Skip navigation

Oklahoma Arts Council News

June 2023

Budget Increase, ARPA Funds to Give Arts Sector Major Boost

Excellent news for the state's arts and cultural sector came out of the last days of the regular state legislative session in May, as state leaders not only approved a transformational $10 million investment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in the sector, but also agreed to a fiscal year 2024 budget that includes a 15 percent increase in the Oklahoma Arts Council's appropriation. The increase was directed by legislators for use in priority areas including agency operations and upgrades of technology to improve service to the field, inflation impact, and additional grant investment with a focus on rural infrastructure.

In addition to a boost in state funding for the sector, the Oklahoma Arts Council's state partnership grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was increased by nearly 13 percent.

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said the news marks a potential turning point.

"Individual artists and arts and cultural organizations have endured an incredible amount of strife to stay afloat through the pandemic," said Sharples. "The great news of the past few weeks signifies that things are looking up. There is work to be done, but we hope the sector can take a collective sigh of relief as we appear to be turning a corner. This funding gives confidence that the arts will remain a vital part of generating economic growth, workforce development, quality of life, educational excellence, and much more in our state."

Second 'Labor Omnia Vincit' Mural Panel Installed at Capitol

The second in a four-panel suite of murals depicting the people of Oklahoma was installed by the Oklahoma Arts Council on the ground-floor rotunda of the State Capitol in May. Created by Shawnee artist Lucas Simmons, the "Labor Omnia Vincit" mural suite highlights the industries, natural resources, flora, fauna, and journeys of the people of our state. Labor Omnia Vincit is the official state motto, meaning "work conquers all."

The second panel represents southwest Oklahoma—focusing on agriculture, aviation, military service, and the region's mountainous topography. Features in Simmons' painting include bales of hay, cotton, watermelon, strawberries, workers carrying a heavy propeller, a Kiowa woman, and other details.

In addition to Oklahoma Arts Council staff, Capitol employees, legislators, and friends and family of the artist, on hand for the installation were many of the individuals who served as models for Simmons' mural.

Visitors to the Capitol can see the mural in the ground-floor rotunda—a new space created during recent renovation of the building. The Capitol is open to visitors year-round, and tours led by docents trained by the Oklahoma Arts Council are available.

The third and fourth panels of Simmons' mural suite are expected to be finished in the coming months. Learn about the mural suite in this Discover Oklahoma segment.


Check out the Oklahoma Today podcast, "Art in the Oklahoma State Capitol."

Budget Now for the 2023 Oklahoma Arts Conference!

The 2023 Oklahoma Arts Conference is a few short months away! On October 17-19, hundreds of Oklahomans from the arts and cultural sector statewide will gather in Lawton for the biennial event. Artists, arts administrators, board members, community developers, educators, students, and others will get connected and equipped for their work in the arts.

Now is the time to budget for your conference experience—an experience that offers excellent value and return-on-investment. Earlybird registration for the 2023 conference is $169 ($219 after the earlybird deadline). Registration dates will be announced soon. Be sure to consider travel and hotel expenses. A special rate will be available through a designated conference hotel.

Featuring nationally recognized industry experts and local presenters, the Oklahoma Arts Conference brings together the arts community for three days of networking and professional development. For 2023, conference attendees can expect sessions and content addressing post-pandemic needs and much more.

Visit for updates on the conference.

June 15 Oklahoma Creative Aging Workshop to Explore Ageism

An upcoming Oklahoma Creative Aging Initiative online workshop will help teaching artists, arts administrators, aging service providers, and others consider the prevalance and effects of ageism, and discover ways of countering it to provide effective programming for older Oklahomans.

Set for Thursday, June 15, 1:00 to 3:30 p.m., the "Making the Most of Longevity" workshop will be led by Old School, a nonprofit organization that provides education about ageism. During the workshop, participants will experience what it is like to teach and take a workshop for older adults, exploring biases that interfere with providing equitable experiences and learning to reframe inaccurate stereotypes about aging. Presenters from Old School will provide the tools participants need to host their own workshops for older adults.

Register here for the "Making the Most of Longevity" online workshop.

Deadlines for NEA Funding in Two Categories

Deadlines are approaching for two funding opportunities through the National Endowment for the Arts.

Grants for Arts Projects ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 can support a wide range of arts programming. Applications are encouraged from a wide variety of organizations, including first-time applicants, organizations of any size budget, and those serving communities small and large. The deadline for the category is July 6.

Our Town grants support creative placemaking activities that integrate arts, culture, and design into local efforts to advance economic, physical, and social outcomes. Funding ranges from $25,000 to $150,000. The category requires a partnership component. Partnerships must include eligible combinations of nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, units of local government, and federally recognized tribal communities. The deadline for the category is August 3.


