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Oklahoma Arts Council News

September 2021

Register for the 2021 Oklahoma Arts Conference

Registration for the 2021 Oklahoma Arts Conferencein Muskogee is open, with the earlybird rate of $129 available through September 24. Take advantage by registering now at

Conference sessions and content will reflect the theme, "Embracing the Dawn," as the arts sector continues working through the challenges of operating and serving communities amid the pandemic.

Muskogee's Depot District will be the center of activity, featuring spaces such as the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, Depot Green, Muskogee Little Theatre, Three Rivers Museum, and more. Additional events will take place at local cultural sites such as Ataloa Lodge at Bacone College, Roxy Theater, the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame in Rentiesville, and more.

Details about sessions, events, COVID-19 safety measures, and more will be released soon. Attendees can expect plenty of uplifting content geared to help them rebound from the past months and designed to set the stage for a stronger future.

Oklahoma communities rely on the affirming energy of the arts, especially in challenging times. Planning for the 2021 Oklahoma Arts Conference continues, with more announcements soon. Click here to register.

Classroom Supply Grants Due September 15

September 15 is the deadline for Oklahoma Pre-K through 12th grade schools with fine arts staff to apply for up to $500 in funding for visual and/or performing arts supplies for the 2021-2022 school year. Schools must have at least one part-time arts instructor in the discipline for which they apply. Disciplines include dance, drama/theatre, music, and visual and media arts.

From sheet music to props, instrument rental to drawing supplies and more, a wide range of supplies can be purchased using the funding.

The Oklahoma Arts Council hosted an informational webinar about the grant in August. The webinar can be viewed here.

Schools that do not have a login to the Oklahoma Arts Council grant system are urged to request a login in advance of the application deadline so that we may process it in time for them to submit an application.

Learn about Classroom Supply Grants for Visual and Performing Arts.

Deadline Approaching for Arts and Military Grants

Empowering organizations to provide meaningful arts programs for Oklahoma's military community, Oklahoma Arts and the Military Grants provide up to $5,000 to assist with costs associated with programs such as classes and workshops, performances, exhibitions, consultant services, and more. The deadline for applications is September 15.

Eligible applicants include 501(c)3 nonprofits incorporated in Oklahoma, select government entities, colleges and universities, and public libraries.

Projects can be new or ongoing but cannot end before the submission of an application. Primary audiences for programs should be active-duty service personnel, reservists, National Guard members, veterans, immediate family members and/or caregivers.

Download the grant guidelines.

View an application preview.

Watch a recorded informational webinar about the grant program from August.

Educators Can Attend Fall Oklahoma Arts Institute at No Cost

During two weekends in the fall, Oklahoma arts educators and other adult artists can take advantage of one of the premier professional development programs in the nation.

Held at the Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center in the Wichita Mountains in southwest Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain offers a set of all-inclusive, four-day workshops led by nationally renowned artists. Enrollment is currently open, and workshops fill up quickly.

Tuition for the institute is free for Oklahoma PreK-12 public school educators. Discounts are available to private school educators, Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute alumni, and individuals working in higher education.

The fall institute runs October 14-17 and October 21-24. View the workshops being offered.

Enroll here.

Artists Can Sign Up for OVAC OK Art Crawl

The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition's OK Art Crawl is returning after a successful inaugural event in 2020. Created as a way to support artists during the early stages of the pandemic, OK Art Crawl is a statewide drive-by exhibition featuring works by hundreds of Oklahoma artists who display their pieces in parking lots, in front of houses, on front porches, and in garages.

Registration is open to all Oklahoma visual artists. Participating artists must agree to be present at their location and conduct non-contact sales for their artwork. Artists keep 100 percent of the proceeds of their sales.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, October 16, 2021, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

See a map of locations and a list of artists who participated in 2020.

Schools Can Register for 2021-2022 Poetry Out Loud Contest

Oklahoma high school teachers can register their schools to participate in the 2021-2022 Oklahoma Poetry Out Loud competition. Administered by Oklahoma A+ Schools, the program is a free poetry recitation contest for students in grades 9-12. The winner of the state competition receives $200 and an all-expenses paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national finals.

Since it was established in 2005, the national Poetry Out Loud competition has grown to reach more than 4 million students in 17,000 schools nationwide. Made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, the program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.

The 2021-2022 Poetry Out Loud Teacher's Guide is available here.

December 1 is the deadline for schools to register to participate.

Oklahoma A+ Schools manages the state program in partnership with the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Apply for the Intercultural Leadership Institute

Artists, culture bearers, and other arts practitioners whose goals include becoming change-makers in their communities are invited to apply for the Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI) through October 22. The year-long intensive leadership development program is open to individuals in various stages of their careers, from emerging to established. 

