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Making Meade


When Hugh Meade left the ATL for OKC a decade ago, he packed a passion for creative collaboration and public art.

Angela Chambers December 18th, 2013

For nighttime visitors to the Plaza District, it’s hard to miss the 100 incandescent lights in Empire Slice House’s signature sign. Or maybe you took a family photo with the 9-foot owl at Myriad Botanical Gardens’ Pumpkinville this fall.

These two highly diverse structures were created by the same Oklahoma City fabrication artist, who continues to redefine his skill set with each new assignment.

Hugh Meade’s Oddfab Design Lab, 703 W. Sheridan Ave., is housed in a warehouse studio within the growing Film Row district. The business, which is celebrating its first anniversary, specializes in signage and construction projects. Ultimately, Meade wants to create lasting, memorable public art pieces.

“I think his stuff is so progressive, and I don’t know if Oklahoma City even realizes what an amazing artist he is,” said Amanda Weathers-Bradway, co-owner of the Plaza District’s DNA Galleries.

When his wife suggested moving from Atlanta to OKC, Meade wasn’t initially onboard. Keeping an open mind, they visited the city, where he immediately noticed several small galleries, went to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and attended an independent play.

“It wasn’t that I had a bad image or that I was opposed to the city, but I just knew nothing about it,” he said. “But I really saw a cultural connection to the arts here.”

Making the move 10 years ago, Meade received a warm welcome.

“I noticed there is a camaraderie and a sense that we’re all in this together that is uncommon in art communities that I’ve interacted with before,” he said, noting that cooperation, rather than cutthroat competition, produces better artists who are held to the “highest standard.”

One of his favorite collaborations was with Weathers-Bradway. He constructed a table from repurposed maple wood that was discarded by a cabinet company, while she painted the top with a Japanese koi pond.

“I think [the koi painting] adds immensely to the piece, but without subtracting from it,” Meade said. “It’s a real melding of two different artistic skills and viewpoints that makes one great piece.”

Along with showcasing his latest pieces, Meade brings in artists he feels are underappreciated in the community. Their work is displayed during Film Row’s third Friday art walks each month.

Artistic formation
While Oddfab is relatively new to Meade, working in creative projects is not. In his early career, he used time off from his day job to experiment with new ideas.

As a carpenter, he gained a passion for building furniture and other wood-based projects. When a sign company asked if he’d like to join its team, he wasn’t sure he could work with aluminum, plastics and other media. But a manager told him, “If you can use tools for one thing, you can use tools for another.” This encouragement helped Meade expand his skills in a new direction.

“It was one of the best experiences, both artistically and professionally, I could have,” Meade said. “It has radically changed how I view art and made me more fit for public art.”

Robbie Kienzle of the Oklahoma City Planning Department’s arts and culture office said Meade is a “fine craftsman” who thrives on new projects.

“I refer people to him all the time,” she said. “If Hugh Meade doesn’t already know how to do it, he’ll figure it out.”

Before moving to his current studio, Meade used spaces outside the city, which he said didn’t allow his business to thrive in the way it can in Film Row.

“I’m right across from one of the best galleries in the city,” he said, referring to Individual Artists of Oklahoma. “The energy of a vibrant, upcoming neighborhood can’t help

but improve my interaction with the artistic community.”

Broader audience
Breaking into the public art world isn’t a simple task; selection committees often pick more established artists in the field. But Kienzle advises interested artists to start with smaller commissions, temporary exhibits or privately funded works with an exterior nature to help build their portfolios.

For Meade, the Guardian of the Harvest owls created for Myriad Botanical Gardens were supposed to be temporary, but since it was so popular, plans exist to reconstruct it next year. He also believes good signs like the old Broadway-style Empire piece are not just advertising but a form of public art.

“I see signage as part of our visual landscape,” he said. “Therefore, shouldn’t it be nice like the architecture of the buildings?” As he continues demonstrating his talents, Meade hopes to receive more public art commissions. His favorite modern example is Chicago’s Cloud Gate, but he also finds inspiration from ancient Egyptian and Greek works made from stone that still create surprise and wonder after thousands of years.

 
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