Local, Accessible Culture: Alive and Thriving

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LUNCH AND ART: Attendees of the Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education’s brown bag series in November discuss and tour the center’s exhibition of works by artist Anna Kavan.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

I don’t care how much money a person has, when something is free, it instantly becomes better. That’s my dad’s philosophy anyway.

Whether it’s nature or nurture, though, I have to agree. Maybe the freeness simply causes an immediate eraser to anything that may have gone wrong during our dinner—the chicken that was undercooked or the server who clearly wished we weren’t dining in his section.

One of my numerous plans this year is to try new things, as many as my homebody tendencies will allow. I especially plan to embrace those many free activities that Tulsa has always had and the more that are being continually added to the list.

Step one of my plan is to culture myself through some of downtown’s free offerings, including Brown Bag It, a program put on by the Tulsa Trust, occurring for about six weeks in the spring and fall. The spring season begins March 12.

The activity, which has been taking place for more than two decades, particularly targets downtown’s workforce and offers a musical interlude to the daily grind of the office. It occurs from 12:10 – 12:50 p.m., always on a weekday.

“It’s something for the downtown crowd. They can come and bring their lunch,” says Shirley Elliott, program and development director with the Trust. “It’s informal and informative.”

The program has seen changes over its many years. Its offerings, for instance, used to be strictly classical. However, the series has become increasingly eclectic with jazz and celtic musicians, for example.

One popular performance, Elliott remembers, was a body percussion group whose members used their feet and hands to create music. “They had a big following,” she says.

While that group has since relocated outside of the state, Elliott is anticipating many other acts for the upcoming season, both returning favorites and new groups to the series.

The Tulsa Opera is one such new act. Although the organization is far from new to Tulsa, this will be its first time performing in the series and, Elliott believes, a first time hearing the musical genre for some audience members—one key reason she wanted to secure the opera singers in the lineup. “For the average person to hear strong operatic voices, it’s fun to introduce new things to the audience,” she says.

Besides exposure to new sounds, Brown Bag It provides something that the general public often can’t gain access to: artist interactions. “It breaks down the walls between the artist and the audience,” she says.

Another event I plan to make room for in my schedule soon is a program with a similar brown bag theme at the Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education. On March 14, from noon-1 p.m., Mark Lewis, applied associate professor of art from The University of Tulsa, will discuss various artists who work in contemporary portraits in the Zarrow Center’s new exhibition, Painted Faces. Coffee, tea and dessert is also provided.

While the freeness of these events may, admittedly, be the initial draw for many people, the opportunities for new experiences will be what bring them and me back. “I hear people say, ‘That was the best one yet’ over and over again,” says Elliott—one aspect of her job, introducing new arts to the community, that keeps her loving her job.

Updated 03-18-2014

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