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Oklahoma Arts Council News

December 2023

Governor's Arts Awards Honorees Announced

Holbrook Lawson of Tulsa and Ann Barker Ong of Muskogee will receive the prestigous Governor's Award during the 45th Oklahoma Governor's Arts Awards at the State Capitol on January 30. The two were among the 14 individuals and four organizations announced as award recipients for the biennial event by the Oklahoma Arts Council in November. Awards will be presented by Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt during a ceremony in the fourth-floor rotunda at 4:00 p.m.

"In Oklahoma, we value the people who work hard to keep the arts community thriving, and these awards are just one way to show that appreciation," Governor Stitt said.

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said, "From passionate volunteers and teachers to visionary nonprofit administrators and state leaders, generous philanthropists, community-centric businesses, and others, this year's honorees reflect a deep level of commitment to the arts across our state."

Awards will be presented in several categories, including business, community service, education, media, and public service. Learn more about the honorees here.

Arts Highlighted at Legislative Workforce Development Study

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples presented on the arts' role in meeting Oklahoma's critical workforce development needs during a November 14 legislative interim study at the State Capitol. State leaders in Oklahoma are emphasizing workforce development, seeking effective long-term strategies around which they can create policy and determine funding.

During her testimony, Sharples spoke about the benefits of economic and community development strategies that invest in creative placemaking, arts education, and public art. Sharples cited these as proven tools increasingly being used in the competition to attract and retain a skilled workforce. She also explained how Oklahoma Arts Council grants for arts education, and for programs such as Leadership Arts, the Oklahoma Arts Conference, and the Oklahoma Cultural District Initiative are designed to meet the state's workforce development needs.

See the Oklahoma Arts Council interim study document, "Attracting and Retaining Talent: Leveraging Oklahoma's Creative Industry."

Arts Organizations Urged to Review New State Law

Oklahoma nonprofit arts and cultural organizations are advised to make sure they know how to be compliant with a new state law that went into effect in November.

Senate Bill 772 requires charitable organizations to give written notice to the Attorney General's office at least 60 days prior to any charter revocation, dissolution, or other action, voluntary or involuntary, that would result in the transfer of any assets or any interest in or on such assets of the charitable organization with a fair market value that exceeds $50,000 to any other person or entity. 

Arts and cultural organizations are advised to review the bill, available here.

Learn about OAC Grants, Programs at Arts Town Hall in Woodward

Staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council will lead a town hall meeting on the arts for residents of northwest Oklahoma in Woodward on December 7. Staff will be joined by Tonnie Dosser of Oklahomans for the Arts (OFTA).

Local leaders, members of the business community, artists and creative entrepreneurs, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, individuals in the tourism industry, educators, and others are invited to come learn about Oklahoma Arts Council grant programs and services available to boost economic and workforce development, education, and quality of life. Dosser will share how OFTA can be a resource as an arts advocacy group.

Topics of discussion will include rural creative community development, arts and military programs and grants, public art, creative placemaking, arts education, and more.

Northwest Oklahoma Town Hall Meeting for the Arts
Thursday, December 7
10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (lunch will be provided!)
Woodward County Event Center (map)
105 A Temple Houston Drive
Woodward, OK 73801

Attendees are encouraged to bring their ideas for new or existing projects that may be eligible for support from the Oklahoma Arts Council.

For more information, contact Miranda Gilbert, Director of Community Arts and Workforce Programs, at (405) 308-9270 or

Beyond Compliance: Accessibility in the Arts Webinar

A December webinar being hosted by the Oklahoma Arts Council will help arts and cultural organizations go beyond simply meeting basic compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

While all organizations should ensure they are ADA compliant, baseline compliance is just the beginning when it comes to creating cultural spaces that are welcoming and accessible to all in your community. Arts organizations can and should be leaders in their communities by planning and developing programming and exhibitions to include people with disabilities in a meaningful way. To address these considerations, the Oklahoma Arts Council will present Katharine Hayward, accessibility specialist with the National Endowment for the Arts, who will lead participants through best practices and available tools and technology for making programs accessible for people with disabilities. Register now to join us.

Beyond Compliance: Accessibility in the Arts
An Oklahoma Arts Council Webinar
Monday, December 11
12:00 to 1:00 p.m.
Register here (no cost)

Webinar to Highlight Benefits of Theatre for Older Adults (New Date!)

Rescheduled for January 29, the Oklahoma Creative Aging Initiative webinar, "Making Theatre with Older Adults," will highlight the many benefits experienced by older adults through the participation in theatre activities. Presented by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the webinar will feature Tulsa Performing Arts Center's (TPAC) Jeremy Stevens and drama therapist Caitlin Cairns in a discussion about the ways live theatre participation offers improved health and vitality for older Oklahomans. The webinar will take participants through steps of creating and implementing theatre programs for older adults in their communities.

