Microgalleries give OKC a major creativity boost.
FLAGs, free little art galleries, popped up all over the country during the pandemic, but microgalleries were already a thing before these tiny spaces modeled on Little Free Libraries started appearing in large cities from New York City to Seattle. Like FLAGs, though, microgalleries attempt to get art in front of as many people as possible, including those who may never walk into a large gallery or museum.
Restaurants and coffee shops — especially the locally owned variety — have long been supporters of local artists, with their openings, displays and even willingness to act as middlemen in the transaction between artist and patrons. The microgalleries are different, though. They tend to appear in educational institutions, or adjacent to businesses with no relation to the production of fine arts.
The Nona Jean Hulsey Gallery at Oklahoma City University is an excellent example of the non-commercial microgallery. The single-room space regularly features some of the most interesting and cutting-edge contemporary art in the metro. Its director, Heather Lunsford, said the space is intentionally non-commercial.
“The goal is to extend the audience for contemporary art,” Lunsford said. “All our installations have an educational component as well, and not just for students. We have artist talks that are open to the public to offer informal educational opportunities to guests who would like to know more about the artist or the art.”
Oklahoma City Community College maintains a microgallery at its Capitol Hill Center in the historic neighborhood. The focus of the Inasmuch Foundation Gallery is contemporary, but also makes room for installations as diverse as album covers, student art, educators and professional artists.
On the commercial side, Art Hall is perhaps the best known in the city. Opened in 2016 by Helen Opper, the gallery is located in The Rise in Uptown 23rd, where it is neighbors with The Drake and Urban Tea House. The focus is contemporary art, and Opper offers curated group exhibits and other special events in the space. Interested buyers can find available works of art on the Available Art link at the Art Hall’s website.
A little edgier than many microgalleries, Resonator in Norman features the work of young and emerging artists, as well as established professionals. The subjects are very eclectic, as are the media — everything from painting to drawing, printmaking, mixed media and music.
Red Earth Art Center features the work of Native American artists in traditional and contemporary media, including fine art, pottery, beadwork and textiles. Located in the lobby of the BancFirst Tower downtown, the retail sales gallery is open to the public Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 pm.
Already respected as an art destination in the metro, the Plaza District is home to two microgalleries, both attached to more extensive operations. DNA Galleries dedicates one wall in its space to gallery operations, and while Plaza Walls is mainly known for outdoor murals, it also maintains a small gallery space inside. Like its conceptual kin, though, the size of the space is less important than its accessibility, and there’s plenty of room for creativity within.