Curriculum for the institute is designed to provide participants with the skills, support, knowledge, and agency to confidently address complex cultural questions. The institute grew out of a recognition by cultural organization leaders of the need for modes of learning and social approaches that aligned with their commitment to cultural equity and change-making within their communities.

To learn more, visit

Oklahoma Projects a Priority for Thoma Foundation Funding

501(c)3 nonprofit organizations with original ideas for innovative art projects in several categories can pursue funding from the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation. Promising proposals relevant to areas of interest to the foundation are welcome, including:

  • Digital & Media Art

  • Post-War Painting & Sculpture

  • Art of the Spanish Americas

  • Japanese Bamboo

Projects can fall under the categories of academic, exhibitions, convening, and publications. Letters of inquiry are accepted from organizations across the United States, however the foundation places emphasis on funding projects in Oklahoma and four other select states.

The foundation offers general grants year-round, with deadlines every quarter. The next deadline is September 15. Learn more here.

Curriculum Spotlight: Dimensional Thinking through Visual and Language Arts

Through an exploration of technical drawing and conceptual writing, Oklahoma Online Fine Arts Curriculum developed by local teaching artists Casey McLerran and Crystal Patrick explores the multidimensional creative process and communication of new ideas.

Through six downloadable sessions, Dimensional Thinking: Poetry/Perspectives curriculum fosters students' abilities to create with intended outcomes in mind. Using notebooks, tracing paper, collage material (magazines, newspapers, fabric, etc.), ink pens, and pencils, students are taken through the process of exploring a concept from start to finish, communicating the concept with clarity, and recognizing areas of potential improvement.

Dimensional Thinking: Poetry/Perspectives is geared towards grades 5 and up. All Oklahoma Online Fine Arts Curriculum is developed to address Oklahoma Academic Standards.

Download their sessions and the instructor guide here.

Executive Assistant Position Open with Oklahoma Arts Council

The Oklahoma Arts Council has an opening for the position of Executive Assistant. The person hired for the position will provide day-to-day support to the Executive Director and assist with some financial management duties.

Successful candidates will demonstrate professional business orientation and acumen, possess exceptional interpersonal and written communication skills, be adept at interacting with people of various backgrounds, have excellent planning and organizational skills, and more. A minimum of five years of office administration experience and a high level of computer literacy are required.

The Oklahoma Arts Council strives to build a diverse team comprised of the best and brightest individuals to support the agency's mission to lead, cultivate, and amplify the transformative power of the arts for all Oklahomans and their communities.

Go to to read the full job description and application instructions.

Erika Wilhite Comes Full Circle in Joining Oklahoma Arts Council

Erika Wilhite's journey to the Oklahoma Arts Council shows how a state arts agency can champion groundbreaking ideas that impact communities. Originally from Oklahoma, Wilhite earned a Master in Fine Arts and trained as a teaching artist in Florida, gaining valuable experience before moving to Arkansas and launching an independent theater group. Rather than producing works based on published plays, Wilhite's group experimented in original, ensemble-devised, site-specific productions.

"We didn't need a theater company," Wilhite recalled, "we only needed artists."

Wilhite's project took an important turn when a staff member from the Arkansas Arts Council approached her about a grant opportunity. Through the state arts agency's "Expansion Arts" program, Wilhite's group could receive funding to expand their scale of work, but only if they incorporated as a nonprofit. Recognizing the opportunity, Wilhite sought and received the nonprofit status, and in just eight years, her organization, Artist's Laboratory Theatre (ALT), grew to an annual budget of $750,000.

A social practice company committed to expanding the audience's role in live theatre, ALT engages people through "listening parties," and collaborates with them to create and perform plays reflecting their communities' stories. The results often reflect issues of justice, homelessness, food insecurity, transportation, and other struggles. Wilhite explained that the process gives local residents a voice and empowers them to create change.

Under Wilhite's leadership, the theatre earned funding through the National Endowment for the Arts' Our Town placemaking grant program, and it garnered The Robert E. Gard Award for community-based arts programs from Americans for the Arts.

Similar to the investment made by the Arkansas Arts Council in Wilhite's theater group, Wilhite aims to use her new role at the Oklahoma Arts Council to encourage cross-sector partnerships, where nonprofit organizations leverage the abilities of artists to create meaningful change in communities.

"Artists can serve in so many situations," said Wilhite.

Erika Wilhite is the new Arts Learning in Communities Director at the Oklahoma Arts Council. Among her duties, she oversees the Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative and the new Creative Aging Initiative. Erika can be reached at (405) 521-6280 or

Meet Erika During a Virtual Town Hall

Mark your calendars for September 30, 3:00 p.m., to meet Erika during a special virtual town hall convening. During the town hall, Erika and Oklahoma Arts Council staff members will share an overview of Oklahoma Arts Council grants for community-based learning programs, and she will give an update on the agency's Creative Aging Initiative. A Q&A session and small group conversations will be included. Look for more information and a registration link in your inbox soon.