POSTED ON APRIL 6, 2011:
Alternative Art Schools
Local education in a creative class of its very own
The success of Tulsa's entrepreneurs is due to more than ambition, it's also their ability to clearly to see what the city is lacking and bring it to life.
Most notable around the city are the unique bars, restaurants and niche-y boutiques that give Tulsa a flavor all its own. The real fear of those in sync with the heartbeat of the local economy is that too many people will realize what a gem of a city Tulsa is and overcrowd the peaceful balance of space and activity.
While everyone appreciates those who have contributed to Tulsa's unique businesses and restaurants, the entrepreneurs who are often overlooked from Tulsa's spotlight of achievers are those providing unique educational opportunities for art lovers around the city.
As far as local arts go the Gilcrease and Philbrook museums are the face the city's arts programming, enrichment and culture. But many Tulsans are not aware of, however, is the growing number of smaller and unique art schools that offer artists of all ages the chance to develop a skill or explore something completely new.
Tulsa Art Center
Marie Sullivan is among the newest arts entrepreneurs to see a need in the local arts community and answer with a solution. After experiencing firsthand the frustrations of finding an affordable place to take quality art classes, Sullivan decided to open the Tulsa Art Center, 6808 S. Memorial Dr.?Suite 106, on March 25.
The Tulsa Art Center offers classes in a multitude of two-dimensional art forms including: oil painting, mixed media, calligraphy, digital photography, book illustration and animation. The center’s teachers are a talented mix of nationally recognized artists who live in Tulsa and have been seeking a place to teach in the city.
"Before, the choices were to enroll at a college or take little bitty classes at Michaels," Sullivan said. "We are a new place where artists can feel comfortable in a creative environment."
The school offers classes in a multitude of two-dimensional art forms including: oil painting, mixed media, calligraphy, digital photography, book illustration and animation. The center's teachers are a talented mix of nationally recognized artists who live in Tulsa and have been seeking a place to teach in the city.
The Tulsa Art Center has set ambitious goals for itself from the beginning by offering classes for an diverse spectrum of artists, ranging from traditional adult classes to children, young adults and home-schooled students.
Sullivan has even more ideas for fun classes and activities such as Friday Night Parent's Night Out and Cocktails and Canvas, and she's started a scholarship program in selected Tulsa Public Schools for students who can best answer the question: "What does art mean to you?"
As a benefit to the teachers and artists who teach at the center, the front portion of the building serves a gallery space devoted to exhibiting the work the center's teachers. The center's location means the teachers can easily reach out to residents in South Tulsa, an area less with a creative community that's less cohesive than those in midtown and the Brady Arts District.
With the help of Andy Zaller, Ed.D., the retired chair of Booker T. Washington High School's art department, the Tulsa Art Center was able to launch a home school art curriculum based on Oklahoma guidelines that will enable home schooled students to competitively participate in youth art competitions such as Scholastics and make them eligible to apply for university art scholarships.
On top of the ambitious variety of classes offered upon the center's official opening, which is Monday, April 11, Sullivan has additional goals for the program's near future. She hopes to expand the classes to seniors and students with special needs, create studio spaces for artists, add music classes and additional scholarships opportunities. Sullivan is also considering reorganizing the center as a non-profit status.
"I want the Tulsa Art Center to be known as the place to take art classes, so people don't have to search," she said.
For more information, visit tulsaartcenter.com.
Tulsa Glassblowing School
When people think of art associated with Oklahoma, terms like Western Art, American Indian artifacts and fine craft are some of the first to float off the tongue. But glassblowing? This beautiful, yet uncommon art form has a substantial following in American cities like Seattle and New York, but has yet to attract the same network of artists in the South. Consequently, the Tulsa Glassblowing School (TGS) is both an oddity and a treasure for Tulsa's art community.
Sarah Diggdon opened the school eight years ago as a private studio and gallery space. Diggdon had studied glassblowing on the East Coast, where she fell in love with the art form and felt compelled to bring it back to Tulsa. Four years later, the studio transformed into a non-profit school where it is now run by executive director Janet Duval and program director Rachel Haynes. Haynes holds a Bachelor's of Fine Art degree in glassblowing from the University of Texas at Arlington and is responsible for all of the school's programming, equipment maintenance and is the primary contact for the youth who attend classes at the school.
Tulsa Glassblowing School is open to anyone interested in learning about glassblowing. Programming and events range from adult classes where students spend weeks learning to blow glass at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels to "glass experience" classes where participants learn how to make a glass ornament, paperweight or flower in a single session.
