Natural light shines through the windows of the Tulsa Girls Art School, illuminating recent works by participating student artists. TGAS, which provides space for girls to learn, grow and communicate, is also an opportunity for community interaction during special events.
The art school has resided in Kendall Whittier since its founding in 2007, but recently renovated the 3,200 square foot gallery and classroom space at 2202 E. Admiral Blvd. Pandemic shutdowns halted in-person programming for more than a year, and students returned last summer to a studio with fewer walls and a lot more room to breathe.
Director Adrian Duffy points to a pair of windows along the south wall that were buried under planks and shelves of supplies. She explains a moment a few years ago when she realized how important studio space was to her 65 students, many of whom change residence several times during their 10 years at the school. ‘art.
“It really changed the value of this actual building,” Duffy says. “It’s not even just the curriculum or the consistency of their peers, their teachers – it’s all of that – but it’s also been coming into this space for 10 years.”
The art school‘s spring show and fall gala are two opportunities for donors, board members and the Tulsa community to engage with students, who Duffy says are young people. promising. Student cohorts of up to 15 girls in grades 3-12 attend the art school up to six times a week. Students are chosen for the program based on their potential for future growth and success when given the necessary resources and support, Duffy says.
“(Art School) creates an opportunity for success where there is already so much potential,” says Duffy.
The spring show in April was the first in the renovated space where students mingled with donors, board members and members of the Tulsa community. Afterwards, Duffy asked the newbies, “What’s the one thing you absolutely didn’t expect?” And three of them said, ‘There were so many fancy people here! I didn’t think there would be so many rich people.
It’s funny how blunt kids can be, Duffy says, but they noticed something important. The art school is a place where people from very different economic backgrounds interact in a space where everyone is a community. “It’s crazy the extreme demographic differences we have that come together, and everyone leaves feeling engaged in the community.”
Duffy notes that while some might see art school as an opportunity to empower children in need, she sees a duality in it, with TGAS providing an important point of contact for their families and the community at large to truly connect. connect.
With the regular return to school, a new cohort of third graders will begin their journey in September. Art school teachers currently visit Sequoyah Elementary School twice a week and will soon add another school to the program (site to be determined in the fall).
“It’s our same programming, our same staff, all of our funding — we’re not asking for anything,” Duffy says. “were coming in help to be a support and don’t want to take anything away.
A team of six people, part-time and full-time, manages teaching, transportation, and other aspects of the program. When Duffy started in 2016, the school’s goal was to develop students’ artistic skills. Now it’s about that and creating intentional networks that young female graduates can tap into for the rest of their lives.
“The big change that’s happened is that it’s become really intentional,” Duffy says. “We’re not going to expand more ways kids can sell art, okay, we’re going to expand more ways kids can grow.”
One of these means is internships on the site of the School plank. Duffy notes that the Tulsa Girls Art School currently has two interns on the board, both who are old students.
“It’s a great way to give them the opportunity to really experience what it’s like to be on a board and get some kind of mentorship,” she says. “But they bring so much and really, I think the board probably gets a lot more value out of their presence.”
The fall gala will take place November 4 and sponsorships will be available at tulsagirlsartschool.org.