The gleaming lobby of the Leadership Square office complex isn't the most obvious place one might expect to hear the popular standard “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” sung in four-part harmony.
On Thursday, though, about two dozen women from the OK City Chorus of Sweet Adelines crooned love songs ranging from the “Lion King” theme “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to Shania Twain's “Any Man of Mine.” Many businessmen and women only paused briefly to listen, although free heart-shaped cookies and pink punch persuaded several to linger longer.
Other office workers took their lunch at silver tables and watched the singers, decked out in matching black pants and sparkly red jackets, perform a selection of romantic tunes.
While the Sweet Adelines' show had a Valentine's Day theme, such lunchtime performances have become everyday occurrences in downtown Oklahoma City thanks to Art Moves. The Arts Council of Oklahoma City initiative brings free live music, art demonstrations, theatrical performances and other art events to various downtown venues from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday all year long.
“The more they can do to entertain people down here, the better it is for downtown,” said Steve Storff, who settled at a table with a sandwich and a couple of the complimentary cookies just as the chorus belted its big finish, a soaring rendition of Styx's “Come Sail Away.”
For Storff, who works at the Oklahoma County assessor's office, it was his second chance in a week to unexpectedly encounter an Art Moves performance. While venturing out for lunch the previous Friday, he caught a few minutes of classical guitarist Edgar Cruz's lunchtime concert at nearby Oklahoma Tower.
“Something different,” he said. “The more exposure we have to live art, the better off we'll be.”
Exposure to the arts
Art Moves furthers the Arts Council of OKC's mission of bringing together the arts and the community. Since the initiative launched in October 2011, more than 650 events have been staged, reaching about 50,000 people a year, said Art Moves Director Angela Hodgkinson.
“We have a schedule available for everyone if they want to follow us or come see us. But the nature of the program really is that we just sort of pop up and you don't really know that we're gonna be there. And we kind of like (it) that way. We surprise people,” she said.
The events shift among 10 to 15 downtown lunchtime hot spots.
“It depends on the season, but when it's warm, we'll get outside,” she said. “We kind of get around. … The main reason we're doing this is to expose people who would normally not seek out art on their own.”
Presented by Devon, Art Moves is designed to expose people to a wide array of artistic expression.
“It's all art, all types of art. So we'll have music — and that includes all genres, from classical to hip-hop to red dirt — and then we do art demonstrations of all kinds. Somebody one day will bring a pottery wheel and throw pots, and the next day we'll do screen printing. We've had OKC Improv come do improvisational stuff, we've had Reduxion Theatre do musical type pieces, Oklahoma City Ballet comes and does previews of its shows,” Hodgkinson said.
‘Fabric of downtown'
Although the element of surprise is part of the fun, the arts council's executive director, Peter Dolese, said downtown denizens have grown accustomed to and embraced Art Moves.
“It's become part of the fabric of downtown,” he said.
On a frigid day in December, the East Side Boys were warming spirits in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art lobby with their barbershop renditions of 1950s and '60s favorites such as “Happy Together” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” The quartet will give its sixth Art Moves performance March 21.
“We don't usually have people standing around the whole hour, but if they're on their way to lunch or coming back from lunch, they'll stop and stand around for 10 or 15 minutes before they have to head back,” said David Squire, the group's bass.
“Kind of brighten up their day a little bit. We've had people come up and make a comment, ‘You know, I was feeling kind of crappy this morning when I came into work, but after listening to you guys sing a little bit, I feel a whole lot better.' That kind of makes us feel good.”