By Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
ARDMORE — Several Norman residents are now better equipped to advocate for the arts thanks to the Oklahoma Arts Council’s Leadership Arts program.
Jonathan Fowler, with Fowler Volkswagen of Norman; Kevin Smith, with Cimarron Opera; and Stephen Koranda, formerly with Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau, graduated from the program at the Oklahoma Arts Conference in Ardmore on Thursday.
Molly O’Connor, Oklahoma Arts Council cultural development director, said the program brings state leaders — including business, civic, arts and education leaders — together to participate in four two-day spring sessions of panel discussions, group activities and tours of community art spaces around the state. The in-depth curriculum focuses on how to utilize arts and cultural resources to improve education, enhance quality of life and develop the local economy.
“It’s really just to help arts advocates and arts leaders have the language and skills and tools they need to validate the importance of what they’re doing,” she said. “It’s breaking that down with economic impact studies, the figures they can take back and show that the arts generate this much income for our community, this many full time positions, etc. But also just the diverse ways that we all have to advocate — whether it’s to our legislators and representatives, people in our community or even our own families sometimes question the value of the arts.”
With class participants from a diverse range of backgrounds, professional expertise and communities, O’Connor said the program provides networking and helps provide the connections leaders need to develop the projects they’re already working on.
This year’s graduating class, totaling 32 individuals, represents 22 different urban and rural communities throughout the state.
Fowler said the program taught him crucial information as well as helped him connect and collaborate with arts leaders in communities throughout the state.
Since the first Leadership Arts class in 2008, nearly 180 individuals have graduated from the program.
Other 2013 state graduates include: Debra Collins Bailey, Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities, from Ada; Jennie Buchanan, Museum of the Western Prairie, from Altus; Kathy Hale, Southern Prairie Library System, from Altus; Nicki Wood, Greater Southwest Historical Museum, from Ardmore; Benita Brewer, Focal Point Artists Studio and Gallery, from Broken Arrow; Jonathan Manning, Oasis Studios & Gallery, from Chickasha; Shannan Freeman, Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, from Cleveland; Mary Richardson, Seminole Nation Museum, from Cromwell; Stacy Cramer Moore, Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, from Duncan; Ebony Iman Dallas, Afrikanation Artists Organization, from Edmond; Lisa Alswede, Funky Box Studios, from Edmond; Marcy Jarrett, Enid Convention & Visitors Bureau, from Enid; Selian Jayne-Dornan, City of Eufaula, from Eufaula; Lucy Swanson, Guthrie Chamber of Commerce, from Guthrie; Mary Coffin, Guthrie Chamber of Commerce and CVB, from Guthrie; Shel Wagner, Discover Oklahoma, from Kingfisher; Shelley Lytle, Lawton Community Theatre, from Lawton; Ann Neal, First National Bank and Trust Co., from Miami; Jessica Stout, NEO A&M College, from Miami; Norman, Amy Young, Sixtwelve, from Oklahoma City; Cassie Gage, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, from Oklahoma City; Gayle Curry, Paseo Arts Association, from Oklahoma City; Daniel Lay, Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, from Shawnee; Doug Moore, City of Tahlequah, from
Tahlequah; Isaac Rocha, The Bama Companies, Inc., from Tulsa; Janet Duvall, Tulsa Glassblowing School, from Tulsa; Marjorie Bontemps, AHHA Hardesty Art Center, from Tulsa; Brenda Bradford, Northeastern State University, from Westville; and Charles Burns, Woodward Arts Theatre, from Woodward.
Applications are currently being accepted for the 2014 Leadership Arts class. Visit arts.ok.gov for more information.
Fowler said the program is not just for those actively engaged in the arts, but is also beneficial for business and government leaders.
“From my point of view, I think it’s crucial that business gets involved with this program and that they seek it out. It teaches you so much that you can apply across the board to life, to business, to whatever. It’s not just talking about art — this is talking about connecting with people, it’s talking about marketing, it’s talking about how to come to a conclusion on a return of investment on your projects, it teaches you about budgeting and forecasting.
“I mean, there’s so much that goes on with this that people in the business community could benefit greatly from. And I think it would open their eyes in a lot of different areas. And of course state legislators, it should be a requirement for state legislators to attend this class. I think it should be mandatory.”
Leadership Arts is sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council and funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. It is a project of the Oklahoma Arts Council with Quartz Mountain Resort, Forest Heritage Center, Red River Museum, and the communities of Miami, Oklahoma City and Ardmore.