The old refrain of ‘There’s never anything to do in this town!’ has become less and less common in recent years, what with OKC’s rapid development. The new Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center is making sure it stays that way.
Thanks to my TLO credentials, I recently got the opportunity to tour the building before it opens. As the headline says – it’s amazing.
Located on 11th and Broadway, it’s hard to miss. The unique structure was designed by Rand Elliott Architects, and while the building is in line with the firm’s post-modern style, they really outdid themselves with the design. The towering aluminum fins lining the exterior stand out amongst the brick facades of Automobile Alley, but also recall the industrial past of the district.
Stepping inside, you are greeted with a clean, bright white entrance with high ceilings. Grab a coffee or adult beverage at the cafe, or stop in for lunch with a menu designed by former Empire Slice House Chef Avery Cannon. There’s a cool reading room next to the lobby, if you’re looking for a place to hang out and work on your laptop or thumb through one of the 500 art books they keep in their library.
Each floor promises different gallery-style art shows which are curated to include artists both local and international, with a focus on emerging creators. The shows will be constantly changing and rotating, promising new experiences with every visit. The Campbell Art Park outside of the building will also allow visitors to enjoy large format sculptures on those semi-regular pleasant Oklahoma days.
The opening show, ‘Bright Golden Haze,’ is a collection of pieces that explore the ever-changing light in Oklahoma. The skies can rapidly change from grey to cornflower blue to the mind-melting cotton candy colors the sun produces in its rise and fall each day. It’s an appropriate theme, considering the building was also designed to highlight these atmospheric changes, and the rooms with windows are placed in precise areas as to change how the interior lighting appears from room to room as you advance through the space.
Oklahoma Contemporary is more than just a place to look at art, however. One of the biggest changes their move from the former building on the fairgrounds will bring about is a massive expansion in the classes they can provide. Before, they could offer about a dozen educational classes, and with their new facilities that number is ballooning up to 50, and there’s seriously something for everyone of every age group, children to adults, and even special classes for veterans.
Ever wanted to learn to paint, or improve your drawing skills? Wanna get into making digital art and computer animations? Oklahoma Contemporary has got you covered. They also have a secondary building for ‘messy arts,’ things like ceramics, woodworking, and even knifemaking. Outside of the standard classes, there are some really niche ones, like DJ classes, looming and fabric dying, and something called soundpainting that I don’t entirely understand but very much want to.
If it wasn’t enough to look at art and learn how to get better at it, Oklahoma Contemporary has an intimate theater space for live performances. The atmosphere is like stepping into a whole different building, and it will be a cool room to watch live music, dance, and other performing arts, but also poetry readings, artist talks, panel discussions, and film screenings.
Every Thursday night will be like a fun party at Oklahoma Contemporary. Thursday Night Late is 6-9 p.m., and the space will be open late so visitors can come, hang out, grab a cocktail, and explore. Each week will bring different entertainment like dance performances, studio activities, and talks from special guests. Did I mention this was free?
The March 12 Opening Celebration is a ticketed fundraiser event for people who want to support what Oklahoma Contemporary is doing in our community. Starting with Friday’s Grand Opening festivities, even broke freelancers like me will be able to enjoy their free galleries and programs. I’ll see y’all out at the first Thursday Night Late for sure!
(Editor’s note: Oklahoma Contemporary is a longtime supporter of The Lost Ogle, and we love them for it.)