Public art serves two purposes: to beautify and enhance urban areas and take advantage of unused space that would otherwise sit vacant. Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc. aims to do both through its annual Artist Invitational program, now in its third year. Through the program, local artists can submit proposals for public art, with funds provided by Downtown OKC, Inc.
“Public art plays such a vital role in creating a sense of place and building community pride,” said Staci Sanger, Downtown OKC, Inc. marketing manager. “It provides people with a reason to continue exploring an area. Public art also has the ability to add a sense of comfort to a place. We believe it almost always sparks more creativity.”
The program developed out of conversations among organizational board and staff about how artists around the world use their talent and creativity to enhance their cities. Downtown OKC decided to offer local artists similar opportunities.
Previously, Artist Invitational was open to a small group of artists invited by the organization. This year, it’s accepting an unlimited number of proposals from applicants currently living in central Oklahoma counties, including Oklahoma, Kingfisher, Logan, Lincoln, Seminole, Pottawatomie, Cleveland, McClain, Grady and Canadian.
“We thought that since the budget for the project was higher, it potentially allows for funding of more projects,” Sanger explained. “Plus, the reach of an open call is so wide, we’re hoping to expand our network of artists throughout the process.”
This year’s budget is $25,000, to be divided among the accepted proposals. Applicants can also submit proposals that include matching funding amounts — for example $5,000 from Downtown OKC and $5,000 from another source.
Submissions are due March 15. Finalists will be notified in April, and all projects are expected to be completed by December. Submissions must include a detailed proposal with sketches or renderings, a project timeline and budget and site and maintenance plans. Also, Artist Invitational applications must include between five and 10 work samples and an artist resume. Additional requirements must be met for pieces on private property, and all proposals are reviewed by the area’s design review board and Oklahoma City Arts Commission, Sanger said.
The selection committee looks for proposals with a clear artist vision and an overview of the action steps required to bring the project to life.
“We are excited at the idea of seeing ideas for downtown that we haven’t thought of yet, so we welcome surprises,” Sanger said. “We are definitely open to projects that will be the first of their kind.”
The scope for art ranges from more traditional works such as sculptures and murals to art that visitors can interact with — pieces that double as something functional, such as a seating area. Their placement is also open and can include everything from underpasses, walls or parks to empty storefronts.
Projects must be located in the greater downtown area, and the organization is especially interested in projects in Deep Deuce, Film Row, Automobile Alley, Bricktown, Arts District, Midtown, Park Plaza and Central Business District.
Print headline: Plentiful palette, Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc.’s annual Artist Invitational expands its vision and its budget.