Living Arts Tulsa
“Contemporary art has such a wide meaning to me. I think it’s anything that pushes and challenges you in a way you may not have expected.” So explained Jessica Dewey, the Program and Development Manager for Living Arts Tulsa, when I asked what her definition of contemporary art was. Like many of us, she once defined contemporary art simply as art coming from anybody alive; however, since being at Living Arts for three years, that old definition has become a blanket statement for such a complex art genre. Her time at Living Arts Tulsa has allowed a change in perspective of contemporary art, proving that contemporary art is very much like being alive; layered, complex, and multi-dimensional.
These dimensions are what Living Arts Tulsa thrives on: curiosity, conversation, and change in consciousness. For over 50 years, Living Arts Tulsa has been the longest-running contemporary art gallery in Oklahoma. This year marks 53 years of being the pillar for contemporary art for emerging artists and challenging how we perceive art here in Tulsa.
The Living Arts gallery sits in the northern corner of the Arts District of downtown Tulsa and boasts a spacious warehouse-style setting surrounded by windows bringing in bright natural light. On the walls, you are immersed in a diverse and sometimes controversial selection of art with an open environment that encourages conversation.
“We’ve been able to foster a community where people feel like they can come in, and if something challenges them, they can open a conversation, have a healthy discourse, and ask questions like, why is that there?
For instance, their exhibition commencing 2021. When former President Donald Trump came to Tulsa, most downtown stores boarded up their windows, and a group of local artists, many anonymous, painted images and messages of hope, love, and unity on those boards. Jessica
explains how the city ended up with all those boards and didn’t know what to do with them; Living Arts took them and put them on display. Jessica explained, “We wanted to open the year with the intention that Living Arts Tulsa is a place where we will show your art no matter what media it is. We want you to know that no matter who you are and from whatever walk of life, if you want to come into the building and experience art, you are welcome here. Nobody ever thought we’d be putting plywood boards on the wall, and by the end of that exhibition, many people commented that they would never have even looked at those boards if they hadn’t been on display”.
Living Arts hosts nine to eleven temporary art shows a year. Their exhibitions primarily feature emerging local artists, and often the art will be for sale at a reasonable price. The Living Arts selection committee books exhibits two years in advance, and try hard to find their way to get to a yes for all submissions. Living Arts Tulsa has a focused goal: to help artists receive the tools they need to succeed in exhibitions and through teaching in the field.
Living Arts Tulsa is jampacked with programming and events in their space. They run five education programs annually, which include art summer camps, the Artists in Residency program with Tulsa Public Schools, New Arts Youth Council, and New Arts Foundation for Middle and High schoolers. Flip the Gallery; their online program started during the pandemic, contains their podcast, online workshops, and digital content. Their most recent endeavor, Tulsa Creates Together, is a grant program geared toward artists installing site-specific public art pieces around town. You can see this throughout Tulsa with the work of Carmen Taylor and her mural at the airport and Taylor Painter Wolf’s felted textile piece hanging in the Vast Bank lobby.
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The Living Arts signature event is their gala, Champagne and Chocolate, bringing together art, fashion, champagne, and chocolate. They also host the magical Día de los Muertos Arts Festival, in partnership with Casa de la Cultura and Guthrie Green, each year in November. Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrates the Latinx heritage by honoring loved ones who have passed away. This event is open to the public and displays beautiful ofredas or offerings from families of those deceased.
Growing into its 53rd year, Living Arts seems to be gaining momentum, broadening its reach and expanding its team- according to Jessica, it is the largest staff they have had in 10 years, complete with ten full-time and part-time interns. All with the mission of continuing the conversation of what contemporary art means to us here in Oklahoma.
Ready to Plan A Visit?
Living Arts Tulsa is open Tuesday – Saturday 12-4 and every First Friday Art Crawl from 6-9.
Find the Living Arts at 307 E MB Brady St, Tulsa, OK or visit their website here.
Local Hotels & Restaurants
Vast Bank building holds two fabulous restaurants:
French Hen: cozy French inspired cuisine
110 N. Elgin
In the Raw Vü: high end sushi with breathtaking views
110 N. Elgin Ave
Elgin Park: sports bar and brewery
325 East Mathew B. Brady Street
Duet Restaurant: indoor/outdoor dining with live music 5 nights a week
108 N. Detroit
DW Speakeasy: live music venue in the heart of Greenwood
124 N. Greenwood
Stay at the Hotel Indigo and enjoy stellar downtown views from their Roof Sixty Six rooftop bar
121 W. Elgin
Living Arts 3 Favorite Pieces
Liwalookeewe haasi m’kaweeletamaakwe / To heal is to remember. The artist, Maggie...Read More
Don't Forget to Love
This painting on plywood is from the time when the former...Read More
Jessica followed this piece all over town and bought it in the first 5 minutes of the exhibition.Read More
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