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Oklahoma Arts Council News

June 2017

National Endowment for the Arts announces $934,500 in funding for Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 27, 2017) – Durant, Spencer and Weatherford are among the Oklahoma communities that will directly benefit from the second round of fiscal year 2017 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants, announced June 14. The federal arts agency will invest seven grants totaling $934,500 in Oklahoma, serving areas across the state. Grants were announced in several categories including the NEA’s Art Works and Our Town programs and its State Partnership Agreement with the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Read the full news release.

Oklahoma Arts Council Budget Cut by 4.87 Percent

For fiscal year 2018, the Oklahoma Arts Council will take a 4.87 percent cut from its original 2017 state appropriation. Governor Mary Fallin approved the budget bill passed by the state Legislature on its final day in session.

The agency will have $2,795,181 to invest in supporting and developing the arts industry in the coming year, starting July 1. Since fiscal year 2008, the Oklahoma Arts Council's budget is down a total of 46 percent.

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples warned about the effects of repeated reductions:

"The arts offer solutions to many of the issues facing Oklahoma. Unfortunately, our ability to meet vital state needs is eroding with each cut we take. Recent combined losses in public and private funding for the arts are threatening to undermine the benefits our industry offers. Such benefits include the state's ability to compete for jobs, offer high-quality education, and provide a vibrant quality of life.

"As we have lost nearly half of our budget in the past few years, our Governor-appointed board and our staff are now analyzing all agency grants and services. In the face of our diminished ability to provide grant funding to seed programs across the state, and in light of our reduced capacity to offer important development programs for individuals, organizations and communities, this is a time when we, like many of those we serve statewide, are re-examining our priorities as we determine how we can best invest our resources. Despite operating in a less-than-ideal environment, we pledge to continue partnering with all members of our state's arts industry to continue in our mission of making the benefits of the arts available to every Oklahoman."

Download an updated version of "The State of Oklahoma Arts Council Funding."

More on the FY2018 state budget

Oklahoma Selected for National Arts Education Convening

Oklahoma has been selected to host a gathering of arts education program managers from across the country. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies' (NASAA) 2017 Arts Education Managers Professional Development Institute will take place September 13-15 at the 21c Museum Hotel in Oklahoma City. The convening will highlight model arts education programs offered in Oklahoma schools and community settings.

A program offered by NASAA in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the institute provides leadership development and technical assistance for arts education managers from state arts agencies and state education departments.

The Oklahoma Arts Council is coordinating the agenda in collaboration with the Oklahoma State Department of Education and a committee from the NEA, NASAA, and other state arts education managers.

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said Oklahoma has the opportunity to set the a standard for how state arts agencies and state education departments can collaborate to bring quality arts education to the communities they serve.

"Our agency's strong relationship with the Oklahoma State Department of Education was a deciding factor in our selection, and it reflects how Oklahoma is working to set the national standard for arts education," Sharples said. "I appreciate State Superintendent Hofmeister for lending her support to our efforts to bring this national event to Oklahoma."

To learn more, information from last year's institute in Michigan is available here. Details about the 2017 event in Oklahoma are forthcoming.

Tulsa-born Joy Harjo Earns Prestigious Poetry Prize

Joy Harjo has been awarded the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a $100,000 award considered one of the most presigious recognitions given to American poets. Noted as a major figure in contemporary American poetry, Harjo was selected for her contributions to poetry and for her outstanding lifetime achievement.

Born in Tulsa, Harjo is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Her poetry draws on Native American storytelling and histories as well as feminist and social justice ideals. Indigenous myths, symbols, and values are woven throughout her work, often alluding to southwestern landscapes.

Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine said Harjo's work, "moves us because it in the continual motion of bringing forward, with grace but also acuity, our collective story, always in progress."

The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is sponsored by the Poetry Foundation, an independent organization that celebrates and promotes poetry through literary prizes and programs.

Examples of Harjo's poetry are featured on the Poetry Foundation's website.

Read more about Harjo's selection for the award.

Grants for Artists Available from OVAC

Funding is available for artists through several grant programs of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC). Grants can assist artists with preparing visual art for public presentation, developing their professional practices, and supporting projects that engage the community.

Ranging from $500 to $1,500, grant types include:

  • Professional Basics Grant - for essentials like quality artwork samples, framing, and website development

  • Creative Projects Grant - for the creation of new work

  • Community / Artist Partnership (CAP) Grant - for initiating community-based projects

Deadlines are quarterly and the next deadline for applications is July 15. Visit OVAC's website to apply

Our Town Grants Available for Community Engaged Design

Our Town grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) support community engaged design that incorporates arts, culture, and/or design in place based work. The funding aims to help communities transform into vibrant, resilient places. Grants require that local nonprofit organizations partner with a local government entity.

Each year, grants of up to $200,000 are awarded through the program. Past funding has assisted with programming at the Guthrie Green in Tulsa, the creation of a public art master plan in Oklahoma City, and the design a cultural district in Durant. Deadline for applications is September 11.

View examples of projects supported by NEA Our Town funding.

How to apply for an NEA Our Town grant.

