What’s Happening in Tulsa in 2021

When we wrote our “20 Things to do in Tulsa in 2020” article last January, we couldn’t have imagined what the year would bring. Some of the items on that list (seeing “Frozen” at the Tulsa PAC) never came to pass. Others, such as visiting the new Helmerich Playground at Tulsa Zoo or the Shops at Mother Road Market, we were able to accomplish safely. And these new attractions are wonderful additions to our city! Despite the pandemic, our community grew in exciting ways last year. But looking ahead, here is a list of key happenings in Tulsa in 2021.

1. Greenwood Rising

The centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is arguably the most significant local event of 2021, and the opening of Greenwood Rising will be a significant part of the centennial observation. This new history center will be located in the Greenwood District and will “honor the legacy of Black Wall Street before and after the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.” According to tulsa2021.org, construction is expected to be completed in late spring this year. Visit the website to learn more about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, how to support their work and other ways that the community will be observing and seeking to learn from this occasion.

Greenwood Cultural Center is offering a family learning series about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in January and February of 2021. This weekly series is designed to help parents and caretakers talk with their children about this event. Follow @GreenwoodCulturalCenter on Facebook for links and updates.

2. Discovery Lab at Gathering Place

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If you’ve driven past Gathering Place recently, you’ve probably seen the progress on Discovery Lab’s new location! Discovery Lab’s new building will include 20,000 square feet of interactive exhibition and programming space. Plus, an additional 30,000 square feet will house an Education Center, gift shop and more. The new location should open in late 2021. Get additional details here!

3. Publication of “Opal’s Greenwood Oasis”

We are very excited about the publication of “Opal’s Greenwood Oasis” in February of this year! This new picture book introduces readers to the Greenwood community just prior to the Tulsa Race Massacre. Opal’s neighborhood is vibrant, the residents look out and care for one another – and it really drives home the tragedy of the Massacre while being suitable for young readers.

According to co-author Quraysh Ali Lansana, ““We chose to highlight Black excellence over Black pain, and to provide children an opportunity to see themselves happy and loved. We chose to end the story just prior to the Massacre because we believe the horror and violence was too much for the age group to ascertain.”

Pre-order this book from The Calliope Group at thecalliopegroup.com/product/opal, and read our interview with the authors and illustrator here.

4. Clownfish and Jellyfish Exhibit at Oklahoma Aquarium

The Aquarium unveiled its new 360-degree giant Pacific octopus exhibit last year. In 2021, Oklahoma Aquarium plans to finish work on its vibrant new Clownfish and Jellyfish exhibit! Make plans to take your kids to visit all the “Nemos” and fabulous jellies.

5. Route 66 Development

Last year, we enjoyed visiting the new DECOPOLIS Discovitorium on Route 66. Not only do they carry unique gift items, from science-themed toys to Tulsa memorabilia, the shop design itself is worth a visit! Owner William the Artist built and painted set pieces, transforming the space into an Art Deco Museum, Jurassic cave, Soda Shoppe…you’ll just have to visit for yourselves! Neighboring businesses The Sky Gallery and Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on 66 are also well worth a visit.

This year, we’re looking forward to see the development of the Train Depot at Route 66 Historical Building. When we visited recently, it looked like construction was coming along nicely! The Depot will provide event space and opportunity to learn more about Route 66.

6. ahha Tulsa

We asked ahha Tulsa what was on their radar for the coming year, and three things stood out.

First, don’t miss their exhibit Revisionist Future by No Parking Studios (Antonio Andrews) and Alexander Tamahn, coming in March of 2021. In their work, the artists “strive to imagine a future where there is global equality and rooted division no longer exists.” This particular exhibition will draw inspiration from Tulsa’s history, aiming to “channel the energy of the past into a more inspirational and just future.” There may be some fun, interactive elements for kids as well.

Next, ahha merged with Mayfest in February 2020 – shortly before the pandemic began! We are excited to see the new ideas they bring to the festival this year, which is still anticipated to take place in May of 2021.

Finally, ahha has some exciting things planned for The STUDIO this year. This is a fantastic place for families to create using materials provided by ahha.

7. Living Arts of Tulsa

Living Arts has a full lineup of exhibitions planned for the coming year, starting with Project Unity, Hope and Compassion, which opens on January 8. This exhibition features the painted boards that were installed throughout downtown Tulsa during the Trump rally this past summer.

Other exhibitions to look forward to include the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Project, featuring works chosen by the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Project Committee (May 7 – June 19, 2021) and Oh, Tulsa!, which will showcase art about Tulsa by Tulsa artists (September 3 – October 8, 2021).

Follow @livingartsoftulsa on Facebook so you don’t miss anything!

8. Tulsa City-County Library

Tulsa City-County Library has three major events planned for the coming year, in addition to all the daily activities the library offers. Even through the pandemic, the library has offered virtual storytimes, Zoom book discussions for kids and adults, to-go craft kits and more. This year, they’re most excited about the following programs:

Books to Treasure

Friday, Jan. 22 • 7-8 p.m.
Join children’s book illustrator Zachariah OHora live on YouTube for a freewheeling talk that will include an art demonstration and examples of artwork from when he was a kid! Join OHora here: www.YouTube.com/TulsaLibrary. Sponsored by the Tulsa Library Trust through a grant from the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation. Visit www.tulsalibrary.org/kids/books-totreasure for more information. For all ages.

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Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers’ Literature

Thursday, May 6 ● 7 p.m.
Location to be announced 

Jason Reynolds will receive the 2021 Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers’ Literature, and talk about his life and works. Reynolds is the New York Times bestselling author of All American Boys; the Track Series, GhostPatina, Sunny and LuLong Way DownFor Every One; and Miles Morales: Spider-Man. He is an American author who writes novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audiences, including Ghosts, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. The Zarrow award gives formal recognition, on behalf of the Tulsa County community, to a nationally acclaimed author who has made a significant contribution to the field of literature for young adults. The award, presented by the Tulsa Library Trust, consists of a $10,000 cash prize and an engraved crystal book. Visit www.tulsalibrary.org/zarrowaward for more details. 

2021 Summer Reading Program for All Ages 

June 1-July 31 

Visit www.tulsalibrary.org/summer for more details. 

9. Tulsa Zoo

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Tulsa Zoo’s Helmerich Playground: Behaving Like Animals opened quietly towards the end of 2020. It is an incredible addition to our Zoo, and if you haven’t visited it yet, put it on your radar for the new year. Check out this blog post for a photo walk-through of the playground. Plus, you can also visit the Zoo’s newest additions: Booper the elephant, Zoe the giraffe and Sally the white rhino!

The Tulsa Zoo’s next major project will be the African Wilds exhibit, but that project is a little further out.

10. Gilcrease Museum

Phase II of Gilcrease’s exhibition “Weaving History into Art: The Enduring Legacy of Shan Goshorn” will open on January 15. According to the Gilcrease website, “Through Goshorn’s hand-woven basketry, Weaving History into Art will encourage engaging, empathetic interactions with difficult subjects, including the loss of Native homelands, cultural genocide, violence directed at Native women and inappropriate cultural appropriation in a non-threatening experience that promotes informed dialogue among Native and non-Native audiences alike.” Don’t miss your chance to see this powerful and thought-provoking exhibition.

While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to get outside and explore the grounds around the museum.

11. Philbrook Museum

Philbrook is taking a Winter Break through February 10 to plan for the coming year. In their explanation, they write, “Philbrook is taking a midwinter break to plan and prepare for an ambitious slate of exhibitions and events in 2021, with virtual and in-person attendance and programming relaunching in late February.” We look forward to learning more and have appreciated the museum’s efforts to keep guests safe while still offering fun events for people of all ages.

12. Dismantling Racism Series

We are excited to continue our Dismantling Racism series with Quraysh Ali Lansana in 2021. Our past discussions on the origins of Thanksgiving, diversity and the election, etc. have all been meaningful for us at TulsaKids, and we hope for the community as well. Learn about upcoming events here or by following @tulsakidsmagazine on Facebook and Instagram. Many thanks to OSU-Tulsa and Tri City Collective for hosting this series with us.

What are some events or new development you’re looking forward to this year?

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