“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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
“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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