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Oklahoma Arts Council News

July 2022

OAC Sees Budget Increase for Arts Education, Capitol Art Management

The state's fiscal year 2023 budget was finalized by the Legislature and signed into law in May. The new fiscal year began July 1. Included in the record $9.8 billion budget is an increase in Oklahoma Arts Council appropriations of $208,825, or 7.9 percent. The funding was directed by the Legislature for education and learning programs and management of the Capitol art.

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said the increase will help offset 8 percent inflation rates while enabling the agency to expand its support for schools and other learning opportunities in the arts.

"We welcome this increase in our state appropriation," Sharples said. "It will be a boost to our efforts to serve schools, military-connected Oklahomans, and individuals of all ages and abilities who want to benefit from arts learning opportunities. It will also empower us to create a dynamic museum-quality experience for visitors at the Capitol. At a time when the cost of business is going up, this additional funding is critical."

State ARPA Funding Update

Investment of nearly $1.87 billion in pandemic relief funding provided to the state through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has yet to be decided. State legislative leaders have called a special session to address the issue. The special session may result in decisions about proposals such as one submitted by the Oklahoma Arts Council with a coalition of arts and cultural organizations to invest funding in rebuilding the state's creative sector.

National Endowment for the Arts Funding

The Oklahoma Arts Council will also receive an increase in its state partnership funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In May, the NEA announced it was awarding $883,900 to the agency for fiscal year 2023, representing a 7.2% increase.

Mark Your Calendars for Creative Aging Event

An August event presented by the Oklahoma Arts Council will give Oklahomans the chance to connect with others interested in learning about Creative Aging programs. The Oklahoma Creative Aging Exchange on August 25 will be a day-long gathering featuring presentations, performances, panel conversations, table talks, and more. Afternoon breakout sessions will be followed by a speed networking session, with a discussion of next steps concluding the day.

The event will be ideal for:

  • Arts administrators involved in programs serving older adults

  • Teaching artists interested in working with older adults

  • Staff of health, aging, and other social service organizations

  • Library administrators

The Oklahoma Creative Aging Exchange
presented by the Oklahoma Arts Council
Thursday, August 25
9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Belle Isle Library
Oklahoma City
No cost to attend. Lunch will be provided.

Registration and details about speakers and sessions will be available soon at For more information, contact Erika Wilhite at (405) 521-6280 or

Nominations Open for 2023 Governor's Arts Awards

Nomination forms for the 2023 Oklahoma Governor's Arts Awards are now available at The Oklahoma Arts Council is accepting nominations through October 14.

First held in 1975, the biennial awards program recognizes individuals and organizations across the state for their contributions to the arts. Awards are presented in several categories including communty service, education, business, media, and public service. Additionally, the Governor's Award is presented to select nominees for longtime leadership and significant contributions.

To be eligible, nominees must be current full-time Oklahoma residents or organizations that work in and for the benefit of Oklahoma.

Nominations may be submitted using an online form or by downloading a hardcopy form.

The 2023 Oklahoma Governor's Arts Awards ceremony will take place in the State Capitol in the spring.

Click here to see nomination guidelines, selection criteria, and a list past winners.

Capitol Begins Transformation into State's Largest Public Art Museum

Nearly six years after hundreds of artworks were removed from the state Capitol, the Oklahoma Arts Council began bringing works back into the restored building in June. Led by the agency's visual and public art staff, crews began installing works on the Capitol's fifth and fourth floors. Installation of the artworks will proceed in phases over the coming months. Developed by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the reinstallation plan will result in the Capitol's transformation into the state's largest public art museum, where visitors can expect a dynamic new experience with a focus on education. Artwork will be arranged according to a chronological and thematic progression. Themes include:

  • Pre-Statehood and Native American/Indigenous Legacy

  • Early Statehood and Western Heritage

  • African American Oklahoma History

  • Hall of Heroes (honoring Oklahoma veterans and military)

  • Oklahoma's Natural Beauty

  • Oklahoma Luminaries

  • Celebrating Oklahoma's Legacy

  • Roots of Oklahoma Commerce and Economic Development

Joining the returning artwork will be nearly 20 newly commissioned works. A new space for the Betty Price Gallery—exhibiting works from the State Art Collection, the return of rotating exhibitions by current Oklahoma artists, and new educational resources tied to the Capitol art are also included in the plan.

See the reinstallation photo album.

Read more about the return of the artwork.

