50th ANNIVERSARY PUBLIC ART PROJECT:
"Birdwatching OKC Lightning Thunder Dance Party" by Joe Slack
At OKC Beautiful’s 50th Anniversary “Golden Garden Gala”, $38,000 was raised to install a public art project to bring color and life to the Classen Boulevard divider between NW 7th and 9th. Over the last two years, OKC Beautiful has worked with Robbie Kienzle and Artist Joe Slack to make this dream a reality. “Projects like this could not happen without the philanthropic support and tenacity of private sector partners like OKC Beautiful. This portion of Classen Boulevard had been previously identified as infrastructure recommended for improvement through public art. Unfortunately, roads and streets are not eligible for 1% for Art funding and OKC Beautiful stepped up to make this project happen. Now it is an important and impressive gateway to downtown and the Arts District,” stated Robbie Kienzle, Arts Liaison for Oklahoma City’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.
The project is a colorful combination of paint and metal work that is unique and reflective of the surrounding community. The installation depicts characters of various shapes and sizes dancing in an Oklahoma thunderstorm. Ward 6 councilor JoBeth Hamon remarked, “The new mural on Classen is a beautiful example of how public art can be a simple but powerful tool to beautify our streets and other public spaces. Joe’s mural is a bright and eye-catching improvement that will encourage people to literally slow down and see Classen in a new and creative way.”
Joe is a wood and metal sculptor working and living in Oklahoma City. Joe and his assistant put 1,800 hours into this project between sketching, measuring, cutting, installing, and painting. When asked to reflect on the two-block mural, Joe said, “I feel very proud of the accomplishment. When I look at the piece it just makes me smile, which is the best possible result. I hope that it contributes to a furthering sense of pride and community in the area. You can’t have a thriving, thinking, productive, and happy community without the contribution of public art. I also hope it makes people smile and makes their commute just a little bit better than it was before.”
The benefits of public art are numerous and often immeasurable. Developer and chairman of Allied Arts, Steve Mason said, “The economic health of our city relies on creating an innovative and beautiful environment that people want to live and do business in. Public art directly influences how people see and connect with our city, providing access to art that supports OKC’s identity and makes residents feel appreciated and valued. OKC Beautiful’s 50th Anniversary project is a perfect example of this in action.” Steve’s Classen Inn redevelopment sits east of the mural along Classen.
The principal donors who made this mural possible are: W&W Steel, Ron Norick, Laura Rankin, Lance and Cindy Ruffel, Jerry & Cynthia Brindley, Terri Cooper, Jerry and Mark Gautreaux, Vicki Clark Gourley, Kellie and Robert Hefner, Kirk Humphreys, Meg Salyer, Carla and G. Calvin Sharpe, John and Kathy Williams, Carol Alexander, Charlotte and Brian Mitchell, Stephanie O’Gara, Kerry Owens, Andrew and Ellen Spiropoulos, and Kari and Hardy Watkins.