On Thursday, July 22, the Tulsa Girls Art School will mark its third year by exhibiting the work of its talented students at the Circle Cinema, 12 S. Lewis.
This year's exhibition at the Circle Cinema, appropriately titled Circles, is composed of square canvases filled with quirky, whimsical and abstract circles found in every day life. The circles range from planets in the solar system to bowling balls to abstract compositions of circles.
The theme for the show was inspired by a music video filmed in Tulsa by a band called Colourmusic, which draws attention to the circles found in every day life. The show features 20 paintings on 18-by-18 inch canvases. The opening reception takes place from 5-7pm at Circle Cinema. Circles will be on display until September.
The Tulsa Girls Art School was founded in 2007 by Tulsan Matt Moffett. In January 2007, Moffett was working as the art teacher at Eugene Field Elementary School in west Tulsa and asked the school board for funding to landscape a small, unsightly courtyard in the middle of his classroom.
The school board said his class would need to raise the money on their own through fundraisers such as sucker sales. Fortunately, Moffett had a better idea.
Instead of a prosaic candy sale, Moffett took works on paper made by his 450 students, shredded them, sorted them into color groups and used the strips of paper to create large-scale paper weavings. In February, only one month after his initial proposal to re-landscape the courtyard, Moffett hung the paper weavings at a show at the Wild Fork in Utica Square. Moffett and his students sold all 12 of the weavings earning $9,000, more than enough to landscape the courtyard.
With their impressive profit, Moffett and his students were able to turn the courtyard into an art garden, which earned a lot of publicity.
Mona Pittenger, TGAS's eventual co-founder had purchased one of the paper weaving's at Wild Fork and discussed with Moffett the possibility of creating a non-profit after school program that would cater toward providing under-served students with skills and knowledge they would need to become successful visual artists.
Pittenger agreed to fund the school under the condition that was made exclusively for girls. Moffett agreed and the Tulsa Girls Art School was born. The school opened in June of 2007 with 10 students, all from Eugene Field Elementary School. Moffett in turn left Tulsa Public Schools to become the director of TGAS.
Throughout the past three years, the TGAS has grown and evolved to become one of the most unique art organizations in Tulsa. One of the school's most strongly emphasized principles is to provide its students with a practical application of their skills in order to become successful working artists. While a practical application of their talents might seem like an obvious skill set to teach students, art schools across the country struggle to integrate this fundamental element into their curriculum. Consequently, graduates of TGAS will have an advantage over other young artists preparing to support themselves as artists.
TGAS provides its students with their art supplies as well as transportation from school and home.
Its students are composed of an advanced group, being students that have successfully completed one year at TGAS, which meets throughout the school year on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3-5pm.
There are currently 20 girls enrolled in this class, and each is allowed to continue in the program for as long as she chooses pending that she maintains good grades, attendance, a positive attitude and growth in her artwork.
The TGAS brings girls into the program beginning at age eight. This beginning group meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-5pm and teaches its students all facets of working in a studio. They learn painting, ceramics, sculpture, photography and fibers.
All the students have the option to come to the school on Saturday for five hours of open studio to work on whatever sort of art they prefer. Generous restaurants around Tulsa such as, Lambrusco'z, Queenies, Wild Fork, Desi Wok, Elote, Old School Bagels and Taco Bueno often provide a snack for the girls. TGAS also offers two weeks of intensive classes for the girls during the summer, which meet Monday-Friday from 9am-2pm.
In addition to taking classes, the girls at TGAS keep busy with trips to museums in Dallas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City and local galleries. The girls are also frequently visited by local artists who provide them with a new voice and perspective regarding life as an artist. In addition to holding numerous shows around Tulsa each year, the girls have also painted murals around the city as well as a city bus for Tulsa Transit.
"TGAS hopes to expand to reach as many students as possible and also hopefully have satellite programs for South and East Tulsa," said Moffett of the school's plans for the future. He hopes TGAS will provide a solution to the increasingly cut funding for the arts in public schools.
"I think the kids love having a safe nurturing place where they can be creative, express themselves and feel as they belong to a group. They feel like leaders in their schools, and they feel like they have a creative edge."
For more information about the Tulsa Girls Art School, visit tulsagirlsartschool.org.
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