Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

February 18, 2014

An eye for art

Two local women will play a critical role in promoting and growing the area art scene

TAHLEQUAH — Tahlequah has a burgeoning art scene, and two local residents hope to see it grow even more in the coming years.

Northeastern State University Sequoyah Institute Director Anita Thompson and Daily Press Special Writer Renee Fite were recently selected to be part of the 2014 Leadership Arts Class, sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council.

The pair number among 31 Oklahomans from 13 counties tapped for membership. The workshops are designed to provide instruction on using local art and cultural resources to promote economic development, improve education and enhance the quality of life of a community.

Thompson said she’s delighted to have been selected.

“I know there were over 70 applicants,” said Thompson. “The process was fairly involved, asking for much more than just a name and address. They ask about your professional position, your feelings about the arts and how you believe you can advocate for the arts in your community.”

Fite learned about the application process from LAC from alumnae Donna Tinnin and Brenda Bradford. She felt she would be a good choice for the class.

“As long as I’ve lived in Tahlequah and have been writing about Tahlequah, I’ve been promoting the arts and local artists,” said Fite. “Advocating for  the arts is very important, because art and artists represent the beauty and culture of community.”

The class will meet four times for two days each time, in various communities across the state. Classmates will participate in panel discussions, group activities and take tours of the community art spaces.

This year’s sessions will be held at the Quartz Mountain Resort and Arts Conference Center near Lone Wolf, Feb. 19-20; Tahlequah, March 19-20; Enid, April 23-24; and Tulsa, May 21-22. The 2014 class will graduate during the Oklahoma Arts Conference to be held in Norman, Oct. 22-23.

Thompson hopes to learn skills for several projects being planned for Tahlequah.

“Of course, the networking potential will be important,” said Thompson. “And there’s definitely an initiative for preparing an arts district in Tahlequah. I’m interested in learning how to use my skills and the knowledge gained in the class to push that forward.”

Fite said she will appreciate the networking opportunities, too.

“I hope to gain more contacts from around the state, and make them aware of the amazing talent we have here in Tahlequah and Northeast Oklahoma,” said Fite. “I also hope to improve my marketing skills.”

Both are excited that Tahlequah is on the list of sites the class will visit this year.

“They contacted members from previous classes to determine good sites for the meetings,” said Thompson.

“In this case, Donna Tinnin is spearheading the effort, and Renee and I are part of that planning process. The biggest obstacle is figuring out how to show  them everything in a whirlwind tour. But Donna has done it before, and has a pretty good outline of what she’d like everyone to see.”

Fite believes Tahlequah is a natural choice when highlighting Oklahoma’s art culture, and she wants to share her enthusiasm with new visitors.

“In all the years I’ve been writing, I meet people who come here to visit and end up calling it home,” said Fite.

“They’re so taken with the arts and the natural beauty that they want to stay. And our arts community is growing. We have artists who have moved here from New York and California, along with young, local up-and-comers and retired people who choose Tahlequah to return to their artistic roots.”

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples believes graduates of the class aid in the development of Oklahoma.

“As with every year, this year’s class members have a wide range of backgrounds,” said Sharples in a press release.

“After completing the program, these individuals will return to their places of business, their government offices, their nonprofit organizations and schools ready to make a difference  in their communities. What shined through in each of their applications is their love for Oklahoma and a desire to see it prosper through the arts.”

Leadership Arts is sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council and is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. The program is a project of the Oklahoma Arts Council, in cooperation with Quartz Mountain Resort and the communities of Tahlequah, Enid and Tulsa.


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