ArtNow gala features 29 state artists


The annual ArtNow exhibit and sale marks its 26th year with a Jan. 23 event at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center.

With it comes a fresh look at 29 state artists, said Julia Kirt, this year’s co-curator.

Each year offers something different and current, but one goal of this Oklahoma Contemporary (OC) fundraiser remains constant: to help keep OC exhibitions free to the public on a year-round basis. Kirt said the local art scene and its audience have expanded in recent years in ways that make her exited about the city’s future growth.

“We’ve come a long way,” Kirt said. “More and more artists are active and have grown more professional in our community. There are more amazing venues for artwork.”

Kirt, also executive director of Oklahomans for the Arts (a statewide arts advocacy nonprofit organization), co-curated ArtNow with John Seward, a local volunteer, artist and arts advocate.

Dynamic duo

This is Kirt’s first year on the organizing side of the event, but she brings with her experience and passion, having helped coordinate dozens of exhibitions through her previous roles, especially with Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition.

“John and I work very well together and have built up lots of mutual respect over the years,” Kirt said. “It’s been a pleasure to visit the artists along with John and discuss the artwork and possible ArtNow audience in depth with him … We’ve always respected each other’s perspective.” It’s a daunting task to curate a show this size with thousands of talented local artists to choose from.

Their goal was to bring together the best artwork that also appeals to the most potential buyers.

“We wanted to be sure we had all types of materials and many different styles included,” Kirt said. “We considered more excellent artists and pared down the list to keep a variety of work.”

They looked for artists who are actively creating and striving to make their best work and have a rigorous approach to their practice, which means they also have a willingness to explore ideas, techniques and materials. Some included artists have long histories in the community, so they might have more name recognition while others use the gala to introduce themselves to other artists and collectors.

It’s a perfect blend, Kirt said.

What must be noted is that behind the exhibition are the studios, the laboratories and incubators of these working artists. They contain works in progress and indicate dedication and attention to their artmaking.

“There is a perception that serious art practice occurs only in the major art centers of the East and West coasts,” Seward said. “Yet, that practice occurs here as well, and ArtNow only celebrates a small portion of working visual artists in Oklahoma.”

Purchasing points

It’s safe to say that guests can let Kirt and Seward navigate.

If you’re a potential buyer, they have reliable and noteworthy tastes.

Purchasing art for the first time, as an investment or for pure aesthetics, can be confusing. Don’t overthink it, and go in with your eyes wide open, Kirt said.

“Buy what attracts you. Don’t question your preferences,” Kirt said. “I have never regretted an art purchase that I bought while in love with it. Any that were expensive, I can now average the cost over many years of living happily with the work.”

The public can preview the ArtNow exhibit beginning Monday during regular gallery hours. However, Kirt said the pieces may only be bought at the event.

Patrons can buy ArtBucks cards in $100 increments to gift for use toward gala admission and art purchases. After the event, any unredeemed ArtBucks automatically convert into charitable contributions to help keep the nonprofit arts center operating.

OC was founded in 1989 as City Arts Center as a way to share affordable, quality art, art exhibits and education programs.

For this event, OC partnered with Uber rideshare service to offer a $25 discount for first-time riders headed to the ArtNow gala. Use promo code ARTNOW15 and learn more at

Print headline:  Speedy skill, The ArtNow sale and exhibit features more than two dozen local artists in its 26th Oklahoma Contemporary fundraiser.