Our Town Grant Applications Due August 4

Applications for the National Endowment for the Arts' creative placemaking grant program, Our Town, are due soon. Offering funding ranging from $25,000 to $150,000, the program seeks to integrate arts, culture, and design into strategies for strengthening communities. Projects must seek to advance local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes. From arts engagement to cultural planning, creative business development and more, activities should help lay the groundwork for long-term system changes. Partnerships between a nonprofit organization and a local government entity are required.

August 4 is the deadline to submit to Learn more about Our Town grants.

USDA Announces Opportunity for Rural Placemaking Funding

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the opportunity for eligible entities to apply for up to $250,000 in grant funding to advance placemaking in rural and tribal communities. The funds are being made available through the agency's Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge. Funding will support planning, training, and technical assistance to foster placemaking activities. Plans can include a focus on preserving cultural and historic structures, enhancing capacity for broadband access, and supporting the development of transportation, housing, and recreational spaces.

Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, federally recognized tribal entities, institutions of higher education, public bodies, and small private entities meeting select criteria.

Click here to learn more.

Oklahoma Humanities Offers Grants

Arts organizations and other nonprofits with eligible programming can seek funding from Oklahoma Humanities. Deadlines are approaching in several grant categories.

Projects must align with Oklahoma Humanities' mission to strengthen communities by helping Oklahomans learn about the human experience, understand new perspectives, and participate in civic life. Programming must allow for analysis, exploration, or interpretation of a topic.

Grant categories include:

  • Opportunity Grants - $1,500. Due 90 days in advance of a program.

  • Major Grants - up to $10,000. Mandatory draft due August 1. 

  • Challenge Grants - up to $20,000. Mandatory draft due August 1.

Visit to learn about these grants.

Justice Department Grants for Arts Programs Serving Youth

Recognizing the potential of the arts to reduce juvenile delinquency, recidivism, and high-risk behaviors, the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is seeking to support and strengthen collaborations between arts-based organizations and juvenile justice systems.

Through Arts Programs for Justice-Involved Youth grants, OJJDP is offering funding for a wide variety of program areas, including but not limited to painting, sculpting, drama, digital media, film, music, dance, singing, and creative writing. OJJDP defines justice-involved youth as those participating in court-ordered diversion programs, in detention, correctional, or other residential facilities, and/or are on probation. Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, city and county governments, and tribal nations.

Deadline to register with in order to apply for this grant is July 18.

Learn more here.

Lawton McMahon Auditorium Receives NEA Big Read Grant

Lawton's McMahon Memorial Auditorium was among the dozens of sites nationwide awarded Big Read grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in June. The city's events center for cultural enrichment, McMahon Memorial Auditorium will receive $20,000 to provide activities for a community-wide reading program. The Lawton Big Read program will center on "There, There," a novel by Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma).

Made possible through a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts and Arts Midwest, the Big Read initiative provides resources, outreach materials, and training to assist grant recipients with leading their community-wide reading program activities. Kick-off events, book discussions, musical performances, workshops, and more can be part of Big Read activities. The program encourages people to come together through contemporary literature to explore, discuss, and address important issues relevant to communities.

Learn more about the Big Read.

See the announcement and view the various projects awarded funding.

Celebrating Staff Milestones

The staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council is our agency's most valued resource. Each member is thoroughly committed to public service, cherishing the chance to meet the needs of the arts sector and build the state using the transformative power of the arts. Below, we celebrate milestones of Oklahoma Arts Council members.

Staff Anniversaries

Eyakem Gulilat, Cultural Development Director, celebrated his third anniversary with the Oklahoma Arts Council in June. In his role, Gulilat leads the agency's cultural development efforts, including recently spearheading a collaboration with the Metropolitan Library System on the production of a video and programming series, "Being Oklahoma: Exploring the Threads that Define Us." Congratulations to Eyakem on three years of service to the agency and the people of Oklahoma!

New Board Appointments Begin Service July 1

Three Oklahomans began their service to the board of the Oklahoma Arts Council on July 1. The gubernatorial appointments were approved by the Oklahoma State Senate in May. Appointed to the 15-member Council were Deanne Brodie-Mends of Moore, Luz "Lucy" Fusselman of Oklahoma City, and Vicente Ruiz of Sperry. They join Lauren Corbut of Tulsa as new appointees for 2022—Corbut's appointment in replacement for another member began in May. Members of the Oklahoma Arts Council board provide vital oversight of agency activities, including the investment of hundreds of grants across the state each year. Council members are appointed for three-year terms and may be reappointed for a second term.