Background: Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, founded as City Arts Center in 1989 by businessman and philanthropist Christian Keesee and Kirkpatrick Foundation Director Marilyn Myers, is an Oklahoma City nonprofit committed to providing accessible, inclusive arts experiences through free exhibitions, events and performances and by offering low-cost, high-quality arts classes and camps for youth and adults.
Overview: Oklahoma Contemporary has begun construction on the state’s next cultural destination, a contemporary arts center at NW 11th and Broadway in downtown Oklahoma City. The new facility, designed by architect Rand Elliott and built by Smith & Pickel Construction, will open in the fall of 2019.
For 28 years, Oklahoma Contemporary has provided arts education, performances and exhibitions at State Fair Park and now reaches around 18,000 people annually. The building is filled to capacity with camps, classes, exhibits and programming. The move will allow the organization to keep pace with demand, serve an estimated 90,000 annual visitors and more than triple programs and class offerings, greatly expanding its mission of “art for all.”
Unlike traditional museums, Oklahoma Contemporary does not collect art. “Our focus is on visual and performing arts education for youth, teens and adults,” Founder and Board President Christian Keesee said. “Our contemporary art exhibitions enhance that mission as our students and community learn from the artists of the contemporary era.”
Concept: The concept for the new Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center building is called
Folding Light. At the beginning of the design process Rand Elliott said, “I was
searching for a way to tie the architecture to the organization and to the city. Our
city has great light – ever-changing light. So how do we connect the three? We
created a unique aluminum skin where the pieces are folded to capture the light and
react to the sun. Light is the essence of life and with light is the essence of any
The concept of Folding Light ties Oklahoma Contemporary to its mission, to the
architecture and to our place.
• What difference will it make?
• It coincides with the renaissance of Oklahoma City.
• The key word is “Contemporary”
It will be a place to expose visitors to the importance of contemporary thinking, contemporary art and architecture.
• It is contemporary architecture to hold the contemporary art of our time. It is not about the past. It is a place for now. It is a place that all of us can be part of at a pivotal moment in our city’s history.
Just as Oklahoma is known for our ever-changing weather, this architecture reflects the dramatic transformation of Downtown, our boundless community spirit, and celebrates our stunning Oklahoma light. We believe architecture is a reflection of the cultural values of a city. The new Oklahoma Contemporary building embodies the aspirations of our city.
“Architecture reflects the cultural values of a city. The new Oklahoma Contemporary building is a statement of belief and investment in the arts. This building embodies the aspirations of our city.”
Campus Facts: The 4.6-acre arts campus will become the north gateway to downtown Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center will be home to a new 53,916 square-foot building, a renovated 9,839 square-foot historic warehouse, a three-block arts park and space for outdoor exhibitions, education programs and public performances.
The campus will include:
• Folding Light: 53,916-square-foot building with 7,279 square-feet of gallery space and nine classrooms
o First floor: lobby, one early childhood classroom and four other general classroom/ multipurpose rooms, Teen Art Studio, 1,300 square feet of gallery space, café and retail areas
o Second floor: 6,700 square feet of gallery space, hands-on learning gallery, photo classroom, sound studio, multimedia lab, artist-in-residence studio, staff offices and a balcony to be used as outdoor classroom or event space
o Third floor: a flexible theater space that will seat 150 (plus 49 more on the mezzanine level), a dance studio and a green room and performing arts lobby/event space that will serve both
o Fourth floor: theater mezzanine and staff offices
• The Studios: Renovated 9,839-square-foot 1910 historic warehouse, adjacent to Folding Light
o Studio space for ceramics, fiber, metal, wood, glass and more
• Custom fabricated extruded aluminum vertical “random fins” architectural metal cladding will be installed at the exterior. These fins extend full height from the ground level to the top of the parapet that will be 67’2” above the first-floor elevation. The reflector at the top of the “Lantern” will be 69’2” above the ground level
• Orientation of the building will create shade for outdoor activities.
• Backlit “lantern” architectural element on southwest corner.
• Covered canopy for protection from the elements at entrance.
• Landscaped special event and children’s play area create a very special urban outdoor space.
• Dance Studio with monumental windows overlooking the State Capitol
• When you come to Oklahoma Contemporary you will park in a park . . .
• The Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center will be 50,000 SF, 4 stories . . .
• The “Maker Space” will be 10,000 SF and located in a 1910 warehouse.
• The architectural concept is called “Folding Light.” It is inspired by the ever-changing Oklahoma light.
• The orientation of the building will create shade for outdoor activities.
• We will have a room-sized elevator that can double as entertainment space on
busy nights . . . where else can you ride the elevator and be served a glass of wine?
• Imagine your event in an art space. One-of-a-kind spaces are available to rent for events of all kinds. The spaces range from an outdoor deck to a flexible theater to gallery spaces.
• There will be a store offering artworks made on site.
• The main stair will immerse you in a spectrum of light.
• Finally, imagine a place where there is art for everyone.
It will be fun.
It will be a place to learn.
It will be a surprise.
It will be playful.
It will be sculptural.
It will be inspiring.
It will be unexpected.
It will be contemporary.
It will focus on artists in our time.
It will be timeless.
It will be art for art.