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The Future of Academia is Community Engagement

A moment with Sean Latham From the Zarrow Center for Art and Education

The Future of Academia is Community Engagement

There is a fundamental transformation of the way the Arts and Humanities work, and universities and colleges were very much about building gates around themselves. So for me, the future is about community engagement, taking the gates down, and having spaces like this.” Says Sean Latham, the Zarrow Center for Art and Education director. “We are the interface between universities in this community, and we show things in the humanities that are not about passive reflection or individual creation, instead have all kinds of ways in which they connect to the larger world. And that is what we call the public humanities.”

The Zarrow Center operates as part of a larger mission for the Oklahoma Center for Humanities at Tulsa University. Housed in the original Paper Company building that now makes up the south eastern corner of Museum Row

next to the Bob Dylan Center, 108 Contemporary and the Woody Guthrie Center. The Humanities Center essentially is the downtown campus to Tulsa University, which resides off 15th and Harvard, serving as classrooms, a gallery and event center. Sean explains how the gallery plays an integral role in the programming, highlighting the work they do in the arts and humanities as the downtown campus of TU, but also providing an essential interface between what goes on behind the gates of the TU campus.

“We’re really meant to serve as a crucial interface between campus community”. In addition to the gallery, the second-floor hosts classes for TU students, and many are often open to the public.

Each year, OCH convenes as a think tank on campus composed of faculty, community members,

and students. They meet intensively throughout the fall semester, curating public events, everything from art exhibits, conferences, film screenings, musical performances, and talks in the downtown gallery. This year the theme is Freedom.


The future is about community engagement, taking the gates down, and having spaces like this."

- Sean Latham

Who Curates

Sean explains their goal is to coordinate shows that tie into their theme. For example, throughout the rest of this year, OCH is on a National Endowment for the Humanities grant called Pathways to Freedom. Therefore, the following shows will all look at clusters of ideas around the grant’s theme. The first will be the dustbowl, historical black towns around Oklahoma, the Race Massacre, and tribal sovereignty. Using freedom to think about each of these concepts, matched with a whole series of programming that will wrap around each of those exhibitions.

“You never quite know what you’re gonna find when you come in, but it will always be a highquality experience with a significant intellectual and historical component, ” Sean expresses. Zarrow Center is not a typical art gallery in that you come here and buy art; instead, it is an art gallery and event space that brings experiences an established university like TU can bring to educate and showcase. The gallery is open from Wednesday through Saturday, 12 to 5.

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Budget Collector at Zarrow

Ebonique Boyd, the co-founder of Budget Collector, an art advisory app, recently curated a show at the Zarrow Center at the first Friday art crawl called Art @ Home. Over a thousand people circulated throughout the event space, and many participated in conversations about art and how it makes them feel. Sean was excited to have Ebonique and Budget Collector featured in the gallery and explained his meeting with Ebonique was happenchance. Sean met Ebonique at Guthrie Green for another art event a few months ago and found they share a similar missionmaking art accessible to everybody. That aligned well with OCH’s mission; Sean pointed out how they ” forged a plan right there on the spot, which grew into this cool event.”


The future is about community engagement, taking the gates down, and having spaces like this."

- Sean Latham

Visiting the Gallery

Zarrow Center is in the heart of the Arts District downtown, and you will be close to Guthrie Green and a myriad of delicious restaurants, galleries, shops, and public spaces.

  • Que Gusto: Simple counter-serve cafe offering Ecuadorian comfort food made from carefully sourced ingredients. 105 N M.L.K. Jr Blvd
  • East Village Bohemian Pizza, a local hotspot for the most creative and mouthwatering pizzas and cocktails, 818 E. 3rd St.
  • Lone Wolf: Banh mi, kimchi fries & Vietnamese fusion plates are the specialty at this popular counter serve. 203 E Archer St.
  • Magic City Books: an independent bookstore owned by the nonprofit Tulsa Literary Coalition. 221 E Archer St
  • Finish with some delicious homemade ice cream at Beatrice Ice Cream Co 11 E Reconciliation Way

Three Favorites from the Zarrow Center

  • Tulsa Girls Art School

    Tulsa Girls Art School

    This exhibit was called ‘Spreading Hope’

    Read More
  • Budget Collector

    Budget Collector

    Most attendees ever post-pandemic for the center.

    Read More
  • White Rage by Carol Anderson

    White Rage by Carol Anderson

    An innovative book discussion led over Zoom.

    Read More

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