New Collaboration Working to Bring Arts District to Downtown Chickasha Area

Chickasha Public Art Committee members (from left), Archie Held, Julie Bohannon, Cecil Lee and Dr. John Feaver in front of Held's sculpture "Coming Together" on the USAO campus. The sculpture was the inspiration for the NEA Grant application by the Chickasha Area Arts Council. The committee plans to use the grant for a new public sculpture in the historic Rock Island Depot area.

New Collaboration Working to Bring Arts District to Downtown Chickasha Area

Inspired in part by the addition of several public art pieces on the USAO campus, the Chickasha Area Arts Council, the City of Chickasha and the university are collaborating on a project that will make downtown Chickasha a hub for the arts in the community and the area.

The project revolves around the idea of making the downtown area near the historic Rock Island Depot into a new arts district with a public arts sculpture as its focal point. Local arts leaders, city administrators and the Oklahoma director of Public Arts in Public Places have formed a committee to kick off the project.
The ambitious project has already garnered national attention by making CAAC the only arts organization in Oklahoma to receive a Community Fast-Track Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“It is an honor for the Chickasha community to receive the endorsement from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Oklahoma Arts Council for the Chickasha Public Art Project,” said Julie Bohannon, CAAC president and director of Alumni Development at USAO. “The resulting project will be one that will make a true difference to the downtown area.”

Serving on the Chickasha Public Art Committee are sculptor Archie Held, artistic consultant; Cecil Lee, committee chair and director of the USAO Art Gallery; Justin LeBeau, city planner for the City of Chickasha; Bohannon, and Debby Williams, director of the Oklahoma Public Art in Public Places. USAO President John Feaver serves as an ex-officio member of the committee.

"The scope of the project is actually larger than the Chickasha community. The committee invited professional sculptor Archie Held to work with selected young sculptors from across the state of Oklahoma to design and implement the public art piece," Bohannon said. Held collaborated with USAO for the newest sculpture on campus, Coming Together, and was the creator of Flight on the campus.

"Giving young Oklahoma artists an opportunity to work with this award-winning artist will provide them valuable experience in the public art process."

During the first quarter of 2010, young sculptors will be invited to submit applications to the project committee. "Three will be chosen to work with Held to design, build and install the sculpture, which will be unveiled during the 2010 Rock Island Arts Festival, Oct. 1-2.

“The community is invited to be a part of the project in May when the artistic team presents their designs. We want community input and participation," Bohannon said.

"Such an ambitious undertaking requires collaboration, not only for the planning and implementation, but also for funding." The Oklahoma Arts Council awarded funds to the project via a Local Government Challenge Grant through the City of Chickasha. Senator Tom Cole’s office assisted during the grant application process, and in early December 2009, his staff notified Bohannon that CAAC had been selected for an NEA Community Fast-Track Grant.

In conversations with Bohannon, Congressman Cole said he believed CAAC had a good project. When Bohannon wrote to express her appreciation for his assistance, Cole said, “I'm pleased that the Chickasha Area Arts Council was successful in competing for this grant. Not only will this project help beautify downtown Chickasha, it will also provide a unique learning experience for some local graduate students.”

In 2009, the Oklahoma Community Institute led a series of community strategic planning sessions in Chickasha, and the CAAC actively participated in these meetings.

"Again and again, the sessions emphasized the arts as a means to increase the quality of life in Chickasha, and to improve economic conditions. When the planning group met in April, they named as a priority goal the establishment of an arts district in downtown Chickasha by January 2010. Our committee is a direct result of these sessions," Bohannon said.

More information about the new sculpture and the new arts district is available at the CAAC website --