Highlights of Tulsa's mural explosion
When we took our trip to Oklahoma City just over a month ago, I remember being impressed by all the murals around town–in particular, the Plaza Walls. Since then, I’ve been equally impressed by how much new art has been popping up around Tulsa–In the past month, we’ve been to a block party celebrating the opening of Tulsa Art Alley, Habit Mural Festival and the Kendall Whittier Walls. Not only do murals catch the eye and brighten up spaces, they also provide stellar photo opportunities! Joss and I have had so much fun doing mini photo-shoots around town, and I like seeing which murals he is most drawn to. If you want to go on your own “mural scavenger hunt” this summer, here are some hot spots:
Tulsa Art Alley is located off Boston between 5th and 6th streets downtown and was founded by Libby Billings (of Elote fame) and Kelly Cook, who has a master’s in urban planning and design. According to its website, “In cooperation with the City of Tulsa, local businesses, property owners and volunteers, we will clean up the alley, add artwork, work with artists to paint murals, clean up trash, consolidate dumpsters and add amenities like lighting and greenery.
Through this project, we will take an underused space and transform it into a truly special place. We believe that Tulsa Art Alley will draw people to Tulsa’s increasingly vibrant downtown and inspire them to come up with new uses for forgotten, underutilized places in our city.”
The “amenities like lighting and greenery” really do help make Tulsa Art Alley more than just another place to find murals. Details like planters in a chainlink fence, tires stacked, painted and turned into gardens–and beautified dumpsters–are all delightful elements that make Tulsa Art Alley special.
Interestingly, because some of the buildings in the alley are registered historic buildings, some of the murals (like this sloth!) are actually vinyl that can be removed if necessary.
Take Life Slow
Habit Mural Festival, May 18-19, 2019, covered downtown’s Gateway Building (among other sites) in new art produced by 15+ artists. One thing I enjoy about going mural hunting is that I’m starting to recognize a few of the artists’ styles–like my favorite, Denise Duong, whose work I first saw in Oklahoma City–and Kris Kanaly, who does colorful geometric landscapes that make excellent photo backdrops.
Denise Duong at work–I just love her quirky, long-limbed characters–and look! Pies!
These murals should be up for a year–until the next Habit Mural Festival. The Gateway Building is also home of the 1st Street Flea market, where you can find a nice collection of vintage items on the first Sunday of each month. They had a special market for Habit Fest, and we enjoyed browsing old costume jewelry, vintage glassware, clothing from the decades–and running into friends!
The Lobeck Taylor Foundation provided funds for five new murals in the Kendall Whittier district, and after seeing a few on social media, Joss and I decided to take a visit! We found three murals: a Scissortail on the western end of the Ziegler complex; the “eye” mural on Ziegler’s eastern wall, and “Travel With Care” behind Fair Fellow Coffee Roasters. Based on a comment from @visitkendallwhittier on Instagram, I believe only the “Eye” mural is part of the #kendallwhittierwalls project–the other two were just bonuses! Follow the hashtag #KendallWhittierWalls to get a better idea of where the other four murals are located!
And of course, use the hashtag if you take photos of yourself by any of these murals! I will add here that we saw the Bearden building mural (part of #KendallWhittierWalls) when heading down 11th Street between Lewis and Harvard–two other murals that caught my eye along this stretch are the Bama Pie mural (seriously, any mural with pie is my favorite!) and the one on the side of the Coney i-Lander building.
Here are the murals we found in the Kendall-Whittier district:
Joss’s favorite were the giant eyes (and lips!). He thought they were hi-lar-ious! Just keep a tight grip on your kiddos–as you can see, this mural is right of Lewis, and even on Sunday morning, it was pretty busy!
Walking around Kendall Whittier looking for murals was a good reminder of just how thriving the district is. If you haven’t been for awhile, you can: Grab a cup of coffee at Fair Fellow; grab a delicious pastry at Pancho Anaya Mexican Bakery; browse for books or join a book club at Whitty Books; get supplies for your next science experiment at The STEMcell Science Shop–and supplies for your next art project at Ziegler; stop for lunch at Calaveras Mexican Grill; grab a drink at Bar 473, located in a converted old Phillips 66 station…the list goes on!
After I posted photos of our Kendall Whittier mural hunt to @tulsakids‘ Instagram, another commenter reminded me about the fabulous Sully String mural on the side of Kiddlestix and also recommended a trip to Retro Den near 11th and Harvard, which also boasts a Sully String gem.
I love the living room setting–it’s just calling out for you to pose in front of it with a book…or coffee…or something!
Or if you’re Joss, a mermaid book and a random piece of Playmobil
Brookside Collective is another of my favorites–mostly because you just HAVE to purchase a popsicle from The Pop House before striking that pose. Joss enjoys the play area as well, and follow them on Facebook for updates about movie nights and other events!
The Tulsa Arts District also has several murals; perhaps the most widely recognized is the larger-than-life Woody Guthrie mural on the side of the Woody Guthrie Center.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Tulsa’s biggest new photo opp–Buck Atom of Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios! This 21-foot-tall Space Cowboy is already an Instagram star, and rightly so! Read more about Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios in this blog post by Jen Kerckhoff of Tulsa Times Two.
So there you have it! I know this is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully this can get you started if you’re looking for some fun photo opportunities around town–or, you know, just want to appreciate some unique art! What are your favorite murals in Tulsa? Let me know so I can check them out!