Two organizations, through their fellowships, help Oklahoma artists make their creative dreams come to fruition.

The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition and the Tulsa Artist Fellowship assist Oklahomans in realizing their potentials by providing funds, free housing, free studio space, education and exposure to audiences.

Each year, the visual arts alliance gives two awards of $5,000 to individual artists, while the artist fellowships provides a one-year, unrestricted $20,000 award, free housing for one year in Downtown Tulsa’s Arts and Greenwood districts, and free studio space to artists who apply.

These awards, chosen from a selective application process, reward qualified artists with outstanding visions.

“Earning this fellowship is great encouragement for me to continue on with my artistic pursuits,” says Tulsan Taylor Painter-Wolfe, a 2019 visual arts coalition fellow. “The validation that comes from being chosen for such an award feels amazing … and financially it allows me to have more time to continue creating and more money to purchase materials.”

Public recognition and garnering viewers come with the awards, leading to additional opportunities.

“We work with a guest curator to make the selections because it allows the selection process to remain unbiased, but also because it puts the artwork of all of the applicants in front of a well-known curator,” says Krystle Brewer, the coalition’s executive director.

Ginna Dowling, a 2018 coalition fellow, says the honor has allowed her to work with children. She credits the fellowship as a stepping stone that gave her confidence to pursue a community-based project at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medicine in Oklahoma City.

“It’s an interactive and collaborative installation project called The Language of Hope and Courage, which empowers critically ill children as they experience the power of creative expression as part of the healing process,” Dowling says. “In a yearlong residency at the children’s hospital, I am working with … children, their families and the medical teams … to create symbolic identities and creative representations that will be merged into a life-sized visual arts story installation about the … indomitable inherent spirit of these children battling illness and disease.”

The Tulsa Artist Fellowship, established in 2015 by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, had an inaugural group of 12 and “recruits artists nationwide to live in Tulsa during their fellowship year,” says program assistant Cheyenne Smith, adding that goals include retaining artists in Tulsa and building its arts community.

The program seeks a variety of contemporary disciplines, including curators, publishers and collaborators.

“Awardees will join second-year Tulsa artist fellows and arts integration grantees, which is currently at a critical mass of 60,” Smith says. “The concentration of arts practitioners allows the sharing of and accessibility to innovative ideas, and opens up opportunities for education, spurring social awareness and change.”

The artist fellowship opens applications once each year; they are reviewed by an exclusive panel. Go to tulsaartistfellowship.org for details.

Sharon McBride
Author: Sharon McBride