You Can Go Home Again - The Arts in Oklahoma City

Posted by Tiffany Barber, Jul 26, 2011 15 comments

Tiffany Barber

I was born and raised in Oklahoma City and I grew up dancing. When I decided to get serious about a performance career, I enrolled in the only performing arts magnet high school at the time and majored in dance. Which led me to New York City where I earned a BFA in Dance Performance at Fordham University/The Ailey School. Then, I abruptly quit and moved to Los Angeles.

Coast to coast and back again, I returned to Oklahoma City a year after obtaining my Master's degree in Public Art Studies from the University of Southern California. The recession hit California hard and the arts sector dwindled. Instead of slaving away at Starbucks, I took a job as a dance educator in my hometown.

I hadn't lived in Oklahoma City for almost ten years, so my first project once I returned was to reacquaint myself with the arts scene. I went on a series of informational interviews with some of the city's dynamic arts leaders and nonprofit managers, and finally found my balance – I would teach dance by day and moonlight as an arts writer and organizer by night.

My dance education work with Prairie Dance Theater (PDT) has been nothing short of amazing, transforming the lives of local public school children and giving back to my community. PDT’s mission is to bring the innovative methodology developed by former New York City Ballet dancer Jacques D’Amboise to Oklahoma City and to get kids dancing. I’m honored to have been a part of PDT’s process, but my real passion is working with contemporary visual artists to realize projects.

As a board member and chairperson of the Film and Video Programming Committee at Individual Artists of Oklahoma (IAO), I've organized cutting-edge programs, participated in boosting the organization’s profile and fundraising goals, made new friends, and discovered more than a few contemporary visual and performing artists making compelling, provocative work - which is often a challenge given Oklahoma’s conservative and religion-centered climate.

Some artists on my radar include: Eyakem Gulilat; Sherwin Tibayan; Jalisa Haggins; Samantha Dillehay; and Tara Ahmadi. Most of these artists are current students or alumni of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Art and will be participating in Shifting, an exhibition centered on race, image and sound, the city, and the daily experience of urban life, that I’m curating at IAO next summer.

I also just co-curated The Promised Land, a solo exhibition of Eyakem Gulilat’s photographic work that explores the fractured religious and racial landscape of historic Boley, OK, at Urban Roots, a flexible, creative space where art and food intersect. Urban Roots is a great space with tons of quality programming, not to mention an awesome menu! Also, as part of the public programming for The Promised Land, we hosted a screening of All That Remains, a documentary short that chronicles the historic town of Boley and the generational evacuation that has riddled its landscape. Written and directed by a talented young documentarian named Crystal Kayiza from Jenks, OK, the film premiered at Oklahoma’s world-renowned independent film festival deadCENTER. It still amazes me how much art and culture is in my hometown now!

Another great resource is Art Focus Oklahoma, a bimonthly visual arts publication produced by the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC). OVAC also hosts an online artist gallery, workshops and mini-grants, incredible group exhibitions, and the Oklahoma Art Writing & Curatorial Fellowship in partnership with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art...

But I digress. I’ve been writing for Art Focus since November 2010 and my recent artist profile, "Photo Recall: Eyakem Gulilat", made the cover of the May/June 2011 edition! Which I am still very excited about. Oh, and can you tell I like Eyakem’s work?!

All of these and more help me keep a pulse on artistic and cultural innovation in OKC, making me heart my hometown a tiny bit more.

My next two posts publishing later this week will focus on the arts in Oklahoma City and the innovative ideas coming to life here.

15 responses for You Can Go Home Again - The Arts in Oklahoma City


tiffany says
August 02, 2011 at 2:17 pm

awwww yay cameelah! thanks for reading and commenting!!! good luck on all of your creative endeavors. i can't wait to see what YOU bring back ;)

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July 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Thanks Tiffany. Her article shows how motivated & creative people can quickly become leaders in our community (and many others). Her research and willingness to help in many roles led to many opportunities already.

One engaged, emerging leader with vision truly makes a big difference!

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tiffany says
July 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm

awwwww thanks julia! looking forward to creating many more opportunities here ;) even from rochester!

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tiffany says
July 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm

thanks so much for reading and commenting guys!

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July 26, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Tiffany!!!!! What a wonderful blog! And thanks for mentioning PDT! You've been my right hand for the past two years......what am I going to do without you??? But I'm so proud of you and your accomplishments! The world is a much better place with you in it! Keep up your amazing work in the arts! Oh, and I'm so glad to know you'll be curating an event here in OKC next summer. I hope your ties to OKC will always bring you back on occassion to weave your talents and perspective within our community! Much love my sistergirl!

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Traci says
July 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I have seen Tiffany in action at the Praire Dance Theater. Her love of dance and teaching is admirable. Her published work in OVAC's Art Focus raises awareness of the visual arts and artists statewide.

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Josh Buss says
July 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm

You are a huge asset to OKC's art community and will be missed while you are (temporarily) gone. Thanks you for promoting all of the great people and organizations we have here.

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July 27, 2011 at 2:56 am

Tiffany! It's amazing to hear about what sounds like a rediscovery of Oklahoma City. You've unearthed all these artistic gems and have created such a strong and creative community around yourself. Can't wait for your next posts!

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Tara says
July 27, 2011 at 12:59 am

This is really awesome and informative Tiffany. it is a pleasure to work with you.

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tiffany says
July 27, 2011 at 10:08 am

thank you so much everyone!!! stay tuned for the next posts ;)

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Crystal Kayiza says
July 27, 2011 at 5:40 pm

This is amazing! I had no idea that you did all of this.Thank you so much for the amazing opportunity , and getting the word out about Boley. I wish I could have attend the screening, but based on this I think that you guys did an amazing job presenting the town. I'm definitely going to keep reading!

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Kira Lasley says
July 27, 2011 at 8:09 pm

#YASE! Your work in the art community is both unique and inspiring... I'm proud to call you friend.

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July 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm

As a resident of Oklahoma City and as the current director of Individual Artists of Oklahoma, I am very glad you did come back! Your leadership and involvement has been instrumental in programming here at IAO!

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tiffany says
July 28, 2011 at 10:54 pm

crystal! i'm looking forward to seeing your next documentary projects! and thank you for lending all that remains to our exhibition programming.

thanks for the love kira classic ;)

and clint! you have really steered IAO to success over the last year. it's been an honor to work with you. i'm looking forward to what is bound to be another amazing year for IAO! and especially excited about my exhibition, SHIFTING ;)

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Cameelah says
July 31, 2011 at 2:22 am

I just learned so much about you! Great job, friend. I'm definitely glad that you came back. Keep it up!

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