a wide range of administrative and financial functions specific to the Oklahoma Art in Public Places program. Hayes is also a practicing potter, working primarily on the wheel to create functional pieces.
Samantha Haynes (Arts Education Assistant) completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography with highest honors at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). While at USM, she was recognized in her department for Outstanding Junior and Most Memorable Senior Piece. Her undergraduate work, both live and virtual, have been presented at multiple professional events including COAST DANCEfest and Women in the Arts. In her role as Arts Education Assistant, Haynes provides support for Arts Education in Schools, Arts in Alternative Education, and other education related programs of the agency. Haynes is a member of RACE Dance Collective in Oklahoma City and enjoys teaching and choreographing in the local community.
Calen Kinnaman (Executive Assistant) received her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with an emphasis in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Kinnaman served as the Office Manager for a family medicine practice as well as a family law attorney’s office. In her position with the Oklahoma Arts Council, Kinnaman marries her passion for the arts with her administrative expertise to provide support to the Executive Director. She is responsible for managing the Executive Director’s calendar and communications while collaborating with interagency personnel and external officials to assist with agency objectives.
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.
Christina Naruszewicz (Director of Collections Management) earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Oklahoma State University, where she focused in ceramics. She later obtained her Master of Arts in Museum Studies from the University of Central Oklahoma. Naruszewicz served in education and collections management roles at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. As the Director of Collections Management, she oversees the maintenance and installation of artwork within the Oklahoma Art Council’s care, including the art collections at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Sarah Pugh (Art in Public Places Program Assistant) holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Oklahoma. In her role with the visual and public art department, Pugh brings a diverse background of professional skills from roles as an event planner, pharmaceutical representative, and international buyer. Her responsibilities for the agency include coordinating state public art dedication events, assisting with the financial management of public art projects, and providing support in the agency’s facilitation of state public art projects. Among her arts-related endeavors, Pugh volunteers for the Art Pals program at a local elementary school.
Martyna Sandoval (Grants and Programs Associate) earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Instrumental Performance from the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland, her native country. In 2016, Sandoval came to Oklahoma City to complete her master’s degree in Cello Performance at Oklahoma City University. She is a member of the Fort Smith Symphony and the World on a String quartet. She also provides cello instruction to adult students at the Oklahoma Conservatory of Music. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Arts Council, Sandoval was a cello instructor at El Sistema Oklahoma. In her role as the Grants and Programs Associate, she manages daily grants office operations and assists with general agency programs.
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.
April Tarver (Finance Director) joined the Oklahoma Arts Council in 2022 where she directs the financial accounting, budgeting, cash management, and other fiscal operations of the agency. Tarver began her education at the University of Central Oklahoma and received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. Prior to joining the agency, Tarver was the Budget Manager at the Oklahoma Insurance Department where she managed budgeting and accounting.
Thomas Tran (Grants Director) joined the Oklahoma Arts Council in 2016. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Oklahoma State University, where he studied classical music, and he has a background in public service, education, and program administration. As Grants Director, Tran works closely with organizations across the state as they apply for funding from the Council. He oversees the operations and design of the agency's grants, ensuring they are responsive to the sector and the need to invest in programs benefiting all Oklahomans. Prior to his time at the Council, Thomas worked for the Pioneer Library System and Stillwater Arts Outreach. Thomas has served on numerous boards in Oklahoma and nationally, including Oklahoma Chamber Symphony and Floot Fire, Inc.
Jarica Walsh (Director of Visual and Public Art) is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, having received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Media Arts with an emphasis in Filmmaking. She previously served as Associate Director of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition where she managed the Artist Survival Kit professional development series and oversaw artist grants and fellowship programs. At the Oklahoma Arts Council, Walsh is the department lead for the visual and public art staff. In this role, she provides oversight of the agency's Art in Public Places program, guides the delivery of high-quality curriculum resources, shepherds the curation of artworks exhibited in the Oklahoma State Capitol, and manages the collections of art owned by the State of Oklahoma—including the Capitol Art Collection, the State Art Collection, and the Public Art Collection, among others. A member of the Osage Nation, Walsh is an active visual artist working primarily in ceramics.
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. Wilhite also serves as the agency's Accessibility Coordinator.