Art Hall brings a public gallery to The Rise in Uptown 23rd District

Art Hall brings a public gallery to The Rise in Uptown 23rd District
Garett Fisbeck
Anna Russell and Helen Opper pose for a photo at Art Hall, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016.

When the weather is nice, passersby will find the Art Hall doors wide open as a public invitation. It would be easy for the public to think the corridor that neighbors The Drake Seafood and Oysterette inside The Rise retail building, located at the intersection of NW 23rd Street and N. Walker Avenue, is somehow off-limits.

Owner Anna Russell put out sandwich-board signs outside both entrances welcoming in guests.

“A lot of people are still surprised to hear that there’s a public art space in this building because they don’t pay attention to the doorway that they’re driving by or walking by,” Russell said.

Russell’s husband Johnathan is the developer behind The Rise, an upscale modern retail center designed with urban living and walkability in mind.

The couple traveled to Miami, Florida, to research what such a building would look like. While there, Russell noticed Miami had many art galleries that were open for the public to walk into any time of day. Russell knew The Rise had a common hallway that could be opened to the public and used in this way, so she pitched the idea of a visitor-friendly gallery to her husband.

“I didn’t want people to subscribe to gallery hours,” she said. “I want people to come in here at 8 o’clock at night and be able to look.”

The hall already featured both white and brick walls as well as a high ceiling, making it a natural setting for an art gallery. It also borders Urban Teahouse and functions almost like a lobby or resting place for shoppers and employees. Diners at The Drake can stroll over to see the art after finishing their meals.

“We’d love for everybody who visits Uptown to visit here,” Russell said.

Art Hall debuted to the public during the Open Streets OKC festival in March. It added independent curator Helen Opper in the summer.

Opper worked in the contemporary and modern art worlds in New York City, San Francisco and Oklahoma City, specializing in curatorial work. She met Russell while looking for a space for a client’s summer exhibit. The two soon discovered they shared a common perspective.

“We both have a passion for art,” Russell said. “I feel like no wall should be wasted. We wanted local artists to have another opportunity to show their art, too.”

Opper said she is excited for Art Hall to increase its presence in the community.

“We’re learning from each event we have, too,” she said. “We’re still transitioning out of this startup mode into a more regularized schedule and events to work with artists and the public.”

Art Hall bringings in new artists every three months. Art from couple Tony Dyke and Susan Morrison-Dyke is on display through December.

All art on display is for sale. Russell said those interested in buying pieces can pay upfront inside Urban Teahouse. Artists interested in exhibiting can find a submission form at

“Most of the time, we try to have several artists or mix the type of work that comes in here when we rotate out the art, just so we’re appealing to everybody who walks through here,” Russell said.

The Rise was built to attract a wide range of people, and Art Hall’s goal is to keep its displays varied.

“We have options for ways to show art in this space, so we want to make a diverse exhibition program,” Opper said.

Print headline: Scenic stroll, Art Hall adds a splash of color to the public space inside The Rise.

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