Published July 2020
By Zack Reeves | Photos by Valerie Wei-Haas | 3 min read
For some, Art can seem like encountering someone who speaks no English: Understanding can be a challenge, and as a result, the experience can seem inaccessible. The Tulsa Artist Fellowship wants to change that.
Aptly housed in the Tulsa Arts District, the Fellowship’s main Archer Studio presents an unassuming façade, bordering an Ecuadorian restaurant and a small grocery store. But inside, rows of eclectic studios might house enough paint, thread, and ceramics to cover the city.
“It’s not a place where artists are just making art behind closed doors,” says Carolyn Sickles, the executive director of the Fellowship, which also provides housing for artists.
Rachel Hayes’ works—often featuring colorful sheets of fabric and acetate—have been displayed across the country. Photo by Valerie Wei-Haas
The Fellowship’s goal is for artists from all over the country working in different genres to move to Tulsa and bring new ways of thinking and vigorous new arts practices into a community already intimate with the arts. Current fellows—who each receive a $20,000 grant for one year—include poet and musician Joy Harjo, graphic novelist Melanie Gillman, and filmmaker Sterlin Harjo.
“We want the diverse audiences of Tulsa to come into our spaces, see works in process, and also get to see finished works being presented,” Sickles says.
On First Fridays, when the Arts District hosts a popular art crawl—during which many of the galleries and studios downtown are open to the public for free—many of the Tulsa artist fellows in both the Archer and Cameron studios open up their spaces to the public. They either work, talk to visitors, host pop-up art experiences, or some combination of all three. In the past, visitors have been able to see a DJ set, practice with clay in the kiln room, and talk with a tattoo artist, all without leaving the building.
“Many of our artists put out the materials that they’re using within their work,” Sickles says. “They create these hands-on stations for people to pick up—many for the first time—materials and actually learn how to manipulate them. One of our artists is facilitating free workshops for the public, teaching about her painting practice. They want to share their work.”
The Tulsa Artist Fellowship is closed to the public until further notice, but keep track of the on-going projects on Facebook and Instagram. Archer Studio, 109 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Cameron Studio, 303 North Main Street. tulsaartistfellowship.org