A Tulsa Art Spot Sneak Preview of the Hardesty Arts Center (AHHA)
42,500. That readers, is the square footage of space being transformed in the new Hardesty Arts Center in downtown Tulsa, OK. The facility gives an entirely new meaning to the phrase “state-of-the-art” for Tulsa.
Kathy McRuiz politely handed over a white hard hat, to which I discovered hard hats leave no room for the disruption of a ponytail. We were preparing ourselves for a tour of the soon-to-be completed Hardesty Arts Center also know as AHHA – (Arts Humanities/Hardesty Arts. You get it). McRuiz is the director of AHHA and was part of the initial brainstorming for a centralized arts center for Tulsa 10 years ago.
The Grand Opening date is Dec. 16th with the opening exhibit, Concept OK, presented by the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. With the approaching deadline, there was no hiding the excitement/anticipation escaping McRuiz’s face. I imagine she will be on a two month long adrenaline rush in preparation for the opening. At one point, I asked the director, “Did you ever feel like AHHA wouldn’t happen?” (I felt that way when building a home). McRuiz confidently replied a simple, “No.” She said it with an undertone of tenacity; the ”no” was more than likely 10 years of roll-up your sleeves and make it happen.
The building itself is artwork — massive artwork designed by Selser Schaefer Architects. AHHA boasts incredible metal beam work forcing one’s eye to follow the lines throughout the art centers many areas. As McRuiz led the way, the stairways, turns, and hallways led to unexpected areas of the building. Some of the surprise real estate in and around AHHA include:
- Children’s Art Section
- Second floor gallery space
- An outdoor garden and performance area
- Offices for member organizations
- Outdoor terrace for members only
- 2 outdoor terrace available for event
From the street view, Corten steel wraps the building, already beginning its transformation from grey to a rust orange color. You can view a timelapse of construction to check the progression or view videos on the designing of the Hardesty Arts Center.
The gallery space is unique in its potential to curate like never before in Tulsa. Actually two floors, the gallery gives viewers the ability to look down from the second floor to the first floor. This openness also allows for suspended artworks. The entire north wall from floor one to floor two is glass and you can walk outside to a walking terrace on the second level and see inside, giving gallery watchers a new perspective of artwork is being displayed. McRuiz hopes artists and curators find creative uses of the space and is happy to work with them as long as it is within AHHA’s abilities.
With the amount of windows, especially on the north and south sides of the building, plenty of natural light will be available for daytime viewing and creating. Strategically, the top floor artist studios are lined against the north and south walls. Light will travel through the entire floor since each individual studio will have glass on both the inner north and south walls.
As an artist myself, I was happily introduced to the spaces designed just for member artists – a large factor in the planning process as McRuiz pointedly explained while praising the architects for capturing this artist centered aspect of AHHA. For a yearly fee, the thoughtfully designed areas provide a location for an artist community with places not available to the open public; provided will be places for artists to do artwork, bond with other artists or just a place to enjoy a cup of coffee. Members also have access to the centers woodshop, photography studio (dark room, photography set, finishing room), 3-D lab, 4-D lab, media lab and 2-D studio. To become a founding member of AHHA click here.
The Hardesty Arts Center is aimed to be inviting to the entire Tulsa community: families, children, teens, elders artists, out of town visitors or anyone just walking past. Also, AHHA’s programs are numerous and will will reach 50% more of the community than the Arts and Humanities Council has reached prior.
AHHA has been structured to be component of creativity and collaboration among the Tulsa art community while fostering programs to enhance art appreciation and education. The completion of The Hardesty Arts Center is a monumental achievement for Tulsa and a crown jewel in the Brady District.