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Arts Council Oklahoma City moves free art lessons online in response to COVID-19

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arts council okc festival of the arts

Arts Council Oklahoma City's annual Festival of the Arts at Bicentennial Park in Downtown Oklahoma City. The 2020 festival was canceled due to coronavirus concerns and the council has supplemented online art resources for locals to still participate in art while under "safer-at-home" orders. 

Arts Council Oklahoma City, a nonprofit that provides free art lessons in the metro area, is publishing free video art tutorials on its website after operations were disrupted by the coronavirus.  

The organization’s “All Access Arts” initiative, which used to bring free and low-cost art and cultural events to locals, now offers weekly-updated educational videos, plans and other links for all art lovers in Oklahoma.

“Our mission here at Arts Council Oklahoma City is to bring the arts and the community together,” said Peter Dolese, the council's executive director, in a statement. “That mission hasn't changed, but the way we deliver is shifting to new formats to ensure we continue to reach the many populations of students and seniors that depend on our services.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Arts Council Oklahoma City had to cancel its Festival of the Arts slated for April 23-26, according to the website. Dolese said the annual festival has traditionally been their biggest fundraiser, bringing in 5,000 volunteers and 100,000 visitors per day.

The council’s team decided to redirect staff and funding for the canceled festival to work on the online material, creating “All Access Arts Online.” The website currently offers free weekly video tutorials by local artists on various topics including foraging for art materials, creating collages and pen drawings.

Before moving online, “All Access Arts” also included the “Neighborhood Arts” initiative in partnership with the Metropolitan Library System. It provided free performances to 18 libraries across the OKC metro area, according to the project's website.

“Arts in the Park” in partnership with the City of Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department was another project offering free art classes for children at recreational venues around the city.

“Creative Aging,” another of the council’s programs, hired local artists to teach art at 17 of Oklahoma City’s senior living facilities. Those lessons stopped when senior centers started closing in mid-March, Dolese said. 

The people at senior centers “got anxious because they waited for an opportunity to see a familiar face,” Dolese said.

The council responded by offering online lessons designed to help seniors feel confident and proud of their work, according to the project’s website. This helps to keep their art instructors on payroll, too.

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