Tulsa Performing Arts Aren’t On City’s List

It’s Monday, and I just spent a weekend enjoying the arts in Tulsa. My husband and I went to art exhibits on Friday evening in the Brady Arts District, we heard Jimmy Webb perform at Guthrie Green on Saturday, and went back to see James McMurtry on Sunday.

And we weren’t alone. Hundreds of our fellow Tulsans were out enjoying the beautiful weather and performances as well. And most of us were spending money in the area. The arts have transformed downtown from a ghost town to a walkable community gathering spot. We couldn’t find a parking space on Friday night. (I’m not complaining. It’s a great problem to have.)

So, you can imagine my shock and disappointment when I saw that the proposed city budget is eliminating the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust positions and the Henthorne/Clark Theatre positions.

Ironically, the PAC Trust won a TulsaKids’ Family Favorite award for Best Children’s Theatre/Performances for Children. And, Clark Theatre was the Runner-Up for Best Place to Learn Musical Theatre.

I wonder who will do the jobs of Chad Oliverson, PAC Trust marketing, and Shirley Elliott, PAC Trust programming, when they are gone.

Our readers chose the PAC Trust for the second year in a row as a Family Favorite because the Trust does the Imagination Series. If you’ve taken your children to those high-quality, professional performances, then you can thank Shirley and Chad. They have worked very hard to bring diverse, engaging, unique children’s entertainment to Tulsa. The popularity of the children’s programming grew, so programming for young people in middle school was added. This family entertainment is low-cost and accessible to everyone in the community.

And have any of you been to a Summer Stage performance? Summer Stage is also a PAC Trust endeavor. Shirley and Chad work hard to provide a line-up of local entertainment that is imaginative and varied, with something for every age, from children to adults.

These are just a couple of things that the PAC Trust staff does for the community. It would be a shame to lose that, or to allocate it to some kind of low-level status. Many children would never have seen great live theatre if not for the work of the Trust staff. Having designated, dedicated staff for the Trust keeps the programming improving and growing.

While the PAC Trust performances inspire young people to support the theatre and to perhaps dream of performing as a future career, Clark Youth Theatre provides the outlet for expression. Spring Break and Summer Camps are affordable and allow youth to explore all aspects of stage performance. Besides the camps, they offer classes, performances, Improv nights and a play contest.

Young people need these creative outlets. If we’re concerned about safety; if we want to prevent bullying; if we want to educate and inspire our children, shouldn’t the performing arts be a part of our mission as a city? The arts keep young people occupied. The performing arts require that they work together. In some instances, the arts may save lives by providing an outlet to express feelings.

If the mayor and the city council can’t appreciate the importance of the performing arts for these reasons, then they should consider the economic impact that the arts so obviously have had on Tulsa in such a short time.

Let your council member and Mayor Bartlett know that eliminating PAC Trust staff and youth theatre is not acceptable for our city.

Categories: Editor’s Blog