Local entrepreneur Blake Ewing, responsible for Blue Dome District hangouts Joe Momma's, Boomtown Tee's and the soon-to-be-opened The Max Retropub, continues to use his powers for good as he endeavors to open an artists' colony, called Park Hill, in the 100-year-old Owen Park neighborhood, just northwest of downtown.
In January, Ewing bought a 90-plus-year-old, 3,600-square-feet stone building that most recently housed Park Hill Assembly of God at the corner of Rosedale Ave. and Cameron St. According to local lore and area residents, the building, at various times in its history, was home to pregnant Native American women, an all-boys school and eight different denominations of churches.
Ewing originally purchased the building with the intention of refurbishing it into a home for his family of four. When plans changed, though, Ewing decided he wanted to use the facility "for something positive."
"I'm a big believer that the arts and artists can do amazing things, and oftentimes they're just missing something -- support, resources, an avenue to use their art," Ewing said. "I thought, as a creative person, I'm more likely to be creative when I'm around other creative people. I thought, we can put artists together, give them support and the things they need and an avenue to create their art."
Park Hill will house up to 10 artists at a time for six-month terms. They'll live on the premises, sharing bedrooms in the facility's second floor, and utilizing its first floor as a common area, where they can meet and share their art.
"They can be any kind of artist as long as they can convince us they can do a creative craft," Ewing said. "So it can be a chef, a dancer, graffiti banger -- it doesn't matter. The target artist is someone who hasn't really discovered the power of what they've got. They know they're creative, but they don't know what to do with it."
Requirements of the tenants are minimal and include a weekly shared meal, monthly visits with Ewing and twice monthly visits by local artists who will share the vision and technique behind their crafts. Other than that, all that is required of the artists is to create. And, through their creation, to somehow benefit the local community.
"They have to be involved in the community and using their art to better the world around them," Ewing said.
How and where they choose to do that is up to them.
"I want them to be more aware of themselves as artists, to have (by the end of their six-month term at Park Hill) gotten better at their craft and have a better understanding of their community and how they can make it better through the use of their art," Ewing said.
Once per term, the Park Hill artists will travel outside of Tulsa, in the first term to Memphis, to explore another city's art, food, architecture, culture and history, as it pertains to community justice and human rights.
The benefits to the artists, aside from becoming better humanitarians, will help them grow as artists.
"The benefits to the artists are getting to know different local artists, building a network of people they know in their community," he said. "I think there's value in people who are creative knowing that they're not alone."
He likened it to gaining the sort of life experience that comes with serving in Teach for America or the Peace Corps.
Ewing said his project has received overwhelming support from residents in the Owen Park neighborhood.
"Owen Park is a great neighborhood, and it's kind of an artist neighborhood anyway, so I think this project isn't just acceptable, it's exciting to them," he said.
However, the project still faces some hurdles before it gets off the ground.
Ewing must apply for a zoning allowance that will enable him to use the same building for both residential and community purposes, and he must receive a building permit that will allow him to construct a bathroom. He's nervous but hopeful about clearing these hurdles. If he does, he said, Park Hill should be operational by fall.
The project is under the umbrella of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, which allows it to receive tax-deductible donations from the community.
A Little Murder with Dinner
Speaking of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, AHCT hosts its annual fundraiser, the Harwelden Murder Mystery, now in its 13th year. The event, this year titled, "The Ghosts of Harwelden," is Aug. 5-7 and 12-14 at the Harwelden Mansion, 2210 S. Main St., and the story, according to the AHCT website, goes something like this:
"Any house that has stood for decades is likely to be haunted. That's why the owner of Harwelden has summoned two of the country's top psychics, to determine if there are any restless spirits wandering through this grand old Tulsa home. But will the effort to scare up a ghost -- and the conflicts among family members and professional rivals -- lead to a few more people finding themselves on the other side of the grave?"
Tickets to the show are $45 and include dinner, wine or beer, and a murder to solve. More information and tickets are available at ahct.org.
Beats in the Streets
On Aug. 7 at 7pm, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's John H. Williams Theatre, 110 E. 2nd St., will host the Lacy Mural Dance Project, performed by Lacy Park's resident hip-hop dance troupe, led by Shayna and Aaron Acosta, inspired by a 114-figure mural painted by Felix Cole on an inside wall of the park's community center. The mural tells north Tulsa's history, the stories of its legends and icons and represents, according to the artist, "perseverance through tragedy and triumph."
The Lacy Mural Dance Project is part of TulsaFest, sponsored by the Oklahoma All-Black Towns Foundation, which brings Tulsa-area artists, dancers and musicians together to raise funds for Tulsa Parks. Tickets to the dance performance are $25 and available at tulsapac.com.
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