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Oklahoma Arts Council News

June 2024

Docent Training at Capitol Begins in July—Apply Now!

Training for individuals interested in serving as volunteer docents at the Oklahoma State Capitol begins July 17. The Oklahoma Arts Council is currently accepting applications for the Oklahoma State Capitol Docent Program. Through the program, individuals receive training and resources equipping them to lead people on tours through the historic building.

As Oklahoma's largest public art museum, the Capitol uniquely offers a backdrop of history, government, and art. Thousands of people from around the world, including school children from across Oklahoma, visit the Capitol each year, and trained docents are essential to providing them with a one-of-a-kind experience.

Six weekly two-hour training sessions led by the Oklahoma Arts Council's Curator of Education and Engagement cover everything needed for docents to be prepared to lead tours.

Retired individuals, former educators, art and history enthusiasts, corporate volunteers, military veterans, civic leaders, and others can make ideal docent candidates.

Training cycles begin:

July 17, 2024 (six weekly two-hour sessions)
September 11, 2024 (six weekly two-hour sessions)

Apply now to take part in the next cycle of trainings to become an Oklahoma State Capitol Docent.

For more information, contact Amanda Harmer, Oklahoma Arts Council Curator of Education and Engagement, at or (405) 521-6813.

Call for Artists: Stillwater Airport Mural RFQ

Oklahoma artists can submit their qualifications for a new mural project taking place at the Stillwater Regional Airport. The project is the fourth in a series of airport murals being administered by the Oklahoma Arts Council in partnership with the Office of Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

For murals in the series, artists are required to include their interpretation of the Official Brand of the State of Oklahoma, incorporating the phrase, "Welcome to Oklahoma." The Stillwater airport mural will be created on an exterior wall, totaling 312 square feet, located in a publicly accessible area where passengers arrive and exit the terminal.

Through the collaboration, airport murals have been completed in TulsaOklahoma City, and Lawton.

Deadline to apply for the project is July 1. 

Download the RFQ here.

Submit artist qualifications here.

Oklahoma Creative Aging Initiative Gets Boost from TSET

Oklahoma Arts Council efforts to build capacity across the state for creative aging programs is getting a boost after the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) announced the state arts agency earned a competitive grant through TSET's Discovery grant program. The grants are part of TSET's mission to transform and improve health outcomes across the state.

Through the award, funding of $250,000 will empower the Oklahoma Arts Council to strengthen its Oklahoma Creative Aging Initiative, which leverages the arts to promote quality of life for older adults through community-based arts education programs. TSET may extend the grant funding for up to three years.

Launched by the agency in 2021, the initiative has featured in-person professional development convenings—including last month's Oklahoma Creative Aging Exchange II event in Tulsa—and a series of webinars featuring national and local presenters. Hundreds of Oklahomans working in health, aging, and social service fields, teaching artists, arts administrators, and others have benefited. Initial seed funding for the initiative was provided by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and E.A. Michelson Philanthropy.

To learn about the grant award, read the TSET announcement.

RELATED: See photos from our Oklahoma Creative Aging Exchange II professional development in May.

Third 'Labor Omnia Vincit' Mural Panel Installed at State Capitol

The people and industries of northwest Oklahoma are the focus of the latest mural panel installed as part of the four-panel "Labor Omnia Vincit" ("labor conquers all things") Oklahoma State Motto mural suite in the ground floor rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol.

The Oklahoma Arts Council and artist Lucas Simmons installed the large-scale panel on Monday, May 13, with dozens of attendees on hand including state leaders, media members, family and friends of Simmons, and many of the individuals who served as models for the painting.

Depicted in the painting are themes of ranching, horses, healthcare, military, and wildfire maintenance. The panel is the third of four paying tribute to Oklahomans from all walks of life whose roles in the workforce have shaped our state's economy—each panel repesents a different region of the state. The fourth panel, which will represent the northeast region, is in process, with a tentative completion date in early 2025.

See photos from the installation.

The four-panel project is part of more than 20 new works of art commissioned for the Capitol as a result of the building's restoration.

Watch a Discover Oklahoma segment about Lucas Simmons and the "Labor Omnia Vincit" mural project.

Disaster Response Resources Available from NCAPER

Severe weather has swept across the state in recent weeks, underscoring the need for those working in the arts sector to be familiar with the resources of the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response (NCAPER).

NCAPER is a task force of national, regional, state, and local arts organizations, public agencies, and foundations that helps artists, arts businesses, cultural organizations, and others prepare and respond effectively to disasters and emergencies.

NCAPER's website includes a list of emergency funds and recovery resources for artists and organizations, a downloadable field guide for navigating disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Small Business Administration (SBA), and information about the National Heritage Responders hotlinefor reporting collections damage.