Making Theatre with Older Adults
An Oklahoma Arts Council Creative Aging Initiative Webinar
Monday, January 29
11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Register here (no cost)

VISION Arts 5 Grants Available

Made possible by funding approved by voters in 2016 through the Vision Tulsa program, VISION Arts 5 grants are available to 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(3)-sponsored organizations for art projects that stimulate economic development throughout Tulsa. Organizations may request up to $50,000 in funding through the program with no match requirement.

Projects that will receive priority consideration for funding include events, programs, and festivals that attract a broad audience of visitors; projects that highlight destinations through cultural events and creative activity; multimedia projects that tell Tulsa's arts story; projects that increase access to cultural attractions; and, projects that embrace a collaborative approach to enhance the local community through the arts.

Proposals must specify how they will promote tourism or have an economic impact within Tulsa.

View and download the grant program guide.

The close of applications is Friday, December 22, 5:00 p.m. CST.

Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants Available

A program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA), Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants provide support for emerging and advanced arts engagement projects. The grant program is designed to improve health, well-being, and quality of life for military-connected individuals.

Matching grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 are being awarded through the program. Grantees receive opportunities to connect and learn with other organizations that provide programming for military communities. Grantees can also attend an annual in-person Creative Forces convening.

Grants are available to nonprofit organizations and entities of state, local, and tribal governments that have at least three years of experience in presenting or producing arts-based projects for military communities.

Applications are due January 17, 2024 for projects that begin in summer 2024. Learn more here.

RELATED: Learn about the new ArtsHERE grant program available from the NEA. Grants ranging from $65,000 to $130,000 will be awarded nationwide. Letters of interest are due January 19.

Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Grants and Loans

Through the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance program, grants of up to $100,000 may be available to help provide technical assistance toward starting and growing small businesses in rural towns—generally defined as having 50,000 or fewer residents. 

Open to nonprofit organizations, federally-recognized tribes, and institutions of higher education, the program could potentially be used with efforts to nurture local artist-owned creative businesses and could enhance development of rural arts and cultural districts.

Applications are accepted quarterly, with the next deadline being December 31.

Two Artists Join Okahoma Teaching Artist Roster

Two artists have joined the Oklahoma Teaching Artist Roster after approval by the Oklahoma Arts Council board in October.

Jackie Nelson and Theresa Sacket are visual artists who both work in a wide variety of settings and provide instruction to people across age ranges and abilities.

Nelson can provide residencies in central and northwest Oklahoma. An experienced and certified arts instructor who specializes in painting, drawing, and ceramics, Nelson began teaching in 2007. Among her efforts, she has co-created virtual art curriculum. In her workshops, Nelson seeks to offer dynamic lessons catering to different learning styles so that all students can engage in the learning process.

Sacket is available to provide residencies statewide. Located in Ponca City, Sacket is a muralist who has worked on large public art projects, and she has experience in drawing, painting, ceramics, and sculpture. Her recent work has involved hosting hosted art classes for veterans and students with disabilities.

The Oklahoma Teaching Artist Roster is managed by the Oklahoma Arts Council. Artists on the roster have demonstrated exceptional artistic and instructional abilities through a rigorous application and interview process. Interested in joining the roster?

Creative Placemaking and Community Development Director Sought

The Oklahoma Arts Council is currently accepting applications for the position of Director of Creative Placemaking and Community Development. The position is one of two assigned to administer community-related arts programs. The position advises presenting organizations and grantees on best practices for audience-based programs such as community celebrations, cultural events, and festivals. Among the responsibilities for the individual in the position is oversight of the Oklahoma Cultural District Initiative and agency creative placemaking efforts.

Applications for the position must be submitted through

Celebrating Staff Milestones

The staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council is the agency's most valued resource. Each member is committed to public service, cherishing the opportunity to meet needs of the sector and build a stronger Oklahoma through the arts.

Amber Sharples Marks Anniversary

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples marks 17 years on staff with the Oklahoma Arts Council in December. In a way, Sharples' journey has come full circle. During her first year, as Visual Art Director, Sharples oversaw the inaugural exhibition of art in the State Capitol's Betty Price Gallery. During her most recent year, as Executive Director, she led the agency as staff reintstalled hundreds of artworks throughout the Capitol. It was also a banner year for Sharples as state leaders approved $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the arts and cultural sector—based on a proposal for which Sharples was the chief architect.

Congratulations to Amber on her 17 years of public service to the arts!