|Bedlam baseball fans walk past the mural on Elgin Avenue painted by students from the Tulsa Girls Art School.|
A project to enhance the Greenwood District along Elgin Avenue near the Oklahoma State University-Tulsa campus has helped many young Tulsans tap into their creativity.
George Kaiser Family Foundation and Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa have commissioned four local organizations to paint murals on the Interstate 244 underpass on Elgin Avenue between OSU-Tulsa and ONEOK Field.
“When we started planning aesthetic improvements to the area, we wanted to create something that would enhance the area and fit with the other Tulsa entrainment districts,” said Josh Miller, program officer at GKFF. “In addition to sidewalk improvements, planting trees and adding more lights, we thought the murals would be a nice touch. On Greenwood Avenue, there are many murals that commemorate Tulsa’s Juneteenth celebrations, so the space on Elgin Avenue became the ideal spot for art.”
Global Gardens, Phoenix Rising, the Tulsa Girls Art School and the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences developed designs for the murals. Each sketch was submitted to the Tulsa Arts Commission for approval. The Tulsa Beautification Foundation, part of GKFF, provided funding for the murals.
“The expansive, colorful murals along with the lighting and landscaping on Elgin Avenue highlight the connectivity between our campus and downtown,” said OSU-Tulsa President Howard Barnett. “The murals brighten this pedestrian entrance to campus and add an interesting historical and artistic perspective to the area.”
The Tulsa Girls School of Arts finished its project, depicting the downtown Tulsa skyline and the Arkansas River, on the west side of the corridor in April. TGSA student Cristina Ciriaco created the design.
“Cristina wanted to capture Tulsa’s perfect balance of downtown and wide open spaces,” said Matt Moffett, executive director at TGAS. “Her ideas and the size of the space for the mural were a great match.”
TGAS provides an after-school visual arts program for students in Tulsa Public Schools. A group of 22 students worked on the mural.
“Our school was excited to be part of the improvements to downtown and our students felt empowered by the opportunity to create public art,” said Moffett. “Everyone enjoyed painting the mural and Christina is proud of her design.”
The mural by Phoenix Rising students, a school and behavioral treatment day program, is close to completion. The mural, also on the west side, features scenes from Tulsa’s history with an emphasis on remembering the past, living in the present and shaping the future.
“This project was exactly what we need for our school,” said Mary Kevin McNamara, director at Phoenix Rising. “The students can express themselves physically and gain recognition and affirmation for their artistic efforts.”
An American Indian, an oil rig, a cowboy, the Mayo Hotel and Cain’s Ballroom are depicted in the Phoenix Rising mural. Ten students have been working on the project in small groups about two days a week since March. They have a few finishing touches left.
“This mural has enabled our students to participate in something beneficial for the entire Tulsa community,” said McNamara. “This project has helped each student build an identity as a productive member of society while making the area look better.”
In June, the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences and Global Gardens murals will be painted on the east side of the underpass.
Kelly Foshee, who teaches fine arts at the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, is helping to coordinate the TSAS mural project.
“We met off and on throughout the school year to plan and design our mural,” said Foshee. “This project is a phenomenal opportunity for our students to work creatively as a team and develop important life skills outside the classroom.”
The mural will include the original flag of Tulsa and other elements inspired by vintage postcard styles and the city’s art scene. Foshee expects a group of 20 students and alumni to work on the project.
Annie Ferris, art director and Global Gardens educator, has helped students at Rosa Parks Elementary School, Eugene Field Elementary School and the Union Sixth and Seventh Grade Center create a plan for their mural.
The non-profit organization empowers young people to become community through inquiry-based science and peace education.
“We want our mural to tell the story of our program without us being there to explain it,” said Ferris. “Our final design is a culmination of each participant’s art pieced together.”
The design will feature buildings from the city’s skyline made out of vegetables, flowers and other gardening objects.
“We constantly remind our students that they are part of the greater community and can have an influence for good,” said Ferris. “This opportunity speaks directly to that influence and they are excited about creating something beautiful for the city.”
Many organizations have supported the efforts and vision for the Elgin Avenue corridor.
“This has been a great way for youth in our community to display their talents in a meaningful and impactful manner,” said Miller. “Their talent is improving this area and many people will see their efforts when visiting OSU-Tulsa, ONEOK Field and downtown.”