Oklahoma Arts Council Visits Okemah
By Justin Scrimshire
Okemah News Leader Reporter
The Okemah Chamber of Commerce launched a progressive economic development program before the pandemic. Due to the pandemic which has interrupted so many events and activities, progress has been minimal. Following the pandemic, business has picked up and Okemah is starting to see positive results.
Atlas Community Studios was hired as a consultant to present ideas for economic growth and development. They have developed a comprehensive plan which can be viewed at www.placemakingokemah.com.
One of the steering committee members is Pamela Thompson, owner of Pamela’s Flowers and Gifts and Okemah Office Supply. Part of Atlas Community Studios recommendations is to create connections through interactive art. They wrote: ‘A public art initiative would be a powerful way to ‘live the legacy’ of Woody Guthrie and provide a fund and engaging opportunity for locals and visitors to not just celebrate but participate and experience music not only during the Woodiest all year round. We recommend a public art strategy that will invite both professional artists and community members to help create seven signature art installations, the first of which will be a ‘Looking Glass’ concept at Homestead. »
Thompson held a meeting in July with Amber Sharples, director of the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC) and discussed ideas on how to promote Okemah through public art. Since July, Pamela has worked with her staff to arrange a meeting in Okemah with the Arts Council leadership team to discuss specific ideas and projects for Okemah. Amber Sharples, executive director of the OAC and Molly O’Connor, deputy executive director, were joined by other board members as well as Tonnie Dosser, who is executive director of Oklahomans for the Arts, a state organization in defense of the arts. .
Thompson met the group on Thursday, October 27 for an afternoon tour of Okemah. She started the Okemah Oil walking tour with George Alexander’s painting of Chief Okemah. Other murals on the tour include the Libby Crimmings map at the Farmer’s Market. This was an interactive art project during Woodyfest this year. Also in the Farmer’s Market is a mural of “Johnnie” by Deanna Mauldin. Two other murals in town by Deanna Mauldin are located on the bank wall behind Okemah National and also at Woody Park Downtown.
One of the highlights of the Art Council tour was the US Post Office to see Richard West’s painting ‘The Grand Council of 1842’. This painting brings to life the peace treaty between several Indian tribes and Texas. West is one of the most popular painters of his time. The painting that many take for granted at the post office is very valuable, with some even estimating its value at around seven figures. Not only does the council want to promote art in Okemah, but they also seek to preserve it. “The mural inside the Post Office is an absolute treasure and we want to look at how best to preserve it,” Sharples said.
Thompson also gave tours of the History Center, 1921 Crystal Theatre, Benson Media Center, London House (Woody Guthrie’s childhood home), Pecan Bowl and Old Armory.
Although time did not permit, she told them about Pastures of Plenty, Lake Okemah which is on the Oklahoma Fishing Trail and also White Lighting Buffalo Ranch.
The Oklahoma Arts Council is a state agency that not only has the power to award grants, but serves as the state’s ambassador to promote the arts and educate Oklahomans about the value and impact that the Oklahoma Arts Council has. art has in Oklahoma, both broadly and specifically for individual communities. Established in 1965, CAO helps fund 250 organizations and schools statewide with approximately 500 grants per year.
While it’s easy to imagine that big cities like Tulsa and Oklahoma City are home to artists, art museums, and galleries, rural communities have long made their own contribution to the art world. OAC seeks to create opportunities that will help foster this creativity for years to come.
“We want to leverage the arts in rural communities,” Sharples said. “We saw many spaces here that could be used for community engagement, such as after-school programs, songwriting classes, and other forms of art appreciation.”
Okemah has a rich history of contributors to the arts, ranging from the well-traveled legacy of Woody Guthrie to the works of world-renowned sculptor Dan Brooks. Throw in Grammy-nominated John Fullbright and singer-songwriters Shawna Russel, Melissa Hembree, Jamie Coon, and others for good measure and it’s easy to see Okemah as a reliable source of talent and talent. expression.
“I’m really impressed with the history of this town,” said Tonnie Dosser of his first visit to Okemah.
While this may be Dosser’s first visit, the CAO is no stranger to Okemah by any stretch of the imagination. OAC contributes financially each summer to the Woody Guthrie Festival.
“We’re here to build a relationship with the community and allow Okemah to showcase the art,” Sharples said. After touring Okemah, the evening ended with a gathering of community leaders and business owners who joined OAC members inside the home of Senator Roger Thompson and Pamela Thompson for refreshments to to discuss further cooperation in promoting Okemah through the arts.