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Contact: Lori Brooks | 405 951 0000 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Media kit: bit.ly/OC_0920kit
Exhibitions are now open on a reservation-only basis to small groups of visitors; masks and social distancing are required at all times
Oklahoma Contemporary will continue providing extensive digital programming, including online arts education, while also utilizing its extensive outdoor spaces to bring Oklahomans together for concerts, interactive sculptures and more
After a five-month delay due to COVID-19 closures across the country, Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, the region’s leading space for contemporary art education and exhibitions, has opened the doors to its new home in downtown Oklahoma City. The new building, originally scheduled to open in March 2020, was designed by architect Rand Elliott to reflect and pay homage to Oklahoma’s famed big skies and ever-changing light.
While this is the first time that Oklahoma Contemporary has welcomed visitors into its new home, the institution remained active and engaged the public digitally throughout the closure, with an ambitious slate of virtual programming including readings, studio visits, artist talks, gallery tours and more.
“We are thrilled to welcome our community into our stunning new building,” said Executive Director Eddie Walker. “The building itself is an incredible architectural achievement and has allowed our exhibitions programming to grow in new and ambitious ways. I am also so proud of our staff and our amazing art educators, who persisted in providing Oklahomans with top-notch arts experiences throughout the worst days of the pandemic. Together, we can make experiencing contemporary art a safe, valuable and fun experience.”
Exhibitions and visitor safety
The inaugural exhibition at the new Oklahoma Contemporary is Bright Golden Haze. The exhibition -- named in reference to the first line in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s iconic musical Oklahoma! -- presents a diverse range of artworks from nationally and internationally acclaimed contemporary artists who use light to create a specific sense of place, utilizing the new building’s expanded gallery space to exhibit significant, large-scale works. Featuring works by leading artists including Teresita Fernandez, Robert Irwin, Tavares Strachan and Leo Villareal, the exhibition’s theme refers both to the storied quality of light and space in Oklahoma and the unique role of light in shaping environment and identity in contemporary art globally.
Alongside Bright Golden Haze, concurrent exhibition Shadow on the Glare features photo and video works by Oklahoma artists that critically respond to Bright Golden Haze’s themes of light and place — in this case, focusing particularly on the landscapes of Oklahoma.
Admission to Oklahoma Contemporary and all exhibitions is always free. Currently, capacity for all spaces is drastically limited, and visitors must sign up online to reserve a timed ticket. Masks are required for all staff and visitors over three years of age, and will be provided at request free of charge. Social distancing signage is installed throughout the building and outdoor spaces, hand sanitizer is provided, and all spaces are cleaned and sanitized throughout the day.
Cafe Contemporary, open for curbside pickup and limited in-person dining, features locally roasted coffee alongside a diverse “contemporary comfort food” menu from Oklahoma City chef Avery Cannon. Shop Contemporary, which is fully operational for web orders and contactless pickup, offers a unique selection of home goods, prints, textiles and accessories in collaboration with a variety of local artists and brands.
Outdoor events and activities
Oklahoma Contemporary offers a variety of outdoor spaces, including an arts park, sculpture garden and second-story terrace. Upcoming programming will make the most of the state’s beautiful fall weather with outdoor events and activities for art lovers of all ages. The organization’s popular Second Saturday program returned in September with outdoor artmaking workshops and, in partnership with Arts Council of Oklahoma City, the upcoming Spotlight Concert Series brings live music across genres to Oklahoma Contemporary’s expansive North Lawn.
The art park currently houses Jen Lewin’s Aqueous, a large, interactive sculpture that invites the public to walk, dance and play on individual panels of shifting colored light that make up meandering pathways through the park. In September, Julian Opie’s Faime Walking (2016), a double-sided electronic sculpture featuring a simplified moving image of a person in motion, will be installed adjacent to the sculpture garden’s walkway and echo the footsteps of visitors as they enter and exit Oklahoma Contemporary.
Online arts education
Arts education is key to the founding mission of Oklahoma Contemporary and remains a core part of the organization’s work. For the Fall 2020 season, its flagship Studio School will take place entirely online, offering 10-week classes that allow people of all levels to learn and expand skills, improve techniques and experiment with familiar and new media. For some classes, such as loom weaving, students will be able to borrow equipment and materials from Oklahoma Contemporary, while others, such as Virtual Worldbuilding and Digital Animation, are specifically designed to take advantage of digital tools.
Oklahoma Contemporary also offers one-off Friday evening classes in drawing, lettering, splatterpaint and more. Some of these 21+ “drink and draw” classes include a kit of art supplies, which can be picked up contact-free in advance of the class.
Throughout the closure and continuing as access to the building is limited to timed tickets, Oklahoma Contemporary’s curatorial and public programming teams have offered a diverse set of digital programs. These offerings have allowed the Oklahoma City arts community to remain engaged with Oklahoma Contemporary through digital gallery talks, studio visits, building tours and much more. In August, the team brought together 24 musicians, actors, artists and other notables from across North America, including Oklahoma City’s mayor, for a marathon live reading of Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, a six-night series that drew viewers from four continents. In late September, Oklahoma Contemporary will host a digital studio tour with artist Jen Lewin, in conjunction with her installation at the institution’s art park.
“The breadth and depth of our online offerings have continued to grow over the past several months,” said Artistic Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis. “We have managed to keep our community and our audience engaged, despite closing our building for months. This level of digital programming will continue to inform our process for creating meaningful connections between artists and audiences. Leveraging our passion for new ideas and innovation, the staff, artists and instructors have quickly pivoted to rethink digital engagement, remote learning and cultural production. As a space for contemporary art exploration, we’ll continue to evolve with the changing times and our dynamic communities to create fun, educational and engaging art experiences for people of all ages and backgrounds. Now and into the future, we’ll continue to ‘make it new’ at Oklahoma Contemporary.”
The new 53,916-square-foot, four-story building with a luminous facade – designed by local Oklahoma City firm Rand Elliott Architects – captures aspects of the state’s ever-changing weather conditions and reflects and embraces the dramatic changes in light and sky that characterize the local landscape. The grounds also include a renovated historic warehouse (housing ceramics and fiber studios and metal and wood sculpture studios) and a three-block arts park, providing space for outdoor exhibitions, education programs and public performances. The new building has been shortlisted for two prestigious international architecture awards: the Blueprint Awards, in the Best Public-Use Project – Privately Funded category, and the World Architecture News Awards in the Civic category.
The move from Oklahoma Contemporary’s original home at the city’s State Fair Park is a significant step in the evolution of the organization, which was founded as a community-oriented arts center in 1989. The new Oklahoma Contemporary greatly increases offerings across exhibitions, education and performance, with exceptional indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces, studios built to the specific needs of artists and performers, and classrooms that will allow the institution’s team of experienced educators to function as never before.
About Oklahoma Contemporary
Oklahoma Contemporary is a multidisciplinary contemporary arts organization, providing a catalyst for the exploration of creativity and contemporary art through a program of groundbreaking exhibitions, performances and educational programs. Developed by and for Oklahomans to present and explore the key innovations, issues and concerns of the art of our time, Oklahoma Contemporary does so while drawing on the dynamic aesthetic, cultural, historical and political landscape of the state. At its core, the institution is an inclusive space – Oklahoma Contemporary believes that art is for everyone and places accessibility and education at the center of all programming. Exhibitions are always free, and everyone is welcome. Oklahoma Contemporary is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by businessman and philanthropist Christian Keesee and Kirkpatrick Foundation Director Marilyn Myers.