I hear it every time I go back. "Why are you going to Oklahoma City?" I get it. One, I live in Milwaukee so everyone naturally assumes my family lives in at least the same state as me (False) and second, Oklahoma seems the least-likely place for a creative, culturally sensitive person to go for a visit (True, but also false). So at least once a year, I find myself back in the city recently named "the manliest city in America," to visit some of the most kind, loving, and welcoming individuals I know: the Belanger family. (And I know, I know; Most people can, and will, say this about their loved ones, but seriously, these Oklahoma cajuns are the best.)
But I digress. Just wanted to set the scene for why a girl from Milwaukee would find herself in OKC and actually be excited about it. One big reason being the amazing street art. Again, shocking I know, but ever since the Thunder started kicking-ass in basketball back in 2009, a new life was blown into the city, full of carefully curated dining experiences, gallery boutiques, and colorful artists ready to make their mark. One of the best places to find the aforementioned would be the 16th Street Plaza District. This area has exploded with galleries, studios, and restaurants in the past few years and one of the best additions by far has been the Plaza Walls Project.
The Plaza Walls Project was launched in 2015 by Dylan Bradway (swoon) and Kristopher Kanaly, who still co-curate the walls with approval by the Oklahoma City Arts Commission and Urban Design Commission. Like the staircases at Hogwarts, these alley walls are constantly changing and every visit brings to light a new visual style to envy. On this trip, my sister Margo fell in love with the work by Vietnamese-American artist Denise Duong, particularly her little parachute girl (and how she sneakily hid her bull terrier's likeness into a few of her scenes). One of my personal favorites was a triptych-styled wall featuring three native animals struggling in their oil-soaked skins to be free, surrounded by weaving water and colorful lines. Yatika Fields, the artist responsible, is a Native American artist of the Cherokee and Osage Tribe and speaks beautifully with his paints regarding important social issues plaguing our country, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline.
So how'd I do? Change any minds about the lack of culture in the dreaded Bible Belt? I know it's no Portland, Oregon but I still have mad love, and respect, for OKC. It takes a lot for a city to come back from the worst terrorist attack pre-9/11 but I think that they are doing a pretty stand-up job. And extra pat-on-the-back for the Plaza Walls Project, am I right? There are so many talented artists, from so many diverse backgrounds, it's hard to imagine how they all ended up here, but I think Oklahoma is definitely the better for it. Just straight up crushin' it (no big deal).