Oklahoma offers a thriving environment for full-time and part-time artists.
Hugh Meade works as a project manager for PremierCraft Inc., a metal fabrication shop in Oklahoma City. At night, he creates art in his OddFab Design Lab studio along Film Row. Walk along Oklahoma City’s Wheeler District, and the massive “OKC” sculpture will catch your eye. Visit numerous independent shops throughout the central Oklahoma area, and the metal sculpture signs add that flair to any storefront.
As one of the state’s foremost metal sculpture artists, Meade said he can easily juggle a full-time job with his passions, thanks to the unique business-friendly atmosphere that Oklahoma creates.
“Generally, I work the day job, then by about 8 or 9 p.m., I go to the studio space on Film Row and work on art,” Meade said. “I am able to afford studio space, thanks to Oklahoma’s low cost of living. My work is not easy to accomplish working out of my house or backyard. Definitely being able to afford a house on a working class wage has meant that I only need the one job to meet that obligation, which gives the opportunity to use my time to pursue artistic goals.”
In addition to Oklahoma’s famous low cost of living, it also boasts of numerous arts districts, world-class theaters, zoos, music venues big and mall, more than 300 museums and outdoor music and arts festivals that attract thousands of visitors each year. For the artists who live in the state, that means art and passion can be explored without working oneself to death to make ends meet.
A Place to Thrive and Create
Meade moved to Oklahoma City from Atlanta in 2003, and he said the obvious support for the arts in the city helped shape that decision.
“I moved here in large part because of the obvious support for the arts that was evident even from a three-day visit, which is why we considered Oklahoma City as a place to raise our child and pursue creative endeavors,” he said.
“A variety of independent and collective galleries, community supported art walks and festivals, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the OKC Ballet and even the awesome library system all indicate a public awareness and support for arts. Although the region is known mostly for country and western music, there is certainly more going on than the coastal populations are probably aware of.”
Kyle Golding is an Oklahoma visual artist and owner/founder of The Golding Group, an award-winning think tank of business process management (BPM) and marketing integration experts. Despite growing a successful business, Golding said he is also able to pursue his painting passion and succeed in that area as well.
“I’ve been creative most of my life, from playing in the music business as a professional to transitioning to visual arts,” he said. “The biggest advantage is that most people who live in Oklahoma live in a house. That means you can create a shop in a garage or spare room. That affordability of housing makes a big difference.”
Ayperi Al Jawahir runs and teaches at the Aalim Dance Academy in Oklahoma City, a non-profit dance studio that promotes the cultural dances of the Middle East.
“One of the things that makes Oklahoma so affordable for artists is that we have lower commercial rent here than other places, and that helps us out tremendously,” she said. “We also have women who are totally eager to learn to be creative, so we are able to keep our dance class fees low, thanks to the fact that our studio rent isn’t sky-high.”
Support and Encouragement
Oklahoma loves its arts, as is evident through the popularity of arts festivals and events, the numerous galleries and the unique shows. In addition, the arts councils and organizations serve as “cheerleaders” for local artists by providing opportunities to show work.
The art community itself is a valuable resource through organizations like the Oklahoma Visual Artist Coalition, the Oklahoma Arts Council, Allied Arts, The Lawton Arts and Humanities Council, the Edmond Visual Arts Commission, The Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, The Tulsa Artists’ Coalition and the Arts Council Oklahoma City, to name a few.
Large and small gallery studios also give artists venues in which to show and sell their work. The arts festivals that are so popular are open venues for all types of art produced in Oklahoma.
“We have a wonderful community that supports the arts,” said Al Jawahir. “The people who come to the arts festivals or the restaurants to watch our students dance are saying that art is important in people’s lives. Oklahoma supports all the arts, and luckily, we live in a state in which it is affordable to take advantage of that.”