ahha Tulsa Forges On with Immersive Art Experiences

ahha Tulsa offers 40,000 square feet of exhibition space, galleries, studios and education opportunities for art lovers

The Hardesty Arts Center of Tulsa, better known as the home of ahha Tulsa (Arts Humanities Hardesty Arts), sits in the central core of Tulsa’s Arts District.

ahha Tulsa was founded in 1961 as the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa. Its mission was – and is – to bring artists and the art community together to promote and promulgate the arts and art programming throughout the city of Tulsa.

The official name of the organization was formally changed three years ago to ahha Tulsa after the “ahha” acronym had become commonly used for the Hardesty Arts center.

exterior shot Arts and Humanities at Hardesty Arts - aka ahha Tulsa
Arts and Humanities at Hardesty Arts – aka ahha Tulsa. Courtesy AHHA

The Hardesty Arts center, built in 2012, is a 40,000 square foot building in the heart of Tulsa’s downtown arts district. The center contains offices, galleries, classrooms as well as exhibition spaces, studios, a dark room and other workshops for education and professional use.

A key component of ahha Tulsa’s mission is its advocacy for art education, especially in school districts in the greater Tulsa region. ahha Tulsa is partnered with over 100 arts and humanities organizations throughout the region and has reached over 130,000 school children, youth, and adults in the greater Tulsa area in the last year alone.


Currently on display within ahha Tulsa’s walls is a Native American collection dubbed “Re / Convening.” The collection is curated by Heather Ahtone, PhD, a Choctaw/Chickasaw artist and scholar.

The exhibit includes works from over 30 Native American artists and was supported by the Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The exhibit is running from July 3 – September 20, 2020.

Just this month, Oklahoma was the subject of a landmark Supreme Court, 5-4 decision, “declaring that much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation (which) could reshape criminal justice in the area by preventing state authorities from prosecuting Native Americans.

“It is a serendipitous moment that we have “Re / Convening” in the gallery right now. It seems to be responding directly to political movements of the times,” says Lauren Collins, Director of Communications for ahha Tulsa. “The themes in this exhibition are nothing new to these artists and to native communities.”


Another innovative exhibition at ahha Tulsa is the “THE EXPERIENCE.”

Launched in 2018 to accolades, THE EXPERIENCE called on five artists to create an immersive art exhibit covering an entire floor of the building.

“We challenged five local artists to completely transform an entire floor of our space,” said Collins. “Then we divided it into five zones, one for each artist, and we really gave them complete creative control. We asked that it be fully immersive and engage multiple senses. And we asked for it to be something for all ages.”

Each artist had a stipend, a budget for materials and a budget to hire other artists.

“The exhibit has been extremely popular. We’re excited to be very soon debuting the second version of that with six artists,” adds Collins.

The latest version of THE EXPERIENCE debuts at ahha Tulsa on August 7, 2020.

Art and Entrepreneurship

In addition, ahha Tulsa partnered Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) out of Kansas City dubbed Artist, Inc.. The program’s aim is to assist artists in developing their own businesses. Also to ensure they are thinking about their work and career holistically.

The Artists, Inc. program includes:

  • Skills in arts planning, marketing, finance, law, and technology;
  • Increased knowledge and the ability to access local and national art business resources;
  • Strategic planning for pursuing, marketing and sustaining their art; and a
  • Long-term network of cross-discipline, diverse artists to provide peer learning and support into the future.

“ahha Tulsa hosts it for the state of Oklahoma. We deliver a program developed by M-AAA. We use local artists and arts administrators to reach local artists/creatives, who are the student cohort,” says Collins.

For more information about AHHA and to plan a visit check out www.ahhatulsa.org


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