The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

April 24, 2014

Leadership Arts pays a visit to Enid

ENID, Okla. — When Mike Klemme finished the 2009 Leadership Arts program, he came back to Enid and set up Creative HQ, in part because of what he learned traveling to other Oklahoma cities.

The artist space, located at 222 E. Maple, has seven tenants alongside Klemme’s photography studio. During his travels with other Leadership Arts class members, he saw how other people had set up their own collectives and art districts.

“There were people doing similar concepts. It struck a nerve with me,” he said. “We needed space anyway so it seemed to me it was a natural.”

This year’s Leadership Arts class, the seventh since 2008, made a two-day stop in Enid this week. Attendees toured Creative Arts Enid, Leonardo’s Children’s Museum, Scribner’s Gallery and the Felt Bird, plus had a tour of Enid Symphony Center. Curriculum over the two days was on arts education and community collaboration.

According to a press release from Visit Enid, the students are receiving in-depth instruction on how to use local arts and cultural resources for economic development, improved education and enhanced quality of life,

On Thursday morning, the group sat for a panel discussion with local civic leaders who have used their influence to advance art and beautification in Enid.

“The panel today is showing the many partnerships that have come together using the arts to make things possible,” said Visit Enid Director Marcy Jarrett, who is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Arts.

Seeing how other cities invest in arts allows people, like Klemme, to take what they’ve learned and bring it home.

“You travel to places around the state and you see how they’ve made things happen, maybe on a shoestring budget, or maybe just by taking an eyesore and turning it into an asset,” Jarrett said.

She said Enid wants to host the annual Oklahoma Arts Conference in the near future, and Oklahoma Arts Council obliged when Enid asked to be included on the list of Leadership Arts towns to visit this year. Other locations being visited include Quartz Mountain Lodge, Tahlequah and Tulsa. This year’s conference is in Norman.

“Enid is so supportive of the arts,” Jarrett said. “What better way to learn from what other organizations and other cities have done? It’s an honor for us to host this group. They could go anywhere and they came here because of what Enid’s been doing.”

OAC Cultural Development Director Molly O’Connor said Leadership Arts was designed to build a statewide network of community leaders who may or may not be directly involved in the arts.

“Maybe they are artists, maybe they are arts administrators, but maybe they are mayors or community leaders who all in some way care about their community,” she said. “They do see the arts as a valuable tool for moving communities forward, whether that’s arts education, building up the local economy or creating a sense of place.”

Collaboration between local governments and art patrons is important, she said, because having a vibrant art scene can attract business.

“We talk about how the arts impact the overall quality of life, and how important that is to our state’s future. When businesses are looking for places to relocate, they want to find communities where their employees and their employees’ families will be happy,” O’Connor said.

This year’s Leadership Arts class members include artists, nonprofit leaders, government officials and members of academia and the media. While there are no members from Enid in this class, the city has been represented in the past with 10 members.

“What happens through this program is we have that conversation everywhere we go and people take those ideas and resources. They feel empowered to get involved in their own community,” O’Connor said. “Plus, they have this network of peers they’ve built through the program and they can turn to them for support, ideas, resources.”

People wanting to sign up for the eighth Leadership Arts class have to wait until October when the application process begins again. There is more information about the program on the Oklahoma Arts Council website.

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