Oklahoma Contemporary
Jennifer Blease
Two women, one in a red shirt the other in a pink hoodie, sit together at a wooden table. using oil paints to mix colors.

New Light

Feb. 28, 2023

Building Creative Foundations

“I can do things I didn’t think I could do — I’ve moved on to another plateau.”

Studio School stands as a place of solace and creativity for artists looking for a home or those wanting to dive into a new artistic world. From date nights and one-off workshops to teen, introductory and advanced classes, there’s something for everyone.

Four people face away from the camera, sitting at a long wooden table with oil paints and tools in front of them. Facing them is a women in a flannel with her hair tied back. She is standing next to a screen that shows oil paints and a color chart.

One way Oklahoma Contemporary serves the community is by providing accessible opportunities to experience contemporary art. As 10 percent of Oklahoma’s adults are veterans, the Veterans Initiative is a vital part of Studio School.

"Studio School strives to welcome everyone," says Associate Director of Studio School Anna Cox. "We're happy to be able to provide a home for veterans to explore their creativity."

Jennifer Blease, an Air Force medic who retired after 20+ years, found a passion for making and creating in the eight-week Creative Foundations for Veterans class. She’s taking it a second time this session.

A woman in a flannel with her hair tied back is painting on a piece of paper with oil paints. Large brushes and an overhead camera sit in front of her, the camera projecting what she is doing onto a screen standing beside her.
Studio School instructor Claire Holloway

“I took the first eight session series with Claire (Holloway), and I thought that was going to be the end of it,” Blease says. “I signed up for the second class, and I’m so glad I did because it’s a different avenue we’re going down. There are new people in this class, but everybody bonds and we help one another, and we are all just very grateful. At the end of class, we just say, ‘Goodbye, see you next week!’ and we’re all excited to get back together.”

Studio School instructor Holloway led the last and current Creative Foundation courses, utilizing her classical training and contemporary creations to teach the vets a number of skills, from painting and drawing to ceramics. By engaging in studio practice, veterans discover new ways to connect with each other and their community.

“Creative Foundations for Veterans is one of my favorite classes to teach because of the people who make up this class,” Holloway says. “Everyone arrives with different goals and histories in art-making, which creates a lively, supportive environment.”

A woman with dark short hair in a pink hoodie is painting with oil paint on a white piece of paper. She sits at a wooden table with painting tools in front.
Student Jennifer Blease

Taking the things she learned in her first class and engaging with the newly discovered artist inside of her, Blease finds serenity and joy each time she walks into The Studios, followed by a sense of adventure and a hunger to advance.

“It helps you to believe in yourself,” Blease says. “You step out of your comfort zone. Don’t say ‘I can’t’ or ‘I don’t think I will be able to’ — you’ll never know until you try. And trying is always a success based on the people you have moving you along, and we have that here. It brings me peace, and on Sundays I look forward to it. Most importantly, I can garner some talents off the people who are in the class; I can share those moments with them.”

In Holloway’s fall 2022 eight-week class, students tackled several projects, including learning to draw and sketch through techniques of isolation and patience, creating works that shocked themselves.

Two sketches are side by side. One is in black pen then other in pencil. They are outlines of the musician Stravinsky as he sits in a chair with a suit on and large circle glasses.
Blease's (right) Stravinsky sketch

“There was one project [Claire] gave to us that I never thought I could do,” Blease says. “There was a classical musician, Stravinsky, and she brought in a sketch of him and it was huge, the size of the sketchbook! And she wanted us to sketch him — and I’m looking at it like, ‘Really?’ But when I was all finished, I looked at it and thought to myself, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, did I really do this?’ I took it home and worked with it in the evenings and was just amazed at what I could do.”

During the current Creative Foundations class, students have been focusing on painting and color theory, mastering the combination, application and creation of varying hues of oil paints, working on scales of gradation. And while learning a new skill, branching into the art world or the love of hands-on creation is what brings most veterans into the course, for Blease, it has a lot to do with self-love and community.

IMG 5058

“I am grateful for the people. I’m grateful for Claire. But I’m most grateful for the opportunity to take care of what I thought would be a void, that I wouldn’t have things to do,” Blease says. “I have friends and I have a couple organizations that I help with — but (this class) is for me, it’s not about anybody else.

“I don’t feel like I’m not all that. I feel a part of the group, and I feel like I’m accomplishing something. And it doesn’t matter when I started in life to do this sort of thing. There — there, we support one another. When I come I’m so happy, but then when we’re finished, I really don’t want to go home!”

Know a veteran in need of some creative expression? Send them an application for Studio School’s spring session! Registration is now open for all spring classes, with options like wheel throwing, drawing, hand building, knitting, sewing, quilting, printmaking and more. Popular classes fill quick — sign up while you can!

Our veterans programs have been supported thanks to grantors and our community, including Arts Council Oklahoma City and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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veterans Studio School drawing painting ceramics community classes

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Monday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Closed Tuesday

Wednesday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Thursday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Friday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

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Visit us at 11 NW 11th St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73103
Phone: 405 951 0000
Fax: 405 951 0003

Oklahoma Contemporary
P.O. Box 3062
Oklahoma City, OK 73101

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