Oklahoma Contemporary’s new downtown campus stands as a striking new cultural destination among the architecture of Oklahoma City, complementing and reflecting the city’s unique landscape and acting as a sculptural expression of the nonprofit organization’s mission to provide accessible, inclusive arts experiences. The new Arts Center is situated in the burgeoning Innovation District, a multidisciplinary hub that brings together some of Oklahoma’s largest industries and employers to an energized, revitalized area east of the city’s downtown.
Oklahoma Contemporary will become a major cultural component of the Innovation District, which also spans healthcare, energy, aerospace, technology, research, academia and more.
The new campus was envisioned as a place for community to gather and to create and experience art. “Oklahoma Contemporary connects the art of now and what’s next to the state of Oklahoma and beyond,” said Artistic Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis.
“The art and innovation of tomorrow will be forged through the creative connections between different art forms and ideas. We craft partnerships with artists and organizations to foster exchange and collaboration in a space all the arts can call home.”
Situated just north of historic Automobile Alley and positioned at a dedicated stop on Oklahoma City’s streetcar, the new 53,916-square-foot, four-story building, “Folding Light,” anchors the purpose-built 4.6-acre Oklahoma Contemporary campus.
The grounds also include a renovated 9,839 square-foot 1910 historic warehouse (to house studios for ceramics and fiber as well as metal and wood sculpture) and a three-block arts park, providing space for outdoor exhibitions, education programs and public performances.
On approach, visitors will be greeted by a striking, sculptural building with a facade comprised of 16,800 custom-designed extruded aluminum fins, which extend from the ground to the top of the building’s parapet.
The unique exterior shell is constructed from bright-dipped anodized aluminum, resulting in an ethereal facade designed to capture the state’s ever-changing weather conditions and reflects and embraces the dramatic changes in light and sky that characterize the local landscape.
The vertical, four-story Lantern is lit each evening, a dramatic tower of light at the southwest corner marking the campus entry.
The Lantern is a steadfast source of light in the night and an iconic new Oklahoma City landmark. To the east, a sculptural porte-cochère adds an elegance to the entrance of the building and offers guests protection from the elements on arrival. The canopy is supported by three steel columns inspired by the tall grass prairies of Oklahoma, with a single steel member reaching beyond the canopy tip as if to reach for creative inspiration.
Visitors will enter into a light-filled lobby, welcoming them in an open space that leads to flexible areas for public use, including a locally run cafe and retail shop.
The first floor includes a “Creative Lounge,” intended as a public space for local residents and visitors to gather, honoring Oklahoma Contemporary’s history and legacy as a community organization. In addition to the 8,000 square feet of galleries for visual art, the new building includes a flexible theater space that seats 200, a dance studio and nine classroom studios.
“We want the building to create opportunities for discovery, inspiration, and to place you in an environment where you see things and experience things that remain with you.
This is an educational facility and the building is filled with details that help those who enter better understand space, volume, proportion, scale, constructability, and interaction. This is a space made for children and adults to learn about the world around them.” Rand Elliott, FAIAThe exterior walls fold as they wrap the interior space.
That is reflected directly on the interior main gallery space. The folding form creates different sized walls that allow both small and large artworks to be displayed without being overwhelmed by the scale of the wall. Included on the second-floor are a hands-on learning gallery, photo classroom, sound studio, multimedia lab, artist-in-residence studio, staff offices and access to the second-floor terrace to be used as outdoor classroom or event space.
The building’s third floor is dedicated to performing arts and serves as a creative home for local resident companies in dance, theater, music, film and culture.
Building on Oklahoma Contemporary’s tradition of supporting local artists and attracting the world’s best and brightest, the flexible performance space will also feature touring performances and unique collaborations.
The Oklahoma Contemporary experience continues outdoors, where a sculpture garden will feature rotating works and the adjacent Campbell Art Park will host large-scale sculptural installations year-round.
The flexible-use second-floor terrace, on the north side of the main building, can host receptions of up to 150 seated or 250 standing guests, while landscaping elements will provide shade and cover for Oklahoma’s unpredictable weather.The StudiosOklahoma Contemporary’s new Studio School will offer an expanded suite of classes for youth and adults.
In addition to courses in visual arts, digital media, performance and literature, Oklahoma Contemporary’s flagship programs in ceramics and fiber arts will expand their impact with cutting-edge facilities in The Studios. Located in an historic 1910 renovated warehouse space adjacent to the 50,000 SF Folding Light building, The Studios house the center’s industrial arts programs (ceramics, fiber, metal, wood, glass and more). Young or old, we all need the tools to ignite individual creativity, Davis said.
“In the spirit of Oklahoma wildcatters of days past, we build this home to explore new ideas, forms and unexpected combinations to tap the energy needed to fuel the future.”.
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center Gallery
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