By CHARLES CANTRELL
FINISHED PRODUCT: This rendering shows how the four-story, 42,000 square foot AHHA Building will look when finished. It is located at the corner of Archer Street and North Boston Avenue.
Courtesy Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa
In November of 2011, Newspapers featured an article titled “Brady Busting Out All Over,” forecasting many upcoming construction projects in the Brady Arts District in downtown Tulsa. Today, those projects are in various stages of completion and are significantly changing the landscape of one of the inner city’s most historic parts. By late fall, many of the new and refurbished structures will be up and running.
One very ambitious project to rise up through the forest of construction cranes in the Brady District is the long awaited Hardesty Arts Center, inspirationally branded the (Arts and Humanities Hardesty Arts) Building. This 42,000 square foot, $14 million building is scheduled to open in December of this year.
Designed by Selser Schaefer Architects, one of Tulsa’s premier architectural firms, and constructed by locally-owned Flintco Constructive Solutions, the facility looks to the south with an in-your-face view of Tulsa’s skyline. It will house artist studios, galleries, classrooms and offices and will be a gathering place and art hub for all of Greater Tulsa, while serving as the new home of the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa ().
In June, Ken Busby, executive director of , was on hand with fellow art patrons and supporters to celebrate the topping out of the new facility by signing their names or placing their yellow painted handprint on the last steel beam to go in place. For Busby, it was a commemorative millstone for a project he has been spearheading with council board members since 2003.
“This is truly an exciting time. We are getting closer to changing the face of arts education and integration of the arts into our community. For it will be a transformative moment when we occupy our new space because we will be able to reach out to the community in ways we’ve never been able to before. We will have vastly more opportunities to connect with artists and help gather and coordinate the myriad of art endeavors throughout Greater Tulsa,” says Busby. “The synergism of placing so many organizations focused on the arts from around the city in close proximity is a game changer for all of Tulsa.
Busby is referring to the other entities that will or have already taken up residency in the complex bordered by Boston and Cincinnati Avenues and Archer and Brady Streets.
The refurbishing of the Mathews Warehouse with its weathered red brick exterior is nearing completion. The completed east portion of the building now houses a consortium of local entities focusing on the arts. They are the Zarrow Center for Art Education, The University of Tulsa and Gilcrease and Philbrook Museums. The west end of the building will be the future home of the Woody Guthrie Center, the Brady Craft Alliance and incubator space devoted to future art related startups. With so many local art entities in one place it is easy to understand Busby’s enthusiasm.
Directly north across Cameron Street is the recently and fittingly named Guthrie Green. It is one square block of urban park scheduled for completion in the fall. Beneath the surface is a collection of 120 geothermal wells 500 feet deep that will provide heating and cooling for the complex to the south. The $2.5 million geothermal field is part of the larger $110.5 million investment in the Brady Arts and Greenwood districts, with $53.1 million coming from the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the remaining $57.4 million from various other sources. When completed, the park will feature grass, foliage, water features and fountains surrounding an open-air pavilion to host musicians and entertainers.
One more block north is the 57,000 square foot green-built, glass exterior Griffin Communications Media Center that will serve as the new home of Tulsa’s oldest television station and affiliate, . The new facility will feature a special focus on green technology. lighting will be employed throughout to minimize the carbon footprint of a facility with high lighting demands. Street beautification and extensive landscaping will finish out the look of what will be a spectacular addition to the Brady District on a 3-acre plot of land once part of the original 40-acres purchased in 1906 by O. W. Gurley, a wealthy African-American landowner from Arkansas and founder of what became the Greenwood District, once the wealthiest black community in America before it was destroyed in the city’s infamous 1921 race riot.
A few blocks west on Archer Street at Main Avenue is the Fairfield Inn Hotel nearing completion. The hotel will include 11,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Already local businesses and retail chains are lining up to secure these spaces according to Jeff Hartman of Hartman Partners who has teamed with Tye Turman, senior vice president of the western region for Marriott International. Tulsans David Sharp and Greg Oliphant have also been instrumental in bringing a much needed hotel into the Brady mix.
Thanks, in large part to local philanthropy and an always vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, in just a few months, the Brady Arts District will take Tulsa’s alive and well art community to a new level, one that bodes very well for a city that has long prided itself as a place where the arts are nourished and flourish.