The glass experience classes are popular with companies and groups throughout the city, and the studio is often booked for parties, corporate events and family outings.
But TGS's biggest impact on the Tulsa community is through its partnerships with alternative schools such as Street School, Pheonix Rising, New Hope and Youth Services. Students who come to TGS from these schools build confidence and communication skills and gain experience exposure while learning about a unique form of art.
"Glassblowing is a team sport," Duval said, "There's also an element of danger here."
The fire-breathing furnaces, metal instruments and molten glass forces the students to pay attention and listen to their instructors while communicating with other students.
"You have to be flexible and willing to fail," Duval said. "Glassblowing gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride that they don't often experience."
Glassblowing gives students a sense of accomplishment and pride that they don’t often experience. “You have to be fl exible and willing to fail,” said Janet Duval, Tulsa Glassblowing School’s executive director.
Local organizations such as the Cuesta Foundation, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Kathleen Patton Westby Foundation and the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa are among the local organizations that support the relationship between these alternative schools and TGS. Street School students have attended TGS in the past, but the school is currently seeking a sponsor to get the students back in the doors and blowing glass.
Tulsa Community College has also partnered with TGS to provide its students with a chance to take glass blowing classes that will earn them credit towards their Associate's Degree. TCC's students have been extremely enthusiastic about the school, Duval said, and the school has made room for a handful competitive internship positions for advanced students to continue working and help with the upkeep of the studio.
TGS is holding a glass and fine art auction fundraiser on June 16 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In the past, TGS has displayed the work of its artists and students at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, the Gilcrease Student Gallery and the Philbrook's Festival of Trees.
For those who just want to experience glass art being made TGS opens its doors the first Friday over every month for the Brady District's First Friday Art Crawl, which gives visitors a chance to watch artists blow, bend and shape molten glass into works of art. Visitors can also view work on display in the storefront gallery.
"Before, people would have to travel out of state to see glass art," Duval said. "Now we have glass artists living right here in Oklahoma."
For more information, visit tulsaglassblowing.org.
Tulsa Girls Art School
The Tulsa Girls Art School (TGAS) has been getting a lot of attention lately and it's all good. This grassroots non-profit art studio was created by Matt Moffett more than four years ago, and in that time the school has expanded into a phenomenon that local businesses and individuals around Tulsa seem eager to support
The girls' highly anticipated Spring art show will take place at TGAS, 2202 E. Admiral Blvd., on Thursday, April 14 from 5:30-8pm. Several local restaurants, including Queenies, the Palace Café and the Dragon Moon Tea Company are catering the event and Empire Bar DJ Kylie Wells will spin records for the event.
The art show includes recent works from TGAS's talented artists and will also feature a glass chandelier constructed from 60 glass blown lilies the girls made at the Tulsa Glass Blowing School. The girls were able to work on the glass flowers every Saturday afternoon in February through a sponsorship by Spirit Aero Systems.
Every year, TGAS chooses two new schools to join its program and selects a group of students nominated by their third grade teachers. TGAS selects students that would otherwise never have had the experience of attending an art school and have demonstrated artistic interest or potential.
"Once the girls begin at TGAS they can stay with the program for as long as they like," Moffett said.
In addition to teaching his students artistic skills and how to work in a studio environment, Moffett wants to provide the students with experiences that broaden their horizons and encourage budding artistic careers. In the near future, the girls will be traveling to Kansas City, Mo., to visit the Kansas City Art Institute. Moffett hopes the field trip will help the girls think about how art might shape their futures.
"We want to prepare them to become successful visual artists," he said.
A new teacher is coming aboard in the fall and the school just acquired a new van to pick up the girls in, Moffett said. The school is also about to receive Flip video cameras and Apple computers so the girls can film and edit personal documentaries about their lives and artwork, he said. The school will screen the documentaries at Circle Cinema in fall 2011.
Down the road, Moffett hopes to expand the school and possibly open satellite schools around the city to extend the program to more students.
In addition to exhibiting their work at their school, the girls have numerous chances to show off their work around the city. On July 15, TGAS will hold its annual exhibition at Circle Cinema. This year's show is entitled, Raining Cats and Dogs, and will be inspired by animals the girls will visit at the SPCA. In the past, the girls painted a mural on a city bus and have since received many requests for murals throughout the city.
The school's success and growth is directly linked to the support of local businesses, Moffett said.
"You can walk in and see where your dollars are going," he said.
For more information, visit tulsagirlsartschool.org.
Heidi's School of Art
An unquenchable need to create, passion for children and love of teaching are among the key ingredients that inspired Tulsa artist Heidi Contreras to open her own art school 10 years ago. Heidi's School of Art offers classes to children, teens and adults that explore watercolor, oil painting, creative sewing, drawing, Prismacolor pencil drawing, pen and ink and even papier-mâché.
Heidi's classes have an organic flow to them and students have the flexibility to move within the constraints of the class and create whatever their imagination compels them to create.
"I don't stifle their creativity," Contreras said, "It's not my way or the highway."
While the format of her classes is open and fluid, Contreras also teaches specific techniques to students interested in learning more formal artistic methods.
As a self-taught artist, Contreras is passionate about creating.
"I can't stop making stuff, that's just the way I'm wired," she said.
An artist of many trades, Contreras shows her oil paintings, hand-painted pillows and intricate dolls in art festivals and galleries around the country.
Since opening the school, Contreras has moved the program to several locations around Tulsa. The school's current home is inside Trinity United Methodist Church, 3737 S. Peoria Ave. Heidi's School is not affiliated with the church, but her classes benefit from the church's flexible schedule and extensive classroom space.
Heidi's school of art operates on a trimester schedule and typically includes 10-12 classes that meet every other week. After an introductory Art 1 class, in which students become familiar with basic materials, the young artists can choose to work in any medium of their choice.
"I teach them how to use the tools so that can spring into the creativity within them," Contreras said. "No one likes the teachers to do it."
Local artists Mary Jane Porter and Betty Dalsing also teach at Heidi's School of Art and contribute to the variety of classes offered. Porter helps adult and child students create handmade while Dalsing teaches adult palette knife landscape painting classes.
When she looks to the future of her school, Contreras is satisfied with the direction the program is taking and is always looking for new opportunities. She is open to inviting additional artists to teach their own classes in the classroom space and hopes in the future that some of her own students will be inspired to return and teach classes alongside her.
"Their success is my success," she said, "that's more important than the money."
For more information, visit heidisartschool.com.
Third Street Clayworks
Clay has long been regarded as one of the most loved art forms for artists of all ages and throughout history. Unfortunately, to create and keep artwork made from clay, one must have access to pottery wheels, kilns and glazes, all of which are not cheap, convenient or easy to store at home.
Fortunately for Tulsans ceramic artist Jeff Wells created Third Street Clayworks, 1001 E. Third St, an art studio dedicated exclusively to artists and students interested in learning about hand-building and wheel-throwing ceramics.
"We're an actual teaching studio," Wells said. "Our setup is aimed at teaching from the get-go."
Wells, who has worked as a clay artist for more than 30 years ago, opened Clayworks eight years ago as a studio where he could make his own work and teach classes. Wells teaches students from Tulsa Community College during the weekday at Clayworks and holds regular adult classes Monday through Thursday evenings from 6-9pm and on Saturday afternoons from 3-6pm.
On any given night, anywhere from three to 10 students could be working at Clayworks with skill levels ranging from beginner to very advanced.
"It gives beginners a chance to learn from advanced students," Wells said.
In between scheduled classes, ceramics students are encouraged to return to the studio and work independently on their work.
Clayworks has 13 wheels, four electric kilns and a single large gas kiln for its students and local ceramic artists. On top of offering classes for TCC students and adults, Clayworks regularly works with Youth Services of Tulsa, a non-profit youth advocacy agency. Wells has worked with the nonprofit for five years, offering the studio to outreach students who are interested in learning about pottery. Clayworks will soon begin programming with students from Pheonix Rising, Wells said.
"The atmosphere is pretty laid back," he said. "We try to make it as much a place to have a cup of coffee as a place to make clay. A big part of our focus is on the community of people here. A lot of good friendships have been developed."
For more information, call 918-585-2529.
When exploring the choices available for art classes and programming around the city WaterWorks Art Center, 1710 Charles Page Blvd.,?in Newblock Park, cannot be overlooked. As part of the Tulsa Parks & Recreation Department, WaterWorks is another great option for adults and children interested in investing their imagination in art classes.
For adults, WaterWorks offers classes in painting, drawing, jewelry and metal making, fused glass, digital photography, pottery and mosaics. Classes for children include painting, drawing and sculpture. WaterWorks' summer camp for children ages 6-12 is a favorite every year. "Waterworks has a relaxed atmosphere," said Megan Kissell-Nair, WaterWorks recreation coordinator. "For the students taking classes it's like therapy."
For more information, visit cityoftulsa.org.
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