The Paseo Arts District, located just two miles from Downtown Oklahoma City, is full of history. "In 1976 my husband John Belt decided that the Paseo should be an arts district and he started buying every building and renovating it and making it available to artists at a rent that they could afford, and he has continued to renovate for the last 30 years," said Joy Reed-Belt, owner of JRB gallery.
Renovation of buildings in the Paseo District never stops. "John is currently renovating a 30,000 square foot building, which was the home of the first public swimming pool in Oklahoma City. Now, he is turning that into an art institute," Reed-Belt said. "Back before 1976, there was no Paseo neighborhood. There were a lot of little residential neighborhoods and he consolidated those and made them into one big neighborhood."
The Paseo Arts District, which is located in Oklahoma City and spreads from 28th and North Walker to 30th and North Dewey, is a venue for original works by artists, performance art and live music.
"The Paseo was the first shopping center built in Oklahoma City that wasn't downtown -- built by G.A. Nichols, who also built Nichols Hills, Heritage Hills and Mesa Park," Reed-Belt said. A butcher shop, barber shop, grocery store and a shoe shop used to line the streets, but galleries and restaurants can be seen from the roads now.
Reed-Belt hosts a different exhibit every month in her gallery. "I handle emerging and nationally and internationally recognized, and highly exhibited artists in all media because Oklahoma City is not a huge art market and so I feel like I need to have something for everybody," she said. Reed-Belt also hosted the mother of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball player Thabo Sefolosha at her gallery. "Christine Sefolosha came from Switzerland and she had her show here," Reed-Belt said.
Another gallery to check out is Ashley Griffith's studio, a.k.a. gallery, which is located at 3001 Paseo. "Pretty much the motto of the gallery is 'Tomorrow's artists are here today.' The gallery is dedicated to the promotion of national and local artists providing fine art to established and emerging collectors," Griffith said. "My doors stay open whether I'm selling or not. I have two other jobs to make sure the gallery stays open. To me, the most important thing about the gallery is keeping it open; to show maybe some more edgy and contemporary ideas." a.k.a. gallery is a privately run gallery, so Griffith can choose what art is displayed. "Since I can choose what I show, I lean more towards the young, edgier side."
March Gallery Walk
Events to check out are: The Paseo Arts Festival that takes place every Memorial weekend and features local and national artists. "Depending on the weather, it attracts 60,000 people and it is free to the public. There are two music stages, nine artist booths and two kid areas -- one is a performance area and the other is where the children can create art," said Jo Wise, executive director of the festival. Oklahoma City is about to get a taste of a FEAST! During the FEAST, which stands for "Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics," five artists will speak about why they should receive the funds -- which are derived from ticket sales -- to complete a project. "I am the chair -- this is my baby, so this is the event I'm the most excited about," Griffith said.
First Friday Gallery Walk takes place on the first Friday of every month. Twenty galleries open their doors and host an open house from 6-10pm. Wineries come down to do wine tastings; there's great food, lots of music -- some play in the galleries, while others play outdoors. The Paseo Arts District offers fun for children, too.
For Fairy Ball, the district invites children to dress as fairies or magic garden creatures. The district provides tons of flowers and ribbons for the children to adorn their outfits and hair. When the sun sets, professional fairies appear and make their way through the crowd and lead the children to a gated area that is filled with lights. A band plays music, while the children and the professional fairies dance.
The Magic Lantern takes place either the Sunday before or immediately following Halloween. With the streets closed, galleries on the north end of Paseo turn into workshops where children can create costumes. Each gallery also helps build the costumes for the children. The children can also enjoy face and pumpkin paintings. As soon as the sun sets, a band plays while the children line up and parade around Paseo.
"The District makes a labyrinth and we make a labyrinth in the middle of the street, where dancers can be seen dancing on pumpkins," Wise said.
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