Four organizations in Oklahoma were awarded funding from the National Endowment for the Arts in its second round of grants for the year. The Oklahoma Arts Council received a state partnership grant of nearly $1 million. Greatest Stories Never Told of Broken Arrow, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Contemporary also received funding.

Apply for Bloomberg Philanthropies' Asphalt Art Initiative

Through its Asphalt Art Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies is helping cities around the world use art to activate their streets. Through June 12, applications are being accepted for the next round of funding. Awards of up to $25,000 are available.

Project teams submitting applications can include city government agencies, nonprofit organizations, artists, and consultant—teams must be led by a government agency.

Projects for the initiative can incorporate art at intersections and crosswalks, plazas and sidewalks, and vertical infrastructure such as utility boxes and underpasses. The benefits of various projects have ranged from reductions in traffic speeds and improvements in pedestrian safety to the revitalization of forgotten spaces and increase in visitor and local business satisfaction.

View grant guidelines here.

Explore a map of projects funded through the initiative.

Culture & Community Grants Available in Select Counties

Launched in 2011, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation iFund program supports services to the community through funding donated by individuals with specific interests. Among the foundation's iFunds, the Culture & Community iFund supports programs that celebrate and preserve important elements of Oklahoma's cultural fabric. The foundation is currently accepting applications in the category for up to $40,000.

Nonprofits organizations in select counties, schools, and local government agencies are eligible to apply. Projects must take place in Canadian, Cleveland, Oklahoma, and Logan counties.

Letters of intent are due June 23.

View the grant guidelines.

Cultural Districts and More Can Benefit from USDA Initiative

Cultural districts and other economic development projects in rural Oklahoma may benefit from funding available through Rural Community Development Initiative grants of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Funding ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 is offered through the initiative.

Nonprofit organizations, select for-profit entities, public bodies, and federally-recognized tribes are eligible to apply. Rural communities are defined as those with populations of 50,000 or less that are not part of an urbanized area.

Download a fact sheet about the program.

June 28 is the deadline for applications.

Job Opening with the Oklahoma Arts Council

The Oklahoma Arts Council is currently accepting applications for the position of Director of Community Arts and Workforce Programs.

In addition to managing grant applications and providing assistance to organizations that present audience-based arts programs, the position is responsible for planning and production of two of the agency's popular programs, Leadership Arts and the Oklahoma Arts Conference.

Applications for this position are only accepted here through the state's portal.

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 the needs of the sector and build a stronger state through the arts. Below, we celebrate their milestones.

Staff Anniversaries in June

Eyakem Gulilat and April Tarver celebrate anniversaries on staff in June.

Gulilat, the agency's cultural development director, marks his fourth anniversary on June 10. In addition to assisting with programs such as Leadership Arts and the Oklahoma Arts Conference, Gulilat has led efforts to deepen the agency's connections with various communities, and has spearheaded a video series, "Being Oklahoma," focusing on the practices and traditions of cultural artists.

Tarver serves as the agency's finance director, where in addition to ensuring grant and other payments are managed promptly and appropriately, she plays an integral part in the development and oversight of the agency's annual budget. Tarver celebrates her first year on staff on June 20.

Learn more about the staff of the Oklahoma Arts Council here.

'Time Travel' Lands Christina Naruszewicz at State Capitol

When Christina Naruszewicz arrives at her new office each morning, she's reminded of the energy of a bustling city. On the ground floor of the Oklahoma State Capitol—abuzz with the crisscrossing activity of elected officials, Capitol staff, media, tourists, students, and others—the location of Naruszewicz's office is part of what excites her about the job.

As the new Director of Collections Management for the Oklahoma Arts Council, Naruszewicz oversees maintenance and installation of hundreds of state-owned artworks, most of which are displayed in the galleries, rotundas, and corridors of the Capitol. In this role, she works closely with Oklahoma artists, supporting them in the commissioning and exhibition of their work in the historic building.

Owner of a Master of Arts in Museum Studies, Naruszewicz has volunteered, interned, and worked at several cultural institutions across Oklahoma. She has handled everything from Egyptian mummified fish to artistic glass installations.

"I've always had a passion for the arts and history," says Naruszewicz. "Paintings, historical artifacts, and memorabilia allow us to travel through time or get a glimpse into other people's lives."

Naruszewicz's new role is allowing her to deepen her knowledge and appreciation for art linked to her home state. Works in the collections she manages either tell the story of Oklahoma or were created by Oklahoma artists.

A practicing artist herself, Naruszewicz loves painting landscapes. In her spare time, she teaches painting classes.

"I think there is something very experiential about standing in front of a work of art," says Naruszewicz. "Collections are powerful tools for expression and education."

As she embarks on her work each day, Naruszewicz eagerly embraces giving others the chance to travel through time, through her stewardship of artworks that empower people to engage, understand, and appreciate the stories and artistry of Oklahoma.