When Kim Baker talks to people outside the state who have witnessed Oklahoma’s substantial cultural advances, the executive director of the Oklahoma Arts Council sees the seeds for the state’s future being planted.
At a recent conference, Baker was talking to a designer/builder from St. Louis about Oklahoma City’s major arts and community revitalization initiatives, as well as the hand-in-hand relationship between arts and businesses.
She said the response she received was something she could not have imagined when she first moved to Oklahoma City in the early 1990s.
“His words were, ‘Well, we’re just not as progressive as Oklahoma City,’” Baker said. “And 20 years ago, that’s not what he would have said.”
Baker said that Oklahoma City will build on its achievements and use those as a foundation for its future growth.
“We’ve started seeing this, but we see the continuation of the arts and cultural industries in Oklahoma City and the state acting as the catalyst for bringing together businesses, nonprofits, civic leaders, artists — bringing them all together to make this shining example to the nation,” she said. “We are going to be the state to look toward.”
And much of that will come from how the state projects its image, Baker said.
“We see a state that is really proud of its cultural and business achievements, that’s reaping the benefits of a strong cultural and business infrastructure. I think the arts and culture will be in every aspect of community life, from education to new public spaces, aesthetic design and especially in downtown and community revitalization,” she said.
“That’s going to be critical.”
These initiatives will help continue the trend toward Oklahoma City being a creative force that attracts young innovators, she said.
“We’ve seen these young people coming in because they’re excited about what’s going on here,” Baker said.
“They’re willing to take risks, they’re willing to be innovative, they’re willing to make the move and they want to live here.
“I think because we are a relatively new state, we have a unique opportunity to really do it right,” she said. “People are going to be so proud, and people outside of Oklahoma are going to go, ‘Wow, I wish I lived in Oklahoma.’”