Affected by recent storms?

Artists, arts organizations, and communities impacted by recent weather events are asked to complete this Rapid Impact Assessment Form, which will help authorities identify critical needs and inform their recovery efforts.

Creative Placemaking Funding Available through Our Town Grants

Strengthening communities through activities that integrate arts, culture, and design is the focus of Our Town grants, offered by the National Endowment for the Arts for creative placemaking projects that aim to advance local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes.

With funding of up to $150,000 available for projects, lead applicants for Our Town grants can be nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, local governments, federally recognized tribal communities, and institutions of higher education. Cross-sector partnerships—key to successful creative placemaking efforts—are required.

August 1 is the deadline to register for an account with for the funding. The portal for Our Town applications closes August 15.

View recent projects that have been funded through Our Town grants.

Grants for Arts Projects Deadline

In addition to Our Town grants, the second 2024 deadline for NEA Grants for Arts Projects is approaching. Due July 11, applications are accepted from nonprofit organizations, local governments, federally recognized tribes, and colleges/universities. The federal arts agency's mainstay funding program, Grants for Arts Projects provide up to $100,000 for projects in a wide range of artistic disciplines. Organizations of all sizes are encouraged to seek funding.

RELATED: Three Oklahoma organizations were recently awarded National Endowment for the Arts grants. Read the announcement.

Oklahoma's SPARK! Creative Lab Earns NEA Creative Forces® Funding

Oklahoma City-based SPARK! Creative Lab is one of 41 organizations across the U.S. awarded a Creative Forces® Community Engagement Grant in May. Administered by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance, the focus of the funding is community-based art projects addressing the experiences, challenges, and strengths of military-connected individuals.

SPARK! Creative Lab was awarded $10,000 in the grant program's "emerging" tier. For their project, SPARK! is partnering with the Tinker Federal Credit Union Foundation to present Ditty Bops | The Art of Listening, which will feature workshops in creative expression and deep listening for veterans and will culminate in a multi-arts public performance merging art, social allegory, and compassionate action. Learn about SPARK!'s project.

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Creative Forces seeks to improve health, well-being, and quality of life for military and veteran populations.

Read the NEA announcement here.

Underrepresented Communities Grant Program Announced

The National Park Service (NPS) has announced a new funding opportunity designed to expand the National Register of Historic Places by adding to the register properties associated with underrepresented communities.

Through the NPS Underrepresented Communities Grant Program, up to $75,000 is available to eligible entities to support the survey, inventory, and designation of historic properties. Projects must result in the submission of a new nomination to the National Register of Historic Places or National Historic Landmark program or an amendment to one.

Criteria for application evaluation include significance, planning, feasibility, and sustainability.

Organizations eligible to apply for the funding include nonprofit organizations, state historic preservation offices, federally recognized tribes, and local governments.

Download the program fact sheet here.

Applications are due August 29.

McAlester Artist Featured in Governor's D.C. Office

Artwork by an Oklahoma artist on display in Washington, D.C., is helping advance the state's interests. Curated by the Oklahoma Arts Council, an exhibition of works by McAlester's Jason Wilson was installed earlier this year at a satellite office for the Governor of Oklahoma in the nation's capital. The office was opened in 2021 as a way of strengthening the connection between the work of state government and Oklahoma's federal elected officials.

Titled "A Closer Lens," the exhibition features paintings by Wilson that echo quilt patterns crafted by his grandmother when Wilson was a child. Wilson's foray into art was ignited through observing his grandmother at work. The artist describes his practices as, "a process of learning the interaction of colors, patterns, and space."

In the exhibition at the Governor's Washington, D.C., office, Wilson's paintings take a closer look at portions of his previous work, enlarging details to show only a small portion of a much larger story. Wilson created the works after a near-fatal car accident that jeopardized his artistic career and influenced him to find new meaning in his creations. The artwork will be on display through 2024.

Wilson holds a degree in arts education from Oklahoma Baptist University. He has worked as an art teacher sharing his talents with countless students for 31 years.

Learn more about Wilson's work in this PBS Gallery America episode, "Painter of Quilts."

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.

Staff Anniversaries

April Kowardy, Oklahoma Arts Council Finance Director, celebrates her second anniversary on staff in June. In her role, Kowardy plays an integral role overseeing the agency annual budget and facilitating its development. She also manages payments of grant awards and other agency expenditures, working with the state to ensure prompt processing.

Sterling Hayes also celebrates a two-year milestone in June. After serving part-time assisting the agency's public art staff for more than a year, Hayes was hired full-time as the agency's Director of Art in Public Places in 2022. In this role, she oversees administrative and financial functions for the Oklahoma Art in Public Places program.

Congratulations to April and Sterling on reaching these milestones in their public service on behalf of the arts!