Oklahoma Museums Offering Free Admission to Military Families

Oklahoma museums are among hundreds nationwide offering free admission to members of the military community this summer. Service men and women and their families can take advantage of the free admission offered through the Blue Star Museums program between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays. From Wakita to Tahlequah, Shawnee and more, more than 30 Oklahoma museums are participating this year - up from 25 a year ago.

The Blue Star Museums program was launched in 2010 as an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense.

See the list of participating Oklahoma museums.

Museums interested in participating in the 2017 Blue Star Museums program can contact

Workshops Can Help Organizations Navigate Budget Crisis

Three-hour training sessions being offered by the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits this summer can assist organizations that are facing a financial crisis. The workshops, titled "Managing Through a Budget Crisis," are being offered at locations statewide beginning in June.

The sessions will provide tools for managing through various stages of economic crisis. Attendees will gain skills and resources for setting and maintaining organizational priorities during uncertain economic times.

Fees may apply. Upcoming workshops include:

  • Durant, June 15

  • Ada, July 13

  • Idabel, July 26

  • Oklahoma City, August 11

  • Tulsa, August 25

View the complete event calendar and register for workshops here

Participate in a Survey on STEAM Education

Education practitioners from out-of-school learning settings are encouraged to participate in a survey examining how institutions are designing and implementing learning opportunities that promote creative thinking.

Being conducted by The Innovation Collaborative, the Out-of-School Effective Practices Research Project will focus on the intersections of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with the arts and humanities. Learning experiences being studied are in-person experiences that are a result of specific programming.

Results from the research will be used to strengthen the STEAM movement. Deadline to complete the survey is June 30, 2017.

Learn more about the research project.

Click here to take the survey.

National Center for Arts Research in Dallas Ranks Vibrant Communities

The third annual Arts Vibrancy Index has been released by the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR). The index ranks more than 900 communities across the U.S. based on supply, demand, and government support for the arts in a community. Scores for Oklahoma counties and others across the U.S. can be viewed on this interactive map.

Cities are placed in one of three categories according to population size. Washington, D.C., New York City, San Francisco, Nashville, and Minneapolis represent the five most vibrant large cities. Santa Fe, Missoula (Montana), and Breckenridge (Colorado) represent the highest ranking medium and small communities. Eight communities made the lists for the first time.

A project of Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, NCAR was launched in 2012 to serve as a catalyst for the transformation and sustainability of the national arts and cultural community. Learn more about the NCAR here.

Download the vibrancy report here.

Artists Can Apply for Chenven Foundation Grants

Grant awards of $1,500 are available to individual artists living and working in the United States through the Chenven Foundation. Artists must be engaged in or planning a new craft or visual art project.

Previous grantees have represented diverse media including works on paper, photography, jewelry and sculpture, painting, and more. Applications must be postmarked or emailed no later than July 15, 2017.

Since 1982, The Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation has supported the work of individual artists through unrestricted cash awards. The foundation's mission includes fostering a greater public appreciation for the arts.

Click here to learn more.

Grants for Artists Effected by Disasters

Support from the Joan Mitchell Foundation may be available to Oklahoma artists effected by natural or manmade disasters. Through the foundation's Emergency Grant Program, assistance is provided to eligible applicants working in painting, sculpture, and/or drawing who have suffered significant losses. Funding is specific to disasters that have affected a community on a broad scale.

Find out how to apply for the Emergency Grant Program

Related: CERF+ offers resources to safeguard artists' livelihoods.

Thomas Tran Finds His Niche in the Arts

Thomas Tran just graduated from Oklahoma State University (OSU) in the fall, yet he is relatively seasoned in the arts. The newest member of the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC) team, Tran served as the agency's marketing intern in the spring and summer of 2016 before becoming Grants and Finance Assistant when the full-time position opened recently.

Tran's foray into the arts began through grade school choir, but it was playing flute in his middle school band where he discovered how the arts offered the friendships and connections that would help him thrive for the rest of his academic career. With a degree in music performance, Tran's academic accomplishments were complemented by his involvement in student clubs that provided outreach programs in the Stillwater area.

The first in his family to pursue the arts on a professional level, Tran was faced with following one of two paths after college. While his friends continued their education and dedicated themselves exclusively to performance, Tran was more interested in remaining in Oklahoma to invest his skills and time in building the local arts scene. His interest evolved late in his college career as he took a leading role in providing opportunities for youth in the Stillwater area to have access to discounted or free music lessons taught by Tran and other OSU students. An OSU professor took notice of Tran's efforts and encouraged him to consider arts administration as a career.

A few months in to his current position with the OAC, Tran describes his transition from college to full-time work as "smooth and seamless." He likes being part of a small team that works well together, and he enjoys getting to know grantees from across the state.

Thomas Tran Recommendations:

  • Listen to composers Dmitri Shostakovich and Johannes Brahms.

  • Play in a chamber music ensemble. The intimate setting helps artists develop music skills and teaches them how to work with others as each artist has a lot of responsibility.

At the Oklahoma Arts Council, Tran's responsibilities include reviewing grantee funding eligibility, processing and organizing grant application submissions, communicating with grantees, assisting with grant payments, and supporting the ONEAL Network(Oklahoma's New and Emerging Arts Leaders).

Tran can be reached for related questions at (405) 521-2041 or