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Desk set

The new magazine ArtDesk aims to bring contemporary art to the masses by showcasing regional talents on an international stage.

Brendan Hoover November 13th, 2013

Sometimes the best ideas are so elegant, they feel serendipitously plucked from nature. ArtDesk, a new magazine produced by the Kirkpatrick Foundation, an Oklahoma City-based private philanthropy, is one of them.

Born at a picnic table, the biannual magazine will showcase regional artists on an international stage, said Louisa McCune-Elmore, editor and Kirkpatrick Foundation executive director.

“The magazine, at its core, is devoted to the contemporary arts and bringing those arts and the attitude that’s inherent to that world to new and developed audiences in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado,” McCune-Elmore said. “But I really think we’ll find an audience beyond those regional parameters.”

Supporting strong regional arts programming is vital, according to Christian Keesee, ArtDesk publisher and Kirkpatrick Foundation chairman.

“We liken it to the farming system in baseball,” he wrote in the first issue. “You can’t have great art in the art capitals if there isn’t great arts education in the regions.”

ArtDesk supports three grassroots community organizations that receive financial support from the foundation and the Kirkpatrick Family Fund: Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center in OKC; its regional extension, Marfa Contemporary in Marfa, Texas; and Green Box Arts Festival in Green Mountain Falls, Colo.

Creative process
The publication was founded during that fateful picnic-table meeting in Marfa in October 2012 between Keesee, McCune- Elmore and Larry Keigwin, a choreographer and artistic director of Keigwin + Company, a New York-based dance company. All were in town for the grand opening of Marfa Contemporary and Chinati Weekend, an annual art festival celebrating the ideals of the late contemporary art giant Donald Judd.

Almost exactly one year later, on Oct. 15, ArtDesk’s debut issue was published.

“Lots of wonderful things happened throughout this whole process,” McCune- Elmore said.

Featuring top-notch contributors from across the country, the magazine itself is a work of art printed in Maryland on heavy, high-gloss stock in bright colors and displaying a keen aesthetic.

“It’s almost like a book,” McCune- Elmore said.

Its name came after 10 months of testing at least 200 other possibilities, including Bunny and New. Keesee merely wanted his regular column to be titled “From the Art Desk,” but the name stuck, McCune-Elmore said.

“It says it all,” she said. “Nothing else did.”

The inaugural issue’s back page introduces readers to the high-functioning art desk of Los Angeles-based, OKC-raised painter Ed Ruscha.

While supporting regional art, ArtDesk will also give readers a taste of contemporary art’s heavy hitters.

The cover shows Argentine artist Tomás Saraceno’s In Orbit, a walkable, 65-foot-tall, multilayered structure of netting and air-filled PVC balls that was installed at Germany’s K21 Ständehaus museum.

The issue also celebrates the photography of internationally renowned Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky and profiles choreographer Benjamin Millepied, actress Natalie Portman’s husband who will take over as director of the Paris Opera Ballet in 2014.

Locally, the first issue features a Q-and-A with OKC ballerina prodigy Valerie McDonald, while another story highlights Buddy Knight, Marfa High School’s welding teacher who has inspired a new generation of artisans.

Animals will figure prominently in ArtDesk’s pages, thanks to the Kirkpatrick’s ambitious new animal welfare initiative, Safe & Humane, which seeks to make Oklahoma just that by 2032. First up is Salsa, a rescue dog with the Oklahoma City Fire Department, featured in an article about the work of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.

Print lives
Similar in style to publishing darlings Texas Monthly, Oxford American and Garden & Gun, ArtDesk hopes to drive artistic thought on a national scale, said McCune-Elmore, who is working with a consultant to get the magazine on newsstands nationwide.

In this digital age, the viability of brick-and-mortar publications is debatable, but McCune-Elmore, editor-in-chief of Oklahoma Today for 14 years, is a believer in the longevity of print.

“This is something you want to keep on your bookshelf, get the next one and care about,” she said.

Issues start at $5 for a single digital copy of the new issue and increase with print copies and subscriptions. The magazine is available at several local independent retailers, including Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 Northwest Expressway; Plenty Mercantile, 807 N. Broadway Ave.; Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive; and Stash, 412 E. Main St. in Norman.

ArtDesk celebrates its debut at a public event, 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 30 at Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 Northwest Expressway. Learn more at

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