Oklahoma Contemporary

Media Release

SHELTER, an exhibition illuminating the stories of refugees resettling in Oklahoma City, to open at Oklahoma Contemporary

March 25, 2024
A tan dome tent with images of people projected inside
Lisa Karrer, detail, White Round Tents


Contact: Communications team | 405 951 0000 | communications@okcontemp.org
Media kit: bit.ly/SHELTER2024

A recognition of self-worth and belonging within a collective shared experience

Opening April 25 in the Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery, SHELTER by artist Lisa Karrer explores the experiences of displaced peoples seeking safety and shelter in refugee communities across the world. Through oral interviews and video projections displayed within miniature ceramic structures inspired by global refugee camps, SHELTER invites visitors to consider the ways displaced individuals and families find new homes, community, and build new lives in unfamiliar places.

“SHELTER presents the viewer with the content and confluence of lives disrupted by displacement, an alarming phenomenon which is quickly becoming a new ‘normal,’” Karrer writes. “We may even recognize our own selves in the narratives of people who find themselves displaced, and who urgently seek what many of us take for granted: a home, in a community where they can flourish, contribute and participate on a daily basis.”

A woman with long, wavy, gray hair sits on a sofa

Originally debuting 2020-2021 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Karrer’s hometown of Buffalo, New York, the exhibition illuminated the relationship between the city of Buffalo and its refugee organizations that assist displaced peoples with resettling. Karrer’s second iteration of SHELTER at Oklahoma Contemporary recontextualizes the exhibition for Oklahoma audiences, featuring audio and video recordings of residents who have experienced displacement.

“The project continues to evolve as displacement both at home and abroad grows exponentially due to war, climate disruption, food and housing shortages, cultural marginalization, and economic disparity,” Karrer writes. “At Oklahoma Contemporary, SHELTER has expanded to address the dual crises of refugee resettlement in parallel with localized groups of displaced people — all seeking to rebuild their lives with stable housing and support from local organizations — providing opportunities to become vital contributing members of the communities that embrace them.”

Featuring discrete “Stations” of miniaturized ceramic tents, huts, camps, and buildings, SHELTER comprises regionally specific dwellings inhabited by refugees around the world. Each Station in the Oklahoma Gallery contains an embedded audio soundtrack, featuring narrators speaking in their native language or in English, sharing memories of home, paired with projected video scenarios portraying these individuals and families existing in day-to-day realities.

Yellow multi-story buildings stacked closely together

Lisa Karrer, Slum with Sewer

The exhibition expands beyond geographical boundaries both contextually through the ceramic structures and physically within Oklahoma Contemporary’s spaces. Visitors will first encounter SHELTER Stations upon entering the arts center, welcoming in and beckoning the viewer onward.

In an environment and time with increasing amounts of violence and dehumanization toward those deemed “others,” SHELTER aims to humanize the lived experiences of displacement. Oklahomans may feel deep connections to the video scenarios and audio narratives of community members who, with generosity of spirit, give voice to their respective journeys. With a long history of displacement and forced removal of Indigenous nations and Black communities, as well as the arrival of Vietnamese, Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, SHELTER offers an opportunity to hear, see and bear witness to the lives and stories of those within our own state, our own city, our own shared neighborhoods.

Join us for the opening reception on April 25 beginning at 5:30 p.m., including light bites and a cash bar, followed by an Artist Talk at 6:30 p.m. with Lisa Karrer. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this free opening program. Free tickets are available here.

SHELTER is presented in partnership with the Asian District Cultural Association, Latino Community Development Agency, Sooner Hope for Ukraine and The Spero Project.

This exhibition is supported by George Records, The Kanady Family, Leslie and Cliff Hudson, E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation, the Chickasaw Nation, Inasmuch Foundation, Allied Arts, Oklahoma Arts Council, SSM Health, OG&E, Cox, Velocigo and Anonymous. SHELTER is made possible because of the willing and brave participants, OKC Youth Action Board, Ukrainian translators and transcribers Lyuda Cameron and Olha Hrytsaniuk, Afghan translator and transcriber M.A. Majoue, Spanish translator Salvador Ontiveros, CEO of the Latino Community Development Agency, and Spanish transcriber Mayte Millares.

SHELTER will be on view through Aug. 19, 2024.

A media kit featuring this press release, artist photos and select works can be found at: bit.ly/SHELTER2024. Interviews with the artist and Oklahoma Contemporary staff can be organized through the Communications team (communications@okcontemp.org). Past press releases and information are archived at oklahomacontemporary.org/media.

About the artist
Lisa Karrer (b. 1957, Buffalo, New York) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work often incorporates visual, audio and sensory elements, combining technology with narrative and hand-built ceramics to create immersive installations. Karrer’s work explores physical approaches to digital software, creating what she has termed “warm technology.” Karrer describes her own work as seeking to utilize technology as “a tangible, hands-on practice, aiming to enhance and emphasize, rather than obscure, the human condition in the digital age.”

About Oklahoma Contemporary
At the new, state-of-the-art Oklahoma Contemporary, visitors explore art and creativity through exhibitions, performances and a wide variety of educational programs. At its core, the multidisciplinary contemporary arts organization is an inclusive space. Exhibitions and most programs are free. You are always welcome here.

In addition to the 8,000 square feet of galleries for visual art, Oklahoma Contemporary’s new downtown home includes a flexible theater, a dance studio and nine classrooms for Camp Contemporary and Studio School. The 4.6-acre grounds also include The Studios, a renovated warehouse that houses ceramics, fiber, painting, printmaking and sculpture classes. Campbell Art Park, our Sculpture Garden and North Lawn lend outdoor space for exhibitions, programs and performances.

After providing contemporary art experiences of all kinds for 30 years at the State Fairgrounds, these new, centrally located facilities dramatically increase Oklahoma Contemporary’s capacity to meet growing demand for arts and culture across our city, state and region.

Oklahoma Contemporary is a regional 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by businessman and philanthropist Christian Keesee and Kirkpatrick Foundation Director Marilyn Myers.


Lisa Karrer, White Round Tents (detail), 2020. Ceramic forms with embedded audio narratives and video projection, 56 ½ x 80 x 44 in. © Lisa Karrer. Photo by Tullis Johnson, courtesy of Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Artist Lisa Karrer. Photo: Cassandra Watson.

Lisa Karrer, Slum with Sewer, 2020. Ceramic forms with embedded audio narratives. 58 x 82 x 30 in. © Lisa Karrer. Photo by Tullis Johnson, courtesy of Burchfield Penney Art Center.


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