Ahha housed an exhibit called “The Experience” on the second floor photo by Piper Prolago

Students go behind the scenes for October’s First Friday

Arts management professor, Samuel Krall, leads students on tour of Tulsa Arts District businesses preparing for the Art Crawl.

Arts Management professor, Samuel Krall, elevated an already phenomenal monthly event in Tulsa, the First Friday Art Crawl, by providing students with the opportunity to take a behind the scenes tour of businesses and galleries throughout downtown.

Beginning at 36 Degrees North, students were introduced to Tulsa’s basecamp for entrepreneurship. Free coffee and unlimited printing, not to mention phone room and even a shower and towel service, are just a few of the amenities offered in this building. Rich in history, having been the Ford shipping site for Model T’s, the building brings the city of Tulsa’s consistent ideas of innovation to a whole new level. Only open three and a half years, 36 Degrees North already serves over 450 small businesses spanning 47 different industries. The basecamp promotes collaboration by providing video conference spaces, dedicated desks for extended projects and a wall of photographs identifying members.

Once we departed 36 Degrees North, Professor Krall began to explain a bit about the history of the city and the development of the arts district. About 10 years ago, much of what is now in downtown Tulsa wasn’t. It was mainly abandoned warehouses and a few music venues. However, when the baseball stadium and the BOK center were built, the vision for the arts district was born. The hope was that people would walk between these two major attractions and enjoy the developing art institutions being erected in between.

We proceeded to loop around the block, learning about the Hanson recording studio, Spinster Records and hidden alleway murals funded by the Tulsa Artist Coalition. Making our way to Guthrie Green, we were greeted by Amy Miller and Scott Black, two representatives from the Tulsa Ballet. They spoke to the group about how they overcome the obstacles of utilizing the stage at Guthrie Green to put on performances. They have to bring their own special spring dance floor to lay over the concrete, so that the dancers have a suitable surface to perform on. Eight to 10 countries are represented in the company, promoting diversity amongst the Tulsa community.

Black continued by promoting outreach programming, educational classes and letting us know about future performances at the Tulsa Ballet. “It’s not all tutus and pointe shoes,” Miller explained. There is so much more to the arts than the actual art itself, a message that would be reiterated across the visited venues in the evening. Given that the majority of the students in the touring group were arts management majors and minors, we learned a bit about the differences and benefits of working with performers rather than still works of art.

Next up was 108 Contemporary, where we spoke to the community engagement coordinator. She explained that the gallery is a nonprofit that fulfills its mission through outreach and art education in schools. What makes 108 unique is that it is a fine craft gallery, which means that they are particularly focused on craft processes and methodology. It is the only gallery of it’s kind in Oklahoma. She spoke to us about the financial facets of the art industry and what kind of business careers are available to people who wish to promote and pursue artistic field.

Following 108 was ahha Tulsa. The gallery has been in existence since 1961, but has been what it is today only since 2012. ahha launched its first arts education program in 1965. The building has four stories, the first floor being a mostly conventional gallery space, the second being the experience space, the third having creative rooms and craft areas and the fourth currently hosting preparations for an installation set to go up in May 2020.

The gallery is currently showcasing fiberworks of Oklahoma, displaying several artists works in a variety of materials. Arguably the most fun portion of the evening was the brief eight minutes the group was allowed to spend in the experience. Bright colors, flashing lights and videos that start when you step in a specific spot on the floor were just the start of this immersive area. A bowling ball can be rolled across two pianos, playing a stream of notes back and forth. A giant sculpture made entirely of patrons’ chewing gum can be admired from a sanitary distance. It was truly an incredible space to walk around and interact with.

The last stop on the tour was Magic City Books, a location in Tulsa to which I am no stranger. Magic City Books is celebrating its two year anniversary in just a few weeks, and is inviting Busy Phillips and Ben Folds as a two-parter headline. Magic City is uniquely set up as a nonprofit organization, which is highly uncommon for independent bookstores. Heavily involved in community outreach, Magic City Books has been extremely influential in uniting the people of Tulsa by hosting events in many different locations, namely B’Nai Emunah Synagogue, All Souls Unitarian Church and even TU.

This experience was not only extremely informative, but also incredibly fun. Getting to see what goes on before First Friday can happen so beautifully was truly eye opening. I hope that the arts management department continues to make this opportunity available to University of Tulsa students in the future.

Post Author: Tori Gellman