Urban Land Institute, which has an Oklahoma chapter, may be best known as an organization that hosts discussions among planners and developers, but some local organizers hope an upcoming exhibit will show how art is critical to building a great city.
On Friday, Urban Land Institute (ULI) Oklahoma unveils “MAPS 20th Anniversary Artist Projects,” an exhibition offering perspectives and stories about the transformation of Oklahoma City over the last two decades as a result of the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS). The exhibit will be at the Individual Artists Gallery, 706 W Sheridan Ave.
“ULI Oklahoma is thrilled to be working with local artists to offer a fresh perspective on the impact MAPS has had over the last 20 years”, said Jonathan Dodson, Program’s Chair of ULI Oklahoma, “MAPS made Oklahoma City better for everyone. Many of the millennials, artists and creatives that live here now have stayed or moved here because MAPS made this city a place people want to be.”
Six artists get commissions
Artists were invited by Laura Reese, independent curator and events coordinator for the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. Reese selected six artists to create artist-led projects supported by teams of urban planners and architects exploring the effects of MAPS.
For some artists like Hugh Meade, of Odd Fab Design Lab, the project tapped into his own children’s educational experience. He responded with a proposal inspired by MAPS for Kids that suggests a public sculpture that will commemorate teachers and education.
Tulsa artist Grace Grothaus, meanwhile, will present large-scale maps of Oklahoma City, asking for viewer’s input, via stickers, on what has changed for them, and what they see as a potential future for Oklahoma City. A chronicle of Oklahoma City before and after MAPS is presented in paintings created by Kristen Vails, director of the 16th Street Plaza District. Another Tulsa artist, Tommy Ball, presents visions of venues that would not exist without MAPS.
Documenting through collaboration with his students, University of Oklahoma professor Todd Stewart will presents photographs and ephemera of Oklahoma City’s North Canadian River.
Richard McKown, an artist who also developed the Level Apartments and Mosaic Apartments in Deep Deuce, believes the upcoming exhibit will help show how art can enhance a city’s development. His paintings portray the three mayors he sees as key to MAPS and the Oklahoma City renaissance — Mayors Ron Norick, Kirk Humphreys and Mick Cornett.
“The reason I got into development had to do with the economics of art and the role arts plays in great cities,” McKown said.
“Think of ancient Greece with all that artwork we visit to see today. Tourism is so important to Athens, Rome, Egypt, Paris and Venice, and they all have these things that people make to celebrate their culture, their history and their spiritual identity.”
McKown sees the Oklahoma City MAPS story in terms of the rebuilding of ancient Greece, in which devastated temples and the legendary Acropolis were rebuilt and the city rose again and flourished.
“Art attracts other people to the area,” McKown said.
The reason I got into development had to do with the economics of art and the role arts plays in great cities.”