Tahlequah Daily Press

February 27, 2014

Arts Council class irons out details for Tahlequah junket

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Arts are among the top tourism attractions for any community, and next month, Tahlequah arts will be in the spotlight.

The State Arts Council Leadership Class 7 will meet here in March, and those planning the meeting Tuesday found there is more to explore than time will allow for the two-day event.

Oklahoma Arts Council Cultural Development Director Molly O’Connor said she’s excited to bring the group to Tahlequah to observe community arts on the rise.  

“Public arts is such a big deal, and you have such exciting and vibrant murals,” said O’Connor. “Tahlequah is a prime example of a town that’s moving forward with great partnerships and leadership. It definitely feels like a destination.”

Tahlequah is also a great example of a place where artists are making a living from their work, she added.

“Since we were here in 2010 for the last class, the developments that have been made in the downtown are very noticeable,” O’Connor said. “For the class members from across the state, it’s an example of success. People will take that example back with them to be empowered.”

The March meeting will focus on economic impact in the reading assignments of the class. Community leaders will be invited to speak economic development.

“The City of Firsts includes the Cherokee Nation, Northeastern State University, city government and the United Keetoowah Band,” said Donna Tinnin, with Cherokee Nation Community Tourism and a graduate of the State Arts council Leadership class.

“We have a new chief, mayor and president of NSU since [representatives] were here last time, but they’re still working together really well,” Tinnin said.

Tahlequah has a good dynamic for partnerships, said O’Connor – one not found in many other communities.

Oklahoma State Arts Council Community Arts Director Josh Lunsford will address cultural districts during the Tahlequah session.

“The history of the area is important to a cultural district, what this area was before,” Lunsford said. “The tribal and university are a perfect mix. Some districts don’t consider the history. Here, it’s rooted.”

The leadership class brings people together to network and learn ways to enhance the arts in their community. They will meet in four communities: Tahlequah, Enid, Tulsa and Norman. About 45 people – including graduates of the class – will be at the March 19-20 meeting.

“It’s phenomenal to see how this program continues to grow,” said O‘Connor. “This group of people doesn’t just care about the arts, but the overall prosperity of the state. It’s evident that the group is dedicated to serving communities and dedicated to building a statewide peer network.”

The first meeting of the 31-member Leadership 7 class was held at Quartz Mountain Resort last week. Part of their work included assignments to explore their personal and community strengths and assets,.

A graduate of the 2009 Leadership Arts class, Lisa Rutherford attended the planning meeting.

“The most valuable thing was all the contacts I made. It’s about networking and resources, like Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition,” Rutherford said. “Their Art Focus magazine is great. I’m focused on native art, and the magazine gives me exposure to other art forms and what’s going on around the state.”

One of this year’s class members, Anita Thompson, director of NSU’s Sequoyah Institute, said she enjoyed the Quartz Mountain session and is looking forward to showing Tahlequah to the group.

“I enjoyed expanding my network of friends in the arts arena. I knew who Jim Paul [Blair] was, and by the evening, we were networking and planning to collaborate between the Music Hall of Fame and Sequoyah Institute,” Thompson said. “I really liked meeting people who use art in so many ways and who are working in their communities to move art forward.”