ActivePaper Archive Arts elevate city, state - Oklahoman, 3/7/2004

Arts elevate city, state

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OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVE

Betty Price, executive director of the Oklahoma Arts Council, sits next to a sculpture of Kate Barnard, created by artist Sandra Van Zant, at the state Capitol.

Significant impact to the arts scene in Oklahoma City is made through matching grants from the Oklahoma Arts Council. In fiscal year 2003 alone, 50 Oklahoma City nonprofit organizations produced 155 projects with support from the state arts agency. Of the council’s grant budget, nearly one-third of the $3.4 million is awarded to the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, one-third to the Tulsa metro area and one-third to the rural communities across Oklahoma.

Projects include a spectrum of arts and arts education programs, ranging from classical concerts to jazz, world class museum exhibits, dance and theater productions, artists working in schools and alternative arts programs literally saving the lives of troubled youth.

Buoyed by MAPS and MAPS for Kids, our capital city has a vitality that is contagious. Arts make a significant contribution to that energy. More cosmopolitan, Oklahoma City is quickly becoming a source of pride to its people and was a model that influenced the success of Tulsa’s Vision 2025 tax initiative.

Never just the “icing on the cake,” the arts are now regarded as a basic ingredient by many enlightened business, government and academic leaders seeking to draw professionals and new business to our state. Quality of life has zoomed in the list of “wants” of corporate heads as they survey possible new locations.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa have found that availability of performing and visual arts as well as strong arts education programs have stimulated interest in relocation. Communities such as Woodward found that the presence of a museum and an art and theater center with multiple cultural activities for youth and adults was a deciding factor in attracting a major insurance company to locate there.

As we prepare for our centennial in 2007, our state is poised to become a major destination for tourists and new business. A new focus on public art will showcase the talent of our artists, commemorate important historic events and stimulate local projects across the state. Visitors will pump millions of dollars into our economy.

While being described as the most beautiful state Capitol building in the nation, our new dome casts a glow on a grand collection of art by master Oklahoma artists and sculptors. Whether visitors are officials from the Smithsonian, foreign tourists or astonished Oklahomans who “haven’t been to the Capitol since they were in grade school,” the awesome building is an emotional trip. It raises our image and stimulates pride.

The Oklahoma Arts Council is charged with the daunting task of making quality arts experiences possible to every Oklahoman. From its inception, the council worked with partners statewide to nurture a vibrant arts agenda considered equally important for tiny rural communities as well as metropolitan areas.

As arts programs flourished, the increase of state matching funds for these partnerships was not easy. However, with a budget that is less that one-tenth of 1 percent of the entire state budget, programs sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council have provided quality arts experiences for a monumental number of citizens surpassing our population of 3.2 million.

With setbacks in recent years, cuts in public funding and shrinking private dollars have jeopardized programs. As legislators make difficult decisions during this session, community leaders should share their insight on the value of public arts funding not only to Oklahoma City but to communities like Gene Autry, Hinton, Hobart, Shattuck, Ponca City, Idabel, Miami and others.

That’s how we accomplish our task. Art is for everyone. It will take Oklahoma City and our state to a higher level of quality and livability.