Tulsans Turn Out to Celebrate City’s Artistic Spirit

Contributing Editor

TULSA ART LOVERS: Patron Andrew Douglas Bryant, Event Curator Melanie Fry and Rebecca Franklin Bryant joined the more than 500 people attending opening night of “Oh, Tulsa!” The show features Oklahoma-born artists whose work will be on display until Aug. 25 at the Living Art Gallery at 307 East Brady.

GTR Newspapers photo

Tulsa has long enjoyed a vibrant arts community and that was never more evident than in mid-August when up to 500 curious Tulsans, patrons of the arts and local artisans poured into the Living Arts of Tulsa gallery at 307 East Brady for the opening of “Oh, Tulsa!” It was a major turn out for an art show billed as a celebration of the city through the eyes of Tulsa’s talented pool of visual artists. For those attending the display of artistic expression, it put to rest any notion that the city’s art community is any less energetic, creative or innovative than its storied past would suggest.

The visual arts are alive and well in Tulsa, and all that was needed to prove it was a place large enough to showcase the work was someone with the gumption and wherewithal to organize the event.

That someone turned out to be lifelong Tulsan, Melanie Fry. Fry started out thinking about a somewhat limited event showcasing some very successful local women artists. With a little coaxing Fry drafted her longtime friend, artist Cynthia Marcous.

The two approached Steve Ligget, artistic director for the recently renovated and expanded Living Arts of Tulsa with their idea and suddenly the concept began to grow. “The idea got bigger and just took on a life of its own,” says Fry. “That’s what happens when you get three artists in the same room unsupervised. And then we launched the concept on Facebook. Boom. It went viral.”

Fry would know about conspiring with artists. She has been an active participant in the arts community for years beginning with her stint as the bawdy, hilarious Joyce Martel, a satirical cabaret performer/singer who was part of the entourage making up the American Theater Company during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, performing out of the iconic Brook Theater.

“It was a marvelous time. There was so much young talent around. The city was awash in oil-boom money. We couldn’t believe our good fortune to see people lined up down the block and around the corner waiting to get in just to see us. It was just wonderful.”

In those times Fry was a member of ATC’s irreverent contingency of satirists that included such popular celebrities as Bob Odle performing on stage as Doctor Oral Love, Bob Bethel as the original Eddie Edwards of Eddie and the Eclectics, a creation of Jerry Pope who also created Joyce Martel and other local performers many of whom were graduates of the University of Tulsa. All were inspired by “The Guiding Hand” direction of Kitty Roberts, who remains the director of one of the city’s most successful companies.

According to Fry, “Tulsa has always been blessed with artistic talent in all the creative fields. For me it’s like a haven for artistic endeavor. It’s true many have left the city and gone on to bigger markets, but we keep growing new artists and many have been content with staying here to pursue their artistic goals, and the city is all the better for it.”

“Oh, Tulsa!” showcases artists young and old, established and new comers from across green country and some who’ve even moved on but not forgotten the city from where they got their start. One such artist was photographer Lavada Nichols who lives in Belgium. Another was Patrick Gordon now living in New York whose watercolor paintings populate many an office or home in Tulsa.

For the complete article, visit www.gtrnews.com/civics.

Updated 09-12-2011

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