Arts Archives - Kendall College of Arts and Sciences

Arts

TU alumna leads the charge at innovative community arts organization

As she neared completion of her bachelor’s degree, Jennifer Boyd Martin (BA ’13) undertook an internship with 108| Contemporary, a nonprofit community arts organization in Tulsa that had only recently opened. Eight years later and Boyd Martin has been appointed executive director of this thriving enterprise. So, what did her journey entail and what advice does she have for others interested in a career in arts curation and administration?

It’s all about the arts

woman with long hair smiling while standing in front of a colorful artistic background
Jennifer Boyd Martin (BA ’13)

Boyd Martin has always loved making and looking at art. From an early age growing up in Tulsa, she knew she wanted to major within some aspect of the arts at university.

“I started at The University of Tulsa actually as a studio major,” Boyd Martin recalled. “It was a little odd, because I already knew I didn’t want to make a career of being an artist. But I wasn’t really interested in anything else!”

During the course of her undergraduate studies, Boyd Martin ended up changing her major several times. Eventually, she found what was then called arts management (today: arts, culture and entertainment management). Once she had been in that program for a semester, she knew it was the perfect choice.

Helping to reaffirm the wisdom of her path, in her senior year Boyd Martin received a Diorama Arts Management Internship. This program enables arts management students to work at the Diorama Arts Centre in London, England. “My time at the Diorama was a life-changing experience,” she recalled.

A foot in the door

It was upon her return from London that Boyd Martin was given the opportunity that would strike the match for her exciting life and career.

Unable to take a final course with her favorite professor, Teresa Valero, Boyd Martin decided to stop by her office to say “hello,” catch up and see whether she had any advice. This led to a conversation that opened the door for her at 108|Contemporary as the organization’s first intern. “Teresa made the brilliant suggestion that I intern for this brand-new gallery opening up downtown,” Boyd Martin said. “She coordinated the interview and I landed the position as 108|Contemporary’s first intern.”

After a semester as an intern, Boyd Martin was hired on part time as the gallery coordinator. She continued to work in this capacity while she completed a master’s in museum studies at The University of Oklahoma.

Executive arts

Upon completing the master’s program in 2016, Boyd Martin was promoted to be 108|Contemporary’s full-time exhibition director. This position enabled her to continue gaining experience in art management and museum curation by working with each faucet of the organization.

fireworks above the entry to an illuminated building at night with the words 108 Contemporary set above the entryBoyd Martin has loved her roles at the gallery since day one, but says she never dreamed of becoming executive director. “In all honesty I didn’t aspire to this position. It really wasn’t until the former director, Susan Baley, encouraged me that I seriously considered myself in this role,” she noted.

Excited by and grateful for the opportunity to lead 108|Contemporary, Boyd Martin also takes great pleasure in being a mentor to TU students who are beginning their own journeys at 108|Contemporary. “Many of our employees and interns past and present have been students at TU,” she said, “so having the chance to give them advice and support really is an example of life coming full circle in the best possible way.”

Advice for getting into art management and museum curation

For anyone who wants to enter the art management and museum curation field, Boyd Martin offers five pieces of advice:

  1. Embrace versatility: “To people going into the world of art curation, museum studies or arts management, I say: Be ready to wear a variety of hats. Most organizations that specialize in arts are nonprofits and, more often than not, you’re going to end up doing a lot of different things.”
  2. Embrace the new challenges that arise and the opportunities they give to learn something new: “That is an aspect I enjoy about this type of work. There are always new challenges and new exhibitions.”
  3. Be mission-driven, whether that is a personal mission or an organizational mission: “It keeps things aligned when you filter every decision around the question, ‘does this serve the mission?’”
  4. Think about human experience, because the art industry is about how to connect with people: “A lot of times the work is not based around quantifiable results, so one must be thinking about the human experience element. It’s critical to make connections; be ready to engage with artists, patrons and general audiences.”
  5. Start making connections while in college: “My last piece of advice is for virtually any student: Make sure you create meaningful connections with professors and advisors. They are the people connected in your desired field.” On a related note, she also stresses that art is a business and business is all about who you know.

Does the thought of a career in art curation and administration quicken your pulse? Then TU has the program for you: Check out all the arts, culture and entertainment management options and opportunities today.

Art and its impacts

By: Mark Brewin

Can art change your life?

How can art change your life?

Most of us know the answer to the first question is supposed to be “yes.” As for the answer to the second, well, it’s complicated. A truly memorable artistic experience is so subjective, so unique, that it is often hard to describe or to explain.

This might not seem like a problem, except that artists, and those hoping to promote the cause of the arts in the modern world, are increasingly finding it necessary to make a case for the relevance of what they do. That, in turn, often translates into a demand that art’s effects on us be clearly spelled out and carefully measured.

It is something that my colleague Jeff Van Hanken found out about six years ago.

A man wearing a beige blazer and an open-collar light-blue shirt
Jeff Van Hanken

An independent filmmaker and the Wellspring Associate Professor of Film Studies at The University of Tulsa, Van Hanken had the idea of using a visual art project to help ease the divide, both physical and cultural, that exists between Tulsa’s north side and its downtown neighborhoods. Van Hanken proposed using video technology to transform an underpass below Interstate Highway 244, which currently cuts through the middle of the city, separating North Tulsa from the rapidly developing Greenwood business area and nearby Arts District. Van Hanken’s way of describing this now is that he wanted “to make the [244] bridge disappear.”

The nonprofit arts group that was thinking of funding Van Hanken’s proposal was enthusiastic about the project itself: out of 1,300 proposals submitted to the group that year, his was one of a very small group of finalists. Eventually, however, he was told there was not enough information in the project proposal about its impact on the surrounding community. In other words, it wasn’t that an impact was not expected — the whole point of the project, essentially, was to change the community dynamic within the city’s public spaces — but that there was not a clear way to measure that impact.

Disappointed by the final decision not to fund the proposal, Van Hanken nevertheless found himself intrigued by the new language that was being used to think about art. “I knew that there was a movement toward being able to demonstrate the impact of a project on a specific indicator, and I could just feel that was growing.” He decided that he needed to know more about this.

CHAMP and the Greenwood Art Project

Logo stating Center for Health, Arts and Measurement Practices

It was out of this experience that CHAMP — the Center for Health, Arts, and Measurement Practices — was born. A research effort currently based at TU and co-directed by Van Hanken and myself, CHAMP brings together scholars, artists and arts administrators from across the country to explore how to make a rigorous and persuasive case to an often skeptical public that art still matters. Participants also develop and implement methodologies that can be enlisted in that cause.

a group of eight people seated around a meeting table
A meeting of the CHAMP team and members of Bloomberg Philanthropies, GAP and BOP in Aug. 2019 during the early stages of the evaluation process.

CHAMP’s current work, conducted under the auspices of Bloomberg Philanthropies and London-based BOP Consulting, centers on the evaluation of the Greenwood Art Project (GAP). Part of a community-wide effort to commemorate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, GAP is led by Rick Lowe, a Houston-based artist and MacArthur Award recipient. It will involve more than 20 projects spaced out over the course of the year. Taken together, these various exhibits both look back to the tragic events of 1921 but also look forward to the future of Greenwood and Tulsa’s Black community.

Currently, CHAMP’s evaluation effort consists of four components:

  • A content analysis of local media coverage of GAP and the neighborhood
  • Interviews with local businesspeople
  • Qualitative and quantitative surveys of Tulsa residents
  • Periodic observations of how Tulsans use their public and cultural spaces.
young woman with long hair and glasses wearing a green top and standing outdoors
Stasha Cole

Stasha Cole (BA ’21), a joint English and Russian Studies major who is also part of the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences’ Honors Program, has been part of the evaluation team since late spring of last year. Cole is a native Tulsan but says she almost never heard about the Massacre growing up. While attending Booker T. Washington High School, which sits near the site of the Massacre and actually served as a refuge for some of residents during the rampage, she remembers “a single day, in my freshman year,” when the event was discussed.

Besides learning more about what happened on that fateful late-spring evening in 1921, Cole thinks her work on the project has also made her more attuned to the coverage of people of color in the modern media. “I’m starting to notice bias in media portrayals in everyday life,” she remarked. It is this sort of bias that the GAP project could begin to address.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre centennial is an important moment in the history of Tulsa — an opportunity for the city to come to terms, in an honest way, with its difficult racial past. At CHAMP, we believe GAP could be a key element in making that shift happen. This is why CHAMP’s involvement in the evaluation is so exciting for both the students and faculty involved: there is a real opportunity here to make the case for art’s potentially transformative role in our lives.


man with short hair and a loose-fitting black sweater over a green t-shirtChapman Associate Professor of Media Studies Mark Brewin is co-director of the Center for Health, Arts, and Measurement Practices (CHAMP). He is fascinated by the intersection of postmodern or late-modern culture, politics and media technologies, as well as the role of the body as medium for political and public communication. Brewin can often be found in the summers at ONEOK Field, conducting informal participant research into the role of minor league baseball and soccer as conduits for civic identity.