Oklahoma City’s arts community has enjoyed a recent surge in vitality with a growing core of supporters and participants. Local observers believe the arts will play a key role in the cultural richness of the city’s future and mature into a thriving reflection of a progressive Oklahoma brand.
Art refuels revitalization
Real estate investors know that if you’re going to speculate on the next “up market,” look at where the artists are working and congregating. Good space and cheap rent attract opportunity-savvy artists who in turn attract the cool, sophisticated, “insider” crowd, which in turn attracts an urban, professional crowd and so on.
And Oklahoma City is no different. The last 10 years have revealed a trend toward revitalization that shows no signs of letting up — due in good part to the imagination of the artistic community.
“One of the overarching trends that I see is that as different neighborhoods pop up, art plays a role as a catalyst for community development,” said Jennifer Barron, Oklahoma City artist and executive director of Paseo Arts Association. “Communities embrace art. ... Art breaths life into a community.”
Virtually every culture, past and present has embraced the arts. Why? Perhaps recent neuroscience research has an answer.
Numerous studies have revealed that engagement in the arts — music, dance, fine arts — is vital to brain function, both in young, developing brains and older, diminishing brains. In a biological sense, research is showing us that we need the arts in order to evolve.
As a result, Barron believes we will see a rise in “integrated” art — integrated into learning techniques, into social and political movements and into environments.
“We see it in education now with the Oklahoma A-Plus movement. As art unfortunately is dropped from the curriculum, it’s one way to keep arts in the classroom,” she said.
Barron also said she sees public art moving into the fore as a part of the environment.
“Look at the SkyDance Bridge. It’s already become this iconic image,” she said. “Art in public places brings art out of venues that are intimidating. It becomes part of your